This week was the deadline for candidates to file for the 2014 elections. The campaigns won’t be kicking into high gear until well after the May primary, but in the meantime, candidates are out trying to land big donations and fill up their coffers. ideastream’s Nick Castele has been digging through campaign finance disclosures of the statewide candidates.
Tony Ganzer: Nick, can you put a dollar figure on the race so far?
Nick Castele: $18.5 million. That’s the total amount of money all the statewide candidates have on hand as of their latest filing deadline, which was at the end of January. That’s the Republican incumbent governor, attorney general, secretary of state, auditor and treasurer -- plus their Democratic challengers. (According to financial disclosures, Libertarian statewide candidates didn't raise enough funds to significantly change that total.)
TG: For comparison’s sake, how does Gov. John Kasich’s war chest match up against past elections?
NC: Kasich has $7.9 million on hand – that's nearly double what he had by this time in 2010 when he challenged incumbent Ted Strickland, and it's more than Strickland had at the time.
TG: And where is Kasich getting it?
NC: He’s getting some big checks from corporate leaders or their political action committees -- like JPMorgan's PAC, the coal industry, the CEOs of some oil and natural gas companies, to name a few. But he's also getting money from attorneys and he's received around 5,000 donations of $100 or less.
TG: What about his opponent so far, Ed FitzGerald?
NC: FitzGerald has less money -- $1.4 million on hand right now. (Most of the cash he’s raised in the past six months – about 54 percent of it -- has come from political action committees.) Some from the campaigns of other Democratic candidates, a lot from the Democratic Party and from organized labor -- representing workers from food service employees to pipefitters.
TG: What about the other half of his donors?
NC: There are some business executives with ties to the Cleveland area and a lot of people who listed their occupations as teachers, or college professors, or employees of local government in Ohio.
TG: Are we seeing a lot of people from outside the state writing checks in this race?
NC: Yes, nearly one out of every five dollars spent on these candidates in the past six months has come from out of state. As an example, Nina Turner – who’s running for secretary of state – she's landed donations from national labor and abortion-rights advocates. And interestingly also $1,000 from film director J.J. Abrams.
Now on the Republican side, there’s money coming into Kasich from big investors and some executives around the county. And one of the out of state checks incumbent Treasurer Josh Mandel received came from Knoxville, Tennessee, from Browns owner Jimmy Haslam. (The donation was $7,500.) As far as I can tell, Mandel is the only statewide Republican candidate Haslam’s given money to in the past six months.
TG: Now it also sounds like the oil and gas industries are trying to make their voices heard this election.
NC: Yes. The industry’s really picking up speed in Ohio, Gov. Kasich and the legislature are going back and forth over how big a tax to levy on drilling, and at the same time the industry is writing checks to some Republican candidates. (Democratic candidate for auditor John Carney also received $300 from the political action committee of natural gas company Nisource.)
By my count, oil and gas industry political action committees have given at least $24,000 to Kasich in the past six months. Now that doesn’t count the coal industry, or employees or executives who might be giving. We're still trying to crunch those numbers. And now Ed FitzGerald is not getting that support, but he does have some money from the labor side of the energy industry: $5,000 from the United Mine Workers.
TG: Some donations to candidates have already been called into question, isn’t that right?
NC: The Dayton Daily News reported recently that Attorney General Mike DeWine has been receiving donations from attorneys who were seeking business with the state, and he’s been using some of the money he raises to pay off a loan he made to his own campaign. His opponent David Pepper has criticized him for this, and it’s an issue we’ve covered on our air and will keep on covering as the story develops.
TG: ideastream's Nick Castele, thanks for the update.
NC: Glad to do it.