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Who's Giving to Frank Jackson and Zack Reed Campaigns

Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson has raised nearly seven times as much money this year as his general election opponent, Councilman Zack Reed. Different industries are lining up to support each candidate.

Jackson amassed his fundraising advantage with the help of contributions from developers, members of construction firms and building trade unions. Reed received much of his money from proprietors of convenience marts, restaurants and liquor stores.

Those industries were the largest single sectors to contribute to the candidates, according to an ideastream analysis of unaudited campaign filings with the Cuyahoga County Board of Elections.

The analysis examined about 650 reported contributions from the start of 2017 through the end of August, the most recent disclosures available. Donors were identified with industries based on state business filings, court and property records, company websites and other sources. In each campaign, some donors could not be connected to a particular line of work.

ideastream illustration by Jeff Haynes. Analysis by Nick Castele. 

Jackson reported raising about $761,000 before the primary election. About 16 percent of that total came from donors in real estate, 11 percent from construction, 9 percent from labor, 9 percent from finance and 7 percent from attorneys.

“People and companies donate to the Mayor’s campaign because they believe in Frank Jackson, regardless of industry or profession,” Pete Baka, the mayor’s campaign spokesman, wrote in an email.

In a brief interview, Jackson said he looks to support “from anyone who agrees that Cleveland is moving in the right direction.”

“They have confidence in me, and that I have the experience of not only in the past overcoming significant challenges in order to position Cleveland to where it is today,” Jackson said, “but they have that confidence that I’ll be able to do that going forward with some of the challenges that we still face.”

ideastream illustration by Jeff Haynes. Analysis by Nick Castele. 

Reed reported bringing in about $113,000 over that same period. Food and beverage proprietors accounted for almost half of that money, or 46 percent. Reed said he believed that shop owners backed him for his public safety message.

“You go back and you look at the history of what has happened to these little stores in our communities, they have not gotten the police protection that they want to get,” Reed said in a phone interview. “They haven’t gotten the safety that they want to get.”

It’s not unusual for unions and businesses to predominate in municipal campaign fundraising, according to Denise Roth Barber, the managing director for the National Institute on Money in State Politics.

The institute examined contributions and spending in the 2015 mayoral races in Akron, Chicago, Fort Wayne, Gary and Wichita.

“Labor unions were the largest donating sector, followed by donors within the finance, insurance and real estate industry,” Roth Barber said. “Lawyers and lobbyists were also major donors to the races in those locations.”

The food and beverage sector ranked among the top 10 donor industries in the institute’s data.

Incumbents with large bank accounts have a good chance of holding onto office, Roth Barber said, based on the institute’s study of state legislative races.

“When you are the incumbent,” she said, “and you are able to raise the most money, which you typically are, you’re almost unbeatable.” 

An earlier version of the story reported that Reed had raised about $110,000 this year. Several donations were left out of the analysis. The correct number is about $113,000. 

Nick Castele was a senior reporter covering politics and government for Ideastream Public Media. He worked as a reporter for Ideastream from 2012-2022.