Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Alway$ Follow the Money: Who’$ Giving What to the Politico$, Tenne$$ee Edition

Ever wonder about those vast sums of political money that keep flowing in to campaign coffers? I know I do. Mainly ‘cause I can’t afford to give hardly a penny.

With football season out of the way, and sports in general in the doldrums until March Madness, we’re going to get more political around here, and that means introducing you—if you’re not yet hip—to FundRace2008.

Thanks to the ever-increasing miracles in computer-search capabilities, and the enterprising sponsorship of Huffington Post—love that Arianna, both pretty and smart—any average Joe can use FundRace2008 to track the campaign donations of the high-profile and rich and famous nationwide.

This is a delicious mode of snooping, and you can narrow your search to name, address, city, occupation or employer.

A few basic ground rules of understanding about personal campaign donations:

  • Individuals are limited to a single primary or single general election contribution, to each candidate, of $2,300. In other words, you can donate a max of $4,600 to any one candidate, but the candidate can only use half of that ($2,300) for the primary run. The remainder (the other $2,300) has to be held in abeyance until it might be used in the general election. However, if you’re the type to hedge your bets, you can do this for however many different candidates you want.

  • Take pop singer Bette Midler. From a Nashville Music Row address of 1222 16th Ave. South, Midler has made a single $2,300 contribution to both Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, each of whom has doubtlessly used the money for the primary run. Now, assuming they both remain in the race after Super Tuesday, they can each solicit Midler—if they haven’t already—for another $2,300 for use in the general election campaign, though obviously only one will actually be able to exercise the option of using it.

    Here’s another show-biz oddity: Jon Bon Jovi—using his real name, John Bongiovi, and from the same Music Row addy as Midler—has contributed a max of $4,600 to Hillary Clinton. His wife, Dorothea, also from the Nashville address, has also donated $4,600 to Clinton.

    Nashville industrialist and noted arts patron Martha Ingram’s search brings up interesting results. From two separate addresses, Ingram contributed $2,300 to ex-candidate Fred Thompson. For whatever reason, Ingram donated $1,000 from one address, and $1,300 from the other. There’s probably a good accounting reason for that. (Or maybe she had to think two separate times about giving to Fred.)

    Check out other locals:

    Jack Bovender, chairman and CEO of health-care giant HCA, donated $2,300 to Mitt Romney. Ditto Mrs. Bovender.

    Mike Curb, chairman of Curb Records, donated $2,300 to Fred Thompson. So did wife Linda.

    Ronnie Dunn, of the music duo Brooks & Dunn, also sprung $2,300 for Thompson, who was definitely getting his share of Music City money.

    Others on the Thompson bandwagon—when there was one—include former U.S. senator Bill Frist, record exec Joe Galante, singer-songwriter John Rich (Big & Rich), music producer James Stroud, “Redneck Woman” singer Gretchen Wilson, arts patrons Steve and Judy Turner, retired producer Billy Sherrill, and eye surgeon Ming Wang.

    Giving it up locally for John Edwards were music producer Paul Worley and ambulance-chasing lawyer Blair Durham.

    Other notables:

    U.S. Rep. Jim Cooper—Obama ($2,300)
    Andrea Conte (Mrs. Phil Bredesen)—Bill Richardson ($2,300)
    Hazel O’Leary, president of Fisk University—Clinton ($2,300)
    Monroe Carell—Romney ($2,100; couldn’t part with the other $200, apparently)

    The point is, because of the magic of online technology, you can hardly do a public act without the public finding out. And in politics, donating money can sometimes mean more than just helping someone pay for a few dinners.

    Since money is the one area that we interested political onlookers can’t compete in, the best we can do is keep tabs on the fat cats. Besides, it’s just interesting to see who they like.

    Check out the site. It’s fun and informative. And you might get a surprise or two along the way.

    No comments: