Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Dan Onorato's Campaign Finance Reports

Continuing to look at the campaign finance reports of gubernatorial candidates, in this post we will review those of Allegheny County Executive Dan Onorato. There are two reports for Onorato for Governor. However, given that a significant amount of money was transferred from his existing Friends of Onorato campaign account, I have given at least a cursory glance at the most recent two filings for that committee as well. (Reports are available at www.campaignfinance.state.pa.us)

In Onorato for Governor’s reports, the campaign raised a total of $7,580,610.30 and spent $878,747.18, leaving him with $6,701,833.12. There are $100,986.50 in in-kind donations. As previously mentioned, a great deal of his money came from his other campaign fund, just over $6 million in fact, which means that around $500,000 was donated directly to his gubernatorial campaign. Six individual donations of $25,000 are recorded. Since Pennsylvania has no limits on campaign donations large donations like this, which are not allowed for federal candidates, are permissible. As Onorato’s campaign has progressed his donors have both broadened and narrowed. His one 2009 report shows about one fourth of his individual donors were from out of state, more West Virginia than any other state, but a smaller percentage were from the Philadelphia area. In his 2010 reports there are fewer out of state donors but more from the Philadelphia area. Since a large percentage of his individual donors are from the Pittsburgh area and I’m not familiar with the political community there I can’t pick out any significant donor names. However, I do see several associated with Grane Health Care and the Berger & Montague law firm. He also received a number of donations associated with Carnegie Mellon University . The only celebrity-ish name I noted is Anthony Podesta. A producer from Lionsgate also donated, providing some Hollywood glitz. He has some union support showing in PAC donations, with a somewhat surprising $5,000 donation from Joe Torsella for Senate.

One thing that needs to be pointed out, and is somewhat distressing to anyone who relies on the state website for accurate campaign finance information, is an error on the 2009 cycle 7 report for Onorato for Governor. The cover sheet lists the total donations as $6,436,710.53. However, schedule 1, the detailed summary of contributions lists the total as $6,661,460.53. That is a difference of about $224,750.00. Looking at the list of contributions on the state’s website there is a $250,000 donation from one person. That seems excessive. I tapped someone with access to the printed reports who told me that there is no $250,000 donation listed there but there is a $25,000 donation from someone with that name. I think that $25,000 donation was given an additional 0 at some point in the translation from printed to online reports and it would account for the discrepancy in the cover sheet and schedule 1. I hope the PA Dept of State will correct that. It impacts not only the Onorato campaign but also the man whose name is listed with the donation. I bet his phone has been ringing off the hook with requests for other large political donations.

In expenditures he pays salaries and health insurance costs. He uses two software packages for campaign uses, which is somewhat unusual but not unheard of. More of his consultants are from out of state than I like, preferring campaign donations to stay in state as much as possible; DC is understandable, but why hire a firm from Little Rock , or North Carolina , or Connecticut ? If you are ever in the Philadelphia office please admire the sign there as it is listed as costing $2,840. The campaign paid for a poll, a fair amount of research, general consulting, and put the Echo Group on a retainer. They have hired the Campaign Group for media. They also paid a sign language interpreter. I haven’t seen this before but heartily encourage it. The campaign groups credit card and related payments together without breaking down costs. This is, to my knowledge, allowed, but it does not provide for much transparency. I also wish the campaign would use something other than “services rendered” to indicate salaries, especially where female campaign workers are concerned, but that is just a personal pet peeve. There are also a lot more “information requested” notes in the occupation / employer fields but that could be an indication of new staff unfamiliar with the software; hopefully a more complete amendment will be forthcoming.

Now for a look at the two more recent Friends of Onorato reports. As previously mentioned that is where the bulk of his gubernatorial money came from. John Micek of the Allentown Morning Call wrote “In tough times, candidates look to themselves for cash,” (4/09) and quoted an Onorato source as saying that sometimes donors sent money to one account when they intended it to go to the other. Plausible, and I did note that one large donor gave to the Friends of Onorato account in 2009 but to the governor campaign account in 2010. To give the campaign credit they have made these reports available on the state website, to provide greater transparency. However, it is worth a look at the donations to one account when money is transferred to the other. In the last report for 2009 the Friends of Onorato account received three donations for $100,000, from Harold Lenfest the retired Philadelphia area executive and philanthropist, Ron Burkle of Yucaipa Companies in LA and also part owner of the Pittsburgh Penguins, and from Thomas and Gail Buckner of IBIS Tek LLC. The president of Rosebud Mining gave him $50,000. These accounts also have a lot of “information requested” notes in occupation / employer fields. Sloppy, people, sloppy.

[blogger's note: a couple of people helped me out with some details on this report and I am grateful for their help]

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