Kansas donations trickle in to GOP presidential candidates

10/17/2011 12:00 AM

10/18/2011 6:05 AM

Kansans appear to be taking a wait-and-see attitude when it comes to donating to Republican presidential candidates.

Fewer than 260 Kansans contributed just under $130,000 total to GOP presidential campaigns during the third quarter, according to the Federal Election Commission.

"It's a little early for Kansas to be showing a preference," said Clay Barker, executive director of the Kansas Republican Party. "There are a lot of informed voters who haven't made up their minds."

Nationally, eight candidates still seek the Republican nomination. Kansans won't have a say in the selection process until the state caucuses on March 10, after Super Tuesday primaries in states across the nation.

So far, Kansans have contributed $236,401, split among 10 GOP candidates, including two who have dropped out. Of that, $129,453 was donated by 259 contributors during the third quarter, which ended Sept. 30.

President Barack Obama has received $116,924 from Kansans for his 2012 campaign, including $67,729 from 205 different donors in the third quarter.

Texas Gov. Rick Perry, whose campaign didn't start until mid-August, brought in the most money among the Republican candidates during the third quarter with $41,600. He was also getting the biggest checks because he collected that total from 25 contributors.

Meanwhile, Ron Paul gobbled up the small checks. Of his 95 donors, 71 wrote checks for $100 or less to bring his third-quarter contributions in Kansas to $32,466. Overall, Kansans have donated $46,135.

"Paul has devoted followers in many states," Bob Beatty, political science professor at Washburn University, said of the Texas congressman. "That doesn't mean he wins the election."

Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney followed Paul with 42 individual donors, who gave him $22,655 in the third quarter.

Businessman Herman Cain's campaign has picked up momentum lately, which explains why the $11,536 he gained from 38 Kansans in the third quarter is more than half his total for the year from the state.

Barker said some donors had been sitting on the sidelines awaiting decisions by former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie. Both announced earlier this month that they would not run.

"There were a few major donors in the Johnson County area who told me they were waiting to see how it fell out," Barker said. "Now that it has settled down more, we'll see different groups getting behind certain candidates."

Kansas totals, however, are mere drops in the national bucket. The $353,000 all presidential candidates have received this year from Kansans is only two-tenths of 1 percent of the $176.3 million national total.

Romney leads the way with $32.2 million, followed by Perry's $17.2 million and Paul's $12.6 million. Obama is far ahead of all candidates at $86.2 million, including $70 million in cash on hand.

Perry has raised money at the rate of $2.5 million a week since entering the campaign two months ago. Through the end of the third quarter, he had $15.2 million in the bank. Romney was at $14.7 million.

Cain, a former pizza executive, has shot up in the polls, but he has a long way to go financially with just $1.3 million in the bank.

Although Kansas contributions are minute in the big picture, campaigns are also all about contacts, said Russell Fox, associate political science professor at Friends University. An individual may contribute a small amount now, but that person may kick in larger amounts later to a political action committee.

"These things add up," Fox said. "There is more money available than is visibly apparent.

"There are all sorts of behind-the-scene stratagems. People who really want to have the ear of a future president will bring the money."

Since a Supreme Court decision in 2010, not all PACs are required to disclose their donors or the amounts given. Tagged as super PACs, they allow corporations to give large amounts without being identified. Direct contributions to a candidate still must be identified and can't be more than $2,500 for the primary period.

This will be the first presidential election for these super PACs.

"It makes tracking the money very hazy," Beatty said. "The new ruling allows anybody to get involved in races without necessarily revealing who they are.

"I don't like it when you don't know who's behind messages. It's not good for democracy."

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