Local residents donate big bucks to both presidential campaigns.
Thursday, October 23, 2008
Although Barack Obama’s fundraising machine dwarfs John McCain’s on a national level, the two presidential candidates are nearly even when it comes to individual contributions from Monterey County residents.
Locals donated $583,704 to Obama and $512,788 to McCain as of Sept. 30, according to the Federal Elections Commission. (This number only includes direct contributions of more than $200 to the candidates, and it excludes North County donors.)
Big donors this election season include Peter Blackstock, owner of Lexus Monterey Peninsula and Victory Toyota, who gave about $30,000 to various candidates and political action committees, including $4,300 to McCain’s campaign and a related fund, and $4,000 to the Monterey County Republican Central Committee. (Blackstock’s wife, Barbara, also contributed $2,300 to McCain and $5,000 to McCain Victory California.)
Retired Carmel resident Jane Dunaway donated $28,500 to Obama, most of which was funneled through the Democratic National Committee.
Clint Eastwood, several members of the Tanimura & Antle farming families, Pebble Beach Company CEO William Perocchi, and Sardine Factory CEO Ted Balestreri are among contributors who gave McCain $2,300 (the maximum amount an individual may give to federal candidates). Agribusiness executive Basil Mills even managed to toss in $2,300 for McCain– despite financial turmoil with his development company, Monterra Ranch Properties.
McCain fundraiser Peter Newman may be the biggest asset for the local GOP. Newman, a Pebble Beach-based financial adviser, was the event chair for McCain’s visit to Pebble in March, which raised more than half a million dollars.
Corral de Tierra resident Bill Schramm is also a McCain donor and campaign chairman for Monterey County. Schramm, a retired Navy captain, graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy in 1958. “I’ve known [McCain] for 54 years so I know what kind of a person he is,” Schramm says. “When you compare the two candidates and look at things like experience and where they come from, I think John is a good choice for president.”
But local developer Nader Agha, also Republican, says he regrets giving to McCain’s campaign. He says he’s turned off by McCain’s negative ads and not happy with Sarah Palin as the vice presidential pick.
“Everyone I talk to here about her, they shrug their arms up in the air and say, ‘Oh God, no!’” Agha says, adding that, for the first time, he’s voting for a Democrat: Obama.
Obama contributors who gave the maximum individual amount include Kenneth and Lesley Nilsson of Monterey-based Eureka Group Inc. and Carmel Valley resident Peter Neumeier, an investment manager and husband of local Sierra Club official Gillian Taylor, who threw in $4,300 for Obama.
“[Obama] can actually be the guy to turn the whole gap between rich and poor around in this country and hopefully it will overflow to the rest of the world,” he says.
Obama supporters hosted two fundraisers on Oct. 15, which raised more than $75,000 for the campaign, according to concert promoter Joe Fletcher, who helped organize the events.
Still, Republicans have the upper hand in local donations. As of Sept. 30, the Republican Central Committee brought in $348,224 this election cycle, compared to the Democratic Central Committee’s $65,537. “We’ve had a better organization in place for almost a decade,” says Brandon Gesicki, political director for the local Republican Party. “Frankly, their organization is just starting to get organized.”
Vinz Koller, chairman of the Democratic committee, boasts that local Dems have more than 1,000 volunteers: “We make up for the dollars in people putting in their sweat equity.”