Ron Paul, the presidential candidate who says he’ll shrink government the most, is attracting more campaign cash than any of his Republican rivals from two unlikely sources: U.S. government workers and employees of the biggest federal contractors.
Paul, a U.S. representative from Texas who has said he’ll cut $1 trillion in his first year in office, leads in donations from federal employees, with $95,085 through Sept. 30. That is more than four times the $23,000 federal employees gave to Mitt Romney, according to Federal Election Commission data compiled by Bloomberg.
Paul, who opposed the Iraq War, has raised $76,789 from employees of the top 50 government contractors, a group led by weapons makers such as Lockheed Martin Corp. and Raytheon Co. Romney has raised $65,800 and Rick Perry $16,250.
“There is at the bottom of this a truly bizarre set of paradoxes, where many of the people who are attacking government the most are ultimately heavily dependent on it,” said Don Kettl, dean of the School of Public Policy at the University of Maryland.
President Barack Obama has raised more money than any of the Republican candidates from federal workers and top contractors’ employees.
Motivated by Ideology
Ideology rather than practical considerations motivate many contributors to presidential campaigns, especially those who send money more than a year before the election, Kettl said.
“This is much more a vote from the heart than a vote from the head at this point,” he said.
Those working for the U.S. Army and Air Force, including active-duty personnel, gave more money to Paul than any other candidate, according to FEC data compiled by Bloomberg. They donated $42,378 to Paul, $26,429 to Obama and $5,400 to Romney.
Paul said in an Oct. 5 speech at the National Press Club in Washington that he leads in fundraising from the military because troops support his opposition to foreign conflicts.
“They’re sick and tired of these wars and they know they’re not working out,” he said.
It isn’t unusual for ideology to drive donations to presidential campaigns, said Sheila Krumholz, executive director of the Center for Responsive Politics in Washington.
“People might be giving for things completely unrelated to their economic interests, or even counter to their economic interests,” she said in a Nov. 9 phone interview. “Presidential donors are far more ideologically motivated than donors giving to congressional candidates.”
Cutting $1 Trillion
Paul is the only candidate who plans to cut about $1 trillion of the $3.5 trillion federal budget in the first year of his term, Jesse Benton, chairman for Paul’s campaign, said in a Nov. 16 e-mail.
“People across the ideological and employment spectrum know that we are facing a debt crisis and will face serious consequences if we don’t cut spending now,” he said.
Paul has said he would eliminate the departments of Commerce, Education, Energy, Interior and Housing and Urban Development.
Paul’s cuts could reverse a decade of gains for contractors driven by the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The total amount the government spent on contracts more than doubled to $533 billion in fiscal 2010 from $221 billion in 2001, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.
Paul Third Overall
The top 50 contractors received federal awards valued at $242 billion in fiscal 2010, or 45 percent of the total that year, Bloomberg data show.
The list includes companies such as L-3 Communications Holdings Inc. and CACI International Inc. that receive most of their revenue from federal contracts, and companies such as Hewlett-Packard Co. and FedEx Corp. that are mostly commercial businesses.
Lockheed employees gave Paul the most with $9,458 in donations, followed by International Business Machines Corp. employees, who contributed $8,650.
Paul’s campaign raised a total of $12.8 million as of Sept. 30, third most among the Republican field behind Romney, with $32.6 million, and Perry, with $17.2 million, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.
President Obama’s campaign leads the Republican field in donations from federal workers, with $213,340, and in gifts from employees of the top 50 contractors, with $124,709.
“Incumbent presidents have a huge advantage,” said James Thurber, who directs the Center for Congressional & Presidential Studies at American University in Washington. “Major corporations and the individuals in those corporations invest in the status quo.”
U.S. State Department workers were Obama’s biggest federal donors, contributing $33,827, followed by employees of the Farm Service Agency, who contributed $16,586, according to the Bloomberg analysis.
Obama’s campaign has brought in $88 million for the 2012 election so far, including money taken in at joint fundraisers with the Democratic National Committee.
Bruce Ferguson, an electrical engineer at Lockheed Martin who lives in Fort Worth, Texas, said he thinks he would “most likely” lose his job under a Paul administration.
That didn’t stop him from giving Paul $2,500, the maximum individual contribution allowed in the primary.
“I think Ron Paul has lots of good ideas and I support him 100 percent, and if it hurts me personally -- he’s not doing it on purpose,” Ferguson, 56, said in a Nov. 15 phone interview. “He’s doing the right thing. His philosophy is sound.”
Ferguson, who works on the stealth system for the F-35 fighter jet, the Pentagon’s most expensive weapon system, said he doesn’t think political views need to align with financial self-interest.
Though he has worked for 32 years at the company that today is the world’s largest defense contractor, he said there’s a bumper sticker on his car that reads: “I fear government more than I fear terrorism.”
A political action committee set up by Lockheed Martin has contributed $837,000 to the 2012 campaigns of congressional candidates, in addition to $11 million the company spent on lobbyists so far this year, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.
Concern that government contractors could unduly influence the political process prompted Obama in April to consider ordering federal contractors to disclose more information about contributions to politically active groups.
Contractor Employees Gifts
The draft executive order was in response to the January 2010 Supreme Court decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, which removed political spending restrictions on companies and unions. Obama hasn’t issued the order, which was opposed by groups representing federal contractors including the Arlington, Virginia-based Professional Services Council.
The donations from federal government and contractor employees to the candidates’ campaigns are from individuals who listed their employer on campaign finance disclosure forms.
Only donations to the candidates’ official campaign committees of more than $200 were counted, because campaigns must itemize and disclose donations above that threshold. That means total contributions to all of the candidates from federal employees and contract workers may be higher.
The contributions from employees of the top 50 government contractors and federal workers represent $696,008, or less than 1 percent, of the $76.7 million in itemized donations to the 2012 candidates, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.