Indiana superintendent campaign finance: The rich vs. the many

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.

3 thoughts on “Indiana superintendent campaign finance: The rich vs. the many

  1. What would be interesting is seeing the number of instate people who have contributed to Ritz verses the number of instate people who have contributed to Bennett. The number may be skewed due to instate people feeling they do not need to contribute to Bennett due to his many out of state contributions, but it may be due to people instate simply not supporting his bully tactics.

  2. Pingback: Ritz over Bennett: the grass roots prevail « School Matters

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