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October 28, 2012

POWER GIVERS Corporate titans bankroll key races as restraints loosen on political spending

(Continued)

Other conservative power couples also put money into Restore Our Future.

Paul and Sandra Edgerly pumped a million into that super PAC, while Kevin and Debra Rollins chipped in $500,000. For both couples, this represented the majority of their political expenditures during this election cycle.

And local wealthy contributors backing liberal causes and candidates were hardly outdone, pumping big money into their own set of super PACs.

Paul Egerman, eScription chief, ploughed $250,000 into Priorities USA, $200,000 into American Bridge 21st Century and $100,000 into the House Majority PAC. His wife Joanne gave $100,000 to Planned Parenthood Votes.

Meanwhile, Reinier Beeuwkes, the Harvard Medical professor turned biotech chief, gave $100,000 to Priorities USA while his wife Nancy Beeuwkes donated $200,000 into American Bridge and $250,000 into Women Vote!

Influence of money

As financiers and tycoons pump more cash than ever before into campaign coffers, their generosity is raising questions about the influence such large sums of money can have on the political system.

Robert Boatright, a Clark University political science professor and campaign finance expert, said most big contributors aren’t looking to hit the jackpot, just score dinner or a phone call of appreciation from the candidate.

“I don’t know that they are getting individual favors in return, although it’s not uncommon for presidents (Democratic and Republican alike) to occasionally reward a large contributor with an ambassador post or something of that nature,” Boatright said. “I suspect that large donors agree with a candidate’s general perspective but generally don’t want anything more than the occasional gesture of appreciation – dinner with the candidate, a phone call.”

But others contend that power players who contribute more than a million are likely taking a business-like approach to their political activity.

While ideology plays into the decision by wealthy individuals to open their wallets for certain candidates, it would be naïve to think that high-powered business executives aren’t expecting a return on their investment, said Mary Boyle, a spokeswoman for Common Cause’s national office in Washington, D.C. For big donors and fundraisers, there can be an array of potential rewards, including political appointments and even an ambassadorship, or the chance to gain favorable treatment for business endeavors.

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