A nationwide analysis of contributions to political causes indicates that the Haslams are the leading family of “elite donors” in Tennessee.
The Sunlight Foundation last week released a list of the “1 percent of 1 percent” — 31,385 people nationwide who represent just .01 percent of the nation’s population but who made 28 percent of all political contributions involving campaigns for president and congressional offices in 2012. (Link HERE)
In Tennessee, 430 individuals made the list, contributing almost $17.3 million as a group.
Eight of the “elite political donors” in Tennessee are members of the Haslam family, including patriarch James “Jim” Haslam II, who founded Pilot Corp. as a young man. He and his son James III, or “Jimmy,” made the top 10 for Tennessee.
Jimmy Haslam was No. 5 with $176,550, his father seventh with $159,450.
At least 18 donors to U.S. Rep. Scott DesJarlais have pledged money, support or both to the congressman’s opponent, adding to a growing list of defections amid personal scandals and political fallout, according to the Chattanooga TFP. Along with 25 state legislators, the 18 DesJarlais donors publicly have endorsed state Sen. Jim Tracy, R-Shelbyville, in the 2014 Republican primary for the 4th District. Tracy is the only candidate so far to challenge the Jasper, Tenn., physician, whose re-election campaign and victory celebration were rocked by revelations from his long-ago divorce.
“I was not aware they’d given to DesJarlais,” Tracy said in a recent interview. “I didn’t go back and check, to be honest with you. I just called people.”
Interviews with donors established a common dichotomy: public praise for Tracy and private disappointment in DesJarlais. The former supporters simply don’t see their congressman the same way after salacious revelations spurred ethics complaints and a collective cold shoulder from current and former Republican officials,
Small-dollar donations make up a relatively minuscule part of the money that fuels congressional incumbents, including those in the Tennessee delegation, according to figures from the Center for Responsive Politics reported by The Tennessean. Take, for example, Sen. Bob Corker, who is seeking the Republican nomination for a second term in Thursday’s primary. Corker has raised $14.1 million when contributions to both his campaign and his personal political action committee are considered.
Of that, about 2 percent, or $271,090, is from donors who gave $200 or less, the center’s breakdown of Federal Election Commission reports shows.
Small-dollar percentages for other incumbents include:
• Rep. Diane Black, R-Gallatin: $42,144 — 2 percent of $1.77 million.
• Rep. Marsha Blackburn, R-Brentwood: $53,317 — 4 percent of $1.43 million.
• Rep. Scott DesJarlais, R-Jasper: $22,192 — 3 percent of $934,349.
• Rep. Stephen Fincher, R-Frog Jump: $43,921 — 2 percent of $2.02 million.
• Rep. Jim Cooper, D-Nashville: $70,287 — 8 percent of $924,523. Cooper’s figure is for his campaign committee only. He does not have his own PAC.
When it comes to overall campaign contributions, Republican Mitt Romney holds a huge advantage over Democrat Barack Obama in Tennessee, reports Michael Collins. But in terms of individual donors, it’s Obama who is far out front. Obama’s donors in East Tennessee tend to give much smaller contributions than Romney’s supporters do. The average donation to the Obama campaign is $108. Romney’s average is 10 times that — $1,085.
Statewide, the story is much the same: Obama has raised $1 million from 2,527 individuals. Romney has raised $1.5 million from 1,028 donors. The average donation for Obama in Tennessee is $164. For Romney, it’s $952.
The numbers indicate Obama is following the same fundraising strategy that he used during his first presidential campaign four years ago, said Bruce Oppenheimer, a political science professor at Vanderbilt University.
“The Obama campaign four years ago, and I assume this year as well, relied heavily on raising money from smaller contributions through Internet donations,” Oppenheimer said. “The reason they can do that is because a lot of the fixed costs that go into getting small donations are near zero on the Internet. You don’t have stamps. You don’t have postage. You don’t have direct mail costs. You can put in the credit card, charge it, and you get the money right away.”
Romney, on the other hand, has concentrated on big-ticket, fundraising events in which the goal is “to get people to max out their individual contributions,” Oppenheimer said. “That means going to those more affluent zip codes.”
The Romney team has focused on big-money events mostly out of necessity, said former Knoxville Vice Mayor Joe Bailey, the campaign’s regional chairman for East Tennessee.