Following the money in district 4 | Blogh

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Following the money in district 4

Posted By on Thu, May 21, 2009 at 5:21 PM

In a discussion that followed from a post I wrote a couple days back, a commenter asked about how much money had flowed into the district 4 race from outside sources. There have been some questions circulating about just how much money the race's winner, Natalia Rudiak, was getting from outside the district. 

It seemed like an interesting question, and while I've looked over the campaign finance reports previously, I hadn't done a systematic look at that side of it.  I thought it might be interesting to try.

Besides, my wife is at a social function ... so it's either do this analysis, or the sinkful of dishes waiting for me at home. 

Anyway. What follows here is something between a back-of-the-envelope calculation and a thoroughgoing review. It includes only the contributions between January and early May. Rudiak had raised quite a bit of money in 2008, and of course there was money flowing into this race in the final days of the campaign. But I figure January-to-early-May is a large enough sample to get a feel for the patterns here. 

In any case, it's hard to be TOO definitive about this stuff, for a couple reasons which I'll outline in a boring disclaimer at the bottom of this post.

So what follows is a breakdown for the source of each candidate's contributions, based on address information provided by the reports. Please note: I'm leaving PAC contributions out of this analysis, for reasons stated in the disclaimer, and also contributions of less than $50, for which donor information is not recorded. These numbers track contributions from individuals giving more than $50 only.

For purposes here, I'm assuming any donation coming from the following ZIP codes are "within the district": 15210, 15216, 15226, 15227, and 15234. ZIP codes don't precisely overlap the district's boundaries, I realize, but it's really all I've got.

Donations identified as being from "elsewhere within the region" are those that come from ANY ZIP code that begins with a 151 or a 152, except the district ZIPS mentioned above. "Out of state/region" come from any zip code lower or higher than 151xx or 152xx.

Got it? Here we go.

Anthony Coghill

Contributions within the district: $4,625 (or 21 pecent of non-PAC contributions)

Contributions from elsewhere within the region:  $14,475 (66 percent)

Contributions from out of state/region: $2,900 (13 percent)

Note: Coghill's "within the district" total includes a $1,600 contribution he made from his own pocket. The "within the region" total includes an $8,000 amount made by Lisa Orlando, his campaign treasurer. Obviously those contributions are a sizable chunk -- nearly 40 percent -- of his total fundraising, and affect the numbers above accordingly.

Patrick Reilly

Contributions within the district: $3,180 (24 pecent)

Contributions from elsewhere within the region: $3,390 (25 percent)

Contributions from out of state/region: $6,950 (51 percent)

Natalia Rudiak

Contributions within the district: $2,595 (or 12 pecent)

Contributions from elsewhere within the region:  $15,405 (72 percent)

Contributions from out of state/region: $3,600 (17 percent)

Notes: Rudiak took in $2,300 from individuals beyond state lines -- the largest amount.

So ... what conclusion do we draw from this? 

Much of Rudiak's support from outside the district came from East End areas like Squirrel Hill, Lawrenceville, and Point Breeze. That's no surprise, really: From day one, it was clear Rudiak was going to be able to tap those progressive voters, who previously haven't exerted much influence outside their leafy precincts. 

Is that proof she's an Astroturf candidate, as the commenter on my previous post speculated? Eh, I don't know. I've looked at a lot of campaign finance reports in my day, and nothing sinister leaps out at me here.

She got a lot of money from elsewhere in the city, sure -- much of it in $100 amounts from progressives. But to keep it in perspective, Coghill got the backing of folks like Todd Reidbord (of Walnut Street Properties fame), parking baron Merrill Stabile. So which bothers you more? 

To be sure, Rudiak had some heavy-hitting PACs in her corner too: A statewide SEIU PAC gave her $6,500, the Western PA Laborers $5,000. The teachers, plumbers and other unions kicked in as well. So did the Progress Pittsburgh PAC, a fledgling outfit that coughed up more than $1,500 to advance the progressive agenda. 

But it would be unfair to single out Rudiak from taking money from these sources. I mean, I can't even count the number of contributions I've seen from the Laborers over the years. 

So maybe the worst thing that can be said about Rudiak is ... she tapped friends and fellow travelers for support, along with some high-octane PACs. Which is to say, she played the game that almost every politician plays (or tries to). And she won. 

Now if you'll excuse me ... I hear those dishes calling me. 

Boring disclaimer: This analysis leaves out money from PACs, because PACs can represent people living within the district even if the PAC is based outside of it, and I can't think of a fair way to apportion the money from them.

In some cases, contributors list their work addresses rather than their home addresses -- I used whatever ZIP code was provided, but there may be some errors resulting from that. In some cases, ZIP code information was missing -- I left those out unless it was easy to classify the donor (as in situations where they listed another state in the address). 

All the reports I looked at were handwritten, sometimes sloppily. (I'm looking at you, Reilly campaign.) I did the best I could to decipher them. Finally, it's always possible I might have mistyped a ZIP or an amount here or there, though I think the numbers are pretty reliable, or else I wouldn't be inflicting this stuff on the internet. 


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