Sen. Clinton, Dems generally, lead Vineyard political giving
Voters in Iowa and New Hampshire this past week cast votes for presidential candidates, and while the Massachusetts presidential primary is not until February 5, Martha's Vineyard voters have already weighed in on the candidates in one way: with their pocketbooks and wallets.
California politician Jesse Unruh is credited with coining the phrase "money is the mother's milk of politics." If that political proverb is true, then presidential candidates proved they know where the cash cows are in August.
Attracted by wealthy and politically active residents, as well as seasonal visitors, Sen. Hillary Clinton, Sen. Barack Obama, former senator John Edwards, and former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney all visited the Island in August looking for contributions to boost their presidential bids.
Political contributions are a matter of public record. All money donated to a campaign must be recorded and reported to the Federal Election Commission, and those records are available for all to see.
An analysis of the political contributions of Island residents offers a snapshot of the local political landscape. While it is not a poll, it does offer a glimpse of the candidates' strength among local residents.
The campaign reports cover the period from January 1 through September 30, 2007, the latest figures available.
Sen. Clinton led the money race among Democrats on the Vineyard, raising $75,980 from Island residents. Most of that came in August when she held a fundraising rally at the Tabernacle in Oak Bluffs that was attended by more than 2,200 people. She followed that event with a private fundraiser in Edgartown.
Sen. Obama reported $62,865 raised from Vineyarders, mostly at a private fundraiser held in Oak Bluffs.
The Vineyard reflects national politics in the Democratic primary money race, with Sen. Clinton raising approximately $90 million nationally, while Sen. Obama has raised $80 million.
Sen. Clinton led the total fundraising across the country by the same proportional margin as she did on the Island.
The margin is reversed, however, when considering the totals for Massachusetts, where Sen. Obama raised $2.8 million, to Sen. Clinton's $2.1 million.
Mr. Edwards ranked next on the fundraising list, drawing $7,703 from Vineyard supporters.
Mr. Romney raised $3.6 million in the state where he was elected governor in 2002, more money than any other presidential candidate. But only $6,873 came from Vineyard residents.
Sen. John McCain, a Republican from Arizona, raised $3,900 here, while former New York mayor Rudi Giuliani raised $2,300.
No other candidate raised more than $500 from Vineyard residents.
The figures represent only a fraction of the political money actually raised at political events held on the Island. Many seasonal residents attended big-ticket summer fundraisers, but their contributions are usually reported from their primary off-Island residence.
Political contributions have been the subject of reform efforts in recent years. The most recent battle resulted in what is commonly known as the McCain-Feingold law, named for the two United States senators who spearheaded the reform effort in Congress. Senator Russell Feingold is a Democrat from Wisconsin.
The McCain-Feingold law set limits on contributions. Individuals may contribute up to $2,300 to each candidate during an election cycle. This limit is indexed for inflation, so it usually increases with each cycle.
Individuals are allowed to donate up to $28,500 to a national political party in a calendar year, and up to $10,000 to local or district political parties. Up to $5,000 may be contributed to any other political committee, such as a political action committee that supports a specific interest.
The total amount that an individual can contribute is capped at $108,200, with no more than $42,700 going to all candidates.