From Woodward and Bernstein and Watergate to the Hollywood film, “Gerry Maguire,” there is something to be said for the phrases “follow the money” and “show me the money.” So in this election year, there are some interesting financial tidbits to be gleaned from looking at databases of donations to federal candidates (President or member of Congress) and national political party committees and PAC’s (political action committees) by residents of Cecil County.
Spend a few hours searching on databases of the independent, non-partisan Center for Responsive Politics (www.crp.org) and their related political money database (www.opensecrets.org) and you will find some revealing trends in donations to federal candidates and political committees by residents of Cecil County, MD. This is a very reputable operation, which parses Federal Elections Commission data into a more user-friendly format. [But our research found a significant glitch in reporting of donations from one zip code in Cecil County—based on a repeated entry with a mis-placed comma. We advised CRP of our findings and await their correction of the database.]
Nevertheless, the data show some interesting trends in how Cecil County residents are voting with their wallets this year, in comparison with the last time there was a presidential and Congressional election in 2004.
The undeclared recession may be having an impact on political donations from Cecil County. In most zip codes, donations are down. The currently available data, however, compares full election cycle donations of 2004 with the not-yet-over cycle of this 2008 election year. There could be last-minute donations before the November election that would skew the numbers. But the economy was a lot better four years ago and by this close to the election time-frame, most donors have already opened their wallets this year and may be holding on to their scarce dollars in the next few weeks.
Not surprisingly, federal campaign donations in Cecil County tend to go for Republican candidates and political party committees. So far this year, county-wide total donations to federal candidates and committees amount to $135,579, with Democrats garnering just 23 percent of donations, compared to Republicans’ 77 percent.
In most Cecil County zip codes, donations so far this year are down from the 2004 presidential year. For example, in the Rising Sun zip code (21911) donations to all federal candidates and committees were $11,850 in 2004, but so far this year donations are down to $8,185. In the general Elkton zip of 21921, federal donations were $35,539 in 2004, but this year amount to $31,342 so far.
One of the more interesting areas, the Chesapeake City zip code (21915) shows an increase in donations this year, with some fascinating twists. Republican Congressional candidate Andy Harris, seeking the 1st District seat, received $3,300
from David Williams, of Williams Automotive, while other zip residents supported Harris’ rival in the Republican primary, incumbent Wayne Gilchrest, to the tune of $2,225. Harris beat Gilchrest in the GOP primary. Overall, Chesapeake City donors gave $7,500 in the 2004 federal election cycle, but so far this year the tally is up to $10,091.
Little Cecilton, with around 500 or so residents, registers one of the largest gains this year, compared with 2004. Last time around, Cecilton donors gave just $200 to federal candidates. So far this year, the Cecilton tally is up to $3,300. We looked at specific donations and found that just 3 donors made the big difference. There was $800 from Caroline Arms and $1,500 from Myron Arms, all donated to Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama. Also, Samuel C. Toll donated $1,000 to Ron Paul, the Libertarian-leaning Congressman from Texas who was seeking the Republican presidential nomination this year.
We tried to contact the Arms family to interview them regarding their Obama support and only found a phone listing for them at an address in Earleville (zip code 21919.) We did not receive a callback. But their federal donation address was listed as Cecilton, so we are including their contributions in the Cecilton zip category.
There were some other interesting individual donations and trends. In the Port Deposit area, (zip 21904) donations in 2004 to federal candidates amounted to $2,932. But so far this year, donations are up to $5,850 from that area.
A good part of that increase is attributable to the $1,000 donation to anti-regulation, Libertarian Ron Paul from Rupert Rosetti. Mr. Rosetti is aligned with anti-growth forces in Cecil County, advocating increased government regulation of property and land uses. Mr. Paul opposes increased government regulation of just about everything.
As the old saying goes, politics—and political money—make strange bedfellows.
(Editors’ Note: This analysis is based on federal data filed as of 9/30/08. Federal rules require updated information to be filed this week. It takes a few days for the data to be entered into databases. The Cecil Times will update this issue and file a new report and analysis, as soon as the updated information is available from federal sources.)