Political Parties Begin Chase for Dollars, Then Votes

Article excerpt


It's never too early to start raising cash for a presidential campaign.

Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus will arrive in Pittsburgh on Wednesday to meet GOP loyalists at a Duquesne Club event hosted by Pennsylvania national committeewoman Christine Toretti, co-chair of the RNC's finance committee.

Toretti isn't billing that Downtown breakfast as a fundraiser, but Priebus will raise money with GOP supporters all day, Toretti's spokeswoman, Bernie Comfort, said.

Priebus' visit follows one by Vice President Joe Biden on May 19 for a Democratic fundraiser at the Mansions on Fifth Avenue in Shadyside. Biden can raise cash, said Pittsburgh attorney Cliff Levine, a member of the national finance committee for President Obama's re-election campaign that hosted his appearance, though he wouldn't say how much money this event brought.

A crowded field of candidates is emerging for the Republican ticket, and strategists for both political parties say donors could put millions of dollars toward the 2012 presidential election in Pennsylvania alone. Campaigns won't overlook the Pittsburgh region when looking for money, they say.

Tony Podesta, a Democratic fundraiser in Washington who coordinated Pennsylvania campaigns for Bill Clinton, Al Gore and John Kerry, says Pennsylvanians could donate more than $10 million toward Obama's re-election.

"The bulk will come from Philadelphia, but Pittsburgh has emerged as a bigger player for significant campaign cash," Podesta said.

Alex Castellanos, a Republican strategist in Washington and CNN contributor, says Democrats always have relied on Western Pennsylvania for money while Republican fundraisers relied on "the Amtrak corridor" of Boston, New York, Washington and Philadelphia. That changed, he said, because Pittsburgh "has a story of renewal to tell, not only culturally, but economically (and) has become critically important to Republicans in fundraising."

Allegheny County Republican Committee Chairman Jim Roddey says a Republican voter registration increase of more than 10,000 since 2008 helps.

"We now have more registered Republicans than any other county in the state, and more and more of them are becoming important contributors," Roddey said. …