FORT WAYNE – His foes have called U.S. Senate candidate Richard Mourdock a right-wing extremist. But some of his corporate supporters are neck-deep in the American mainstream.
Donors to Mourdocks campaign include political action committees for PepsiCo, Burger King franchises, the Norfolk Southern railroad and groups representing bankers, dentists and orthodontists.
Indianas state treasurer has raised nearly $483,000 in contributions from PACs, according to his most recent campaign finance report. More than 75 percent of the money has arrived since Mourdock defeated six-term Sen. Richard Lugar, R-Ind., in the May 8 GOP primary election.
Most PACs are reluctant to donate against incumbents, particularly incumbents who have been in office for decades. Once Mourdock won the primary, there were a lot more doors opened for him, a lot more phone calls returned, said Nathan Gonzales, political editor of the non-partisan Rothenberg Political Report in Washington, D.C.
Whats more, he said, Ive heard that the PAC community here in Washington has been pleasantly surprised with Mourdock after efforts by Democrats and media to portray him as a loony candidate.
When PAC representatives talked to him, Mourdock became more than acceptable in terms of a candidate they can get behind, Gonzales said.
Since his defeat of Lugar, Mourdock has raked in contributions from PACs representing financial services, including the American Bankers Association, Fifth Third Bancorp, U.S. Bancorp, PNC, Capitol One and Huntington Banchares; energy producers Marathon Oil, ConocoPhillips, ExxonMobil and America Electric Power; and franchise operators for restaurant chains Kentucky Fried Chicken and Taco Bell.
Mourdock spokesman Christopher Conner said in an email that these businesses understand that Richard Mourdocks support of a pro-growth agenda is the best way to get the economy moving and create jobs, instead of Congressman Joe Donnellys voting record of supporting (President) Obamas policies – like ObamaCare – that hamper job growth.
Democratic Senate candidate Donnelly has represented Indianas 2nd District in the House since 2007. He has received $851,000 in PAC contributions, with $216,000 coming in the second quarter. Donnelly was unopposed for his partys nomination.
His second-quarter campaign finance report lists donations from PACs representing teachers, family farmers, firefighters, air traffic controllers, communications workers, federal government workers, employees of Evansville-based energy producer Vectren Corp. and workers for aerospace company Northrop Grumman Corp.
Financial support for Joes campaign is support for his commonsense positions on issues important to Hoosier families, Elizabeth Shappell, communications director for Donnelly, said in an email.
In a reference to Mourdock, Shappell said businesses and other groups need the United States Senate to function, and adding another Tea Party voice to the current partisan environment threatens that goal with more gridlock.
Donnelly received second-quarter contributions from PACs representing U.S. Postal Service workers, mail carriers, supervisors and postmasters. Congress has been considering legislation to shore up the finances of the struggling Postal Service, which is self-funded.
Donnelly also received money from PACs for growers of sugar cane and beets. Congressional committees have rejected attempts this year to cut or eliminate sugar subsidies.
PACs for the Medical Device Manufacturers Association and medical device manufacturers Zimmer Holdings in Warsaw and Cook Group in Bloomington contributed to Donnellys campaign. Those manufacturers oppose a 2.3 percent tax on their sales that will take effect in January to help fund Obamas health care law. Donnelly supports the law but wants the tax repealed.
Donnelly is going to get the traditionally Democratic money, but hes probably going to benefit from being a sitting member of Congress. That will open some fundraising doors for him, Gonzales said.
PACs are familiar with him and are probably familiar with the race he is in, Gonzales said.
The Senate rivals are splitting the support of groups with shared interests. The United Mine Workers PAC gave Donnelly $1,000. Mourdock accepted $1,000 donations from Arch Coal and Alliance Coal, two of the nations largest coal producers, and $5,000 from CoalPAC, which represents the National Mining Association.
Mourdock collected $5,000 from the Republican Jewish Coalition PAC, while Donnelly got $2,500 from Friends of Israel PAC.
The candidates have a couple of the same financial backers. On June 14, a PAC for the law firm Faegre Baker Daniels, partly based in Indianapolis, gave $5,000 to Mourdock and $5,000 to Donnelly. On June 29, Donnelly received $1,000 from a PAC for McGuire Woods, a national law firm in Richmond, Va.; a day later, McGuire Woods donated $1,000 to Mourdock.
Mourdock received $1,000 from the PAC for Navistar International. The truck manufacturer in Lisle, Ill., is shutting down its Fort Wayne plant, which employed 1,400 in 2010.
At least six committees with the word conservative in their names contributed to Mourdocks campaign in the second quarter. And he attracted $500 from the Government is Not God PAC, which represents social conservatives.
Mourdock received $10,000 for the primary and general elections from the PAC for Koch Industries, the energy, chemical, ranching and consumer goods behemoth. Brothers David and Charles Koch are famous for giving huge sums of money to conservative candidates.
PACs can give no more than $5,000 to a candidate in a primary or general election, according to Federal Election Commission rules.
Mourdock received $10,000 from the PAC headed by Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah. Hatch was first elected to the Senate in 1976, the same year as Lugar.
They are the longest-serving Republicans currently in the chamber and were its top targets for defeat this year by tea party Republicans. Hatch won his primary-election contest in June.
Half of Hatchs donation to Mourdock was dated May 22 but listed as primary debt. Conner said FEC rules allow for such a retroactive gift if a campaign has outstanding debt, which we did. Technically, then, Hatch supported Mourdock in the primary over longtime colleague Lugar.
Eighteen other donations that arrived after the primary, including by Koch Industries, carried the same primary debt designation. They totaled $84,000.
Donnelly got $5,000 from the PAC run by the second longest-serving senator in history: Sen. Dan Inouye, D-Hawaii, who took office in 1962.
Lugar ended up raising $4.5 million in a losing cause, including $1.3 million from PACs.
He had $110,000 in cash to end the second quarter after campaign expenses and his refund of nearly $832,000 designated as general-fund donations.