Big contribution, seemingly a record-breaker, fueled Williams’ money haul
Three-quarters of a million dollars.
That’s how much a political action committee that advocates for school choice gave Democrat Anthony Williams on March 26, helping to buy him a seat at the table in an expensive race for governor. The $750,000 contribution from Democrats for Education Reform appears to be the biggest single campaign contribution in Pennsylvania history; political operatives on both sides of the aisle this week couldn’t think of one that even comes close.
It was huge donations that turned Williams from a late-to-the-game candidate in January to one of the only Democrats who will be able to mount a significant advertising push in April, according to newly-filed campaign finance data. Of the more than $1.7 million Williams’ campaign raised since January, $1.6 million of it effectively came from only three sources.
In addition to the $750,000 from Democrats for Education Reform, the Philadelphia state Senator also got $250,000 from Students First PAC, another pro-school choice group. And another $600,000 came from two PACs controlled by Williams himself. The strong financial support from school choice advocates aligns Williams with the issue more visibly and more directly than ever before during his short campaign. Though some have focused on his support for charter school vouchers, Williams has consistently said he supports “the full menu” of education choices.
In an interview with pa2010.com Wednesday morning, Williams said his largest contributors should expect no more or less from him than his smallest individual donors. He said financial support from the school choice community, whose views he has shared for years, would not impact his policies as governor.
“I’m appreciative of the fact that that community has stepped up early,” he said. “But I have small donors, I have mid-size donors. No, they don’t give the same amount, but they mean just as much to me.”
Asked what voters should take away from the fact that so much of his campaign is funded by a single-issue constituency, Williams said: “I would expect them to take out of it what they take out of it when Tom Corbett gets money from Marcellus Shale companies, or when Dan Onorato gets money from teachers’ unions.”
And while Williams’ campaign manager is president of a non-profit Philadelphia charter school, he said any implication that his election would benefit her personally was a non-issue. A spokeswoman said he doesn’t have an ownership stake in the school named after his late father, the Hardy Williams Academy.
“She’s president of a charter school that exists under the current law, and I’m not proposing any change in charter school policy,” Williams said. “If people are looking at who benefits, people should look at how I support the full menu of education.”
Williams’ gubernatorial campaign benefited from two separate $50,000 donations from his state Senate campaign, as well as a $500,000 contribution from the Make a Difference PAC, which he also controls. He received $5,000 from state Representative Dwight Evans’ PAC; Evans endorsed his in March.
Williams also netted some large individual contributions, including $10,000 from his former chief of staff and current campaign manager, Dawn Chavous. Former state Senator Connie Williams, who has also endorsed Williams, kicked in $5,000. And Arthur Makadon, the Ballard Spahr chairman and longtime confidante to Ed Rendell, gave Williams $1,000.
Even though he only entered the race earlier this year, Williams still made some big early expenditures, according to his campaign finance report. He spent over $30,000 on high-level campaign staffers and consultants, over $45,000 on direct mail and other voter contact efforts, and over $75,000 on polling.
“I’m glad that we’re going to be competitive,” Williams said, “and I’m glad that we’re going to be able to talk about the full scope of issues that effects Pennsylvania.”
April 7, 2010 at 4:45 pm
Tags: Anthony Williams