Tony Bennett’s campaign donors are hedge-fund managers, charter-school developers, Big Tobacco and wealthy supporters of “education reform” and the Republican Party. Glenda Ritz’s are teachers and public-education advocates – hundreds of them – and the Indiana State Teachers Association.
Needless to say, fund-raising for the Indiana superintendent of public instruction race isn’t close. Ritz’s supporters give between $25 and $100 each. Bennett’s financial backers aren’t the 47 percent, or even the 99 percent. They give thousands of dollars apiece, sometimes tens of thousands.
Third-quarter campaign finance reports filed last week show Bennett had more than $1 million in his campaign account as of Oct. 1, which explains why we’re seeing him in TV ads, a first for a state superintendent candidate. Ritz had $42,000.
True, the Indiana State Teachers replenished Ritz’s fund with $65,000 this month. The teachers’ union has given Ritz $173,000, most of what she has raised. But that’s less than Bennett got in one check — $200,000 – from Alice Walton, a Wal-Mart heiress and supporter of school-choice and voucher plans.
Bennett’s other third-quarter contributors include: multi-billionaire home-builder Eli Broad ($50,000); Wisconsin businessman and voucher proponent Robert Kern ($50,000); Hoosiers for Economic Growth, whose money comes from New York and Philadelphia hedge-fund managers ($50,800); and Chicago hedge-fund manager Anne Griffin ($25,000).
He also got $10,000 from Red Apple Development, the real estate partner of Charter Schools USA, which Bennett’s Indiana Department of Education selected to take over three under-performing public schools in Indianapolis. He got $1,000 from the Reynolds American PAC – enough tobacco money to cancel out 20 typical Ritz donors. New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg gave $40,000 earlier in the year.
After Walton, Bennett’s most generous supporter has been Merrillville hotel developer Dean White: $125,000. White’s son and daughter-in-law gave another $35,000 in the third quarter.
Candidates don’t have to report itemized donations of less than $200, but Ritz has been doing so, which emphasizes her mass support. As NPR State Impact Indiana notes, small donations helped Ritz narrow the fund-raising gap in the third quarter, but only by a little.
“Nearly all of the 449 contributions to Bennett’s campaign in 2012 came in amounts of $100 or more than 193 came in amounts of $1,000 or more,” State Impact’s Kyle Stokes reports. “But of 1,148 contributions to Ritz’s campaign this year, more than 1,000 of them were for $100 or less.”
Why is Bennett raising all this money? Is he concerned that Ritz’s grass-roots support could make this race close, even in a Republican state and what’s expected to be a heavily Republican year? Maybe. Or maybe he’s raising tons of money because he can. And that’s what politicians do.