Ohioans giving big money to presidential candidates


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New Albany billionaire Leslie H. Wexner cut a check for $500,000 to a major super PAC supporting GOP presidential candidate Jeb Bush, according to documents filed with the Federal Election Commission on Friday.

Wexner soon added $5,000 to a second super political-action committee bolstering the former Florida governor. About three months after those February donations, Wexner’s wife, Abigail, gave $1 million to Ohio Gov. John Kasich’s super PAC, New Day for America.

In all, Ohioans contributed more than $900,000 to Bush’s groups. Most of the Buckeye State Bush givers stiffed Kasich, but some gave to both.

For example, the late Cincinnati billionaire’s Carl Lindner’s widow, Edyth, gave $50,000 to both candidates, as did their son Carl H., the current CEO of the American Financial Group.

William Timken, retired president and CEO of the Timken company and a former U.S. Ambassador to Germany, gave Bush’s main super PAC $25,000. But he and his wife Sue each gave Kasich’s super PAC $12,500. And Robert Castellini, owner of the Cincinnati Reds, gave $8,682 to the Bush organizations while he and his wife each gave $50,000 to the Kasich group.

In all, Bush’s organizations detailed $108 million in donations, meaning Ohioans chipped in less than 8 percent; Ohioans provided 63 percent of Kasich’s groups’ $11.1 million.

Among the Bush groups’ donors who did not give to Kasich’s: Robert Park of Cleveland steel-maker Park Corp., who provided $100,000; Mercer Reynolds of the Cincinnati area, national finance director for Bush’s brother George W.’s campaign and later U.S. ambassador to Switzerland and Liechtenstein, $5,000; and former state Rep. Jim Aslanides, now with the fracking industry that Kasich wants to tax more, $500.

Aside from Bush and Kasich, Ohio donors generally were tight-fisted in giving to other GOP candidates.

Closest to the exception was Cleveland Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert; the Michigan resident provided $750,000 to New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie’s super PAC.

Keep the Promise PAC, one of a handful that support Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, received $50,000 from Diversified Resources, a Pepper Pike company, and $150,000 from Karen Wright, president and CEO of Ariel Corp. in Mt. Vernon.

Retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson’s groups recorded numerous Ohio contributions, but virtually all were under $100, including some of just $1.

Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., who has at least six super PACs supporting him, raised $1.8 million from his Concerned American Voters PAC, including a $250 donation from David Zupan, a business owner from Avon Lake, Ohio. He raised $3.1 million through the America’s Liberty PAC, including $250 from Joyce Dill of Cincinnati.

Among the $20 million haul for Unintimidated, a super PAC set up to support Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, was a $1,000 donation from Dean Kaplan, the CEO of a Toledo trucking company.

The latest filings – which involve groups that can take unlimited contributions – contrast with money raised by the candidates’ official campaign organizations, which are limited to $2,700 a cycle.

A Dispatch analysis shows that Ohioans have already given $796,560 of that “hard money” split among 15 presidential candidates, with Democrat Hillary Clinton leading with $339,289 as of June 30 and Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal at the back of the pack with $250, a Dispatch analysis found.

These figures do not include fundraising for Kasich, who declared his candidacy last week, after the fundraising reporting period had already ended.

Among Republicans, Cruz, who held an eastern Ohio fundraiser earlier this year, leads so far with $139,827, followed by Carson, who raised $91,791.

But that figure may change by the end of September, when Kasich’s first campaign finance reports are scheduled to go to the Federal Election Commission.

Matt Borges, chairman of the Ohio Republican Party and a close Kasich ally, said not only did many Ohio donors hold off from writing checks until Kasich entered the race, his GOP competition also has shied away from having fundraisers in the state.

Still, Borges said, “we’re a swing state, so we’re going to have a varied group of candidates that will vie for support, I’m sure.”

Among Democrats, meanwhile, Clinton leads overwhelmingly among Ohioans. Bernie Sanders, who has drawn strong crowds in some of the early primary states, has raised $39,576. And former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley raised $9,600.

While the state may be a key swing state, so far, it’s nowhere near a key donor state so far. California donors gave $13.4 million to presidential candidates, while Texas donors have ponied up $11.6 million. New Yorkers have given nearly $10.4 million and Florida donors have given $8.5 million.

Clinton fared best among donors in the Cleveland area, who gave her $115,262, and in the Cincinnati area, which gave $99,065.

Cruz, meanwhile, saw his fundraising distributed fairly even around the state. In eastern Ohio communities, such as St. Clairsville and Powhatan Point, he raised $24,432. In Cincinnati and southwest Ohio, he raised $19,285. And closer to Cleveland, he raised $14,351. Central Ohioans, including Columbus residents, gave $16,278.

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