POSTED ON SEPTEMBER 4, 2013:
Peering into mayor's race
The national statistics bear it out: only a "tiny fraction" of Americans contribute $200 or more to a political campaign for federal office, according to data reported by the Center for Responsive Politics. That's less than one-half of one percent of the population.
What about a local race? In the non-partisan Tulsa mayoral battle, about 1080 donors have given $50 or more to either Mayor Dewey Bartlett or former mayor Kathy Taylor, at least according to the most recent finance documents filed by their campaigns. (Primary candidate Bill Christiansen reported only about 20 such donors).
Most donors -- though certainly not all -- are from the Tulsa area. But even if everybody who cut a check lived in the Tulsa city limits, that would still mean barely one out of every 400 Tulsa residents have offered significant financial support for the candidate of their choice.
Who are these people? While it's true that teachers and blue-collar types have made campaign donations, certain job descriptions come up more frequently than others in campaign disclosure documents. For Taylor, it's been attorneys and lawyers; Bartlett givers have the word "president" appear as part of their job title more than any other word.
Some donors interviewed said they know one or even both candidates personally.
"When Kathy's person called me and asked me if I would come give money to Kathy, I said, 'I know Kathy very well. I've known her, given her money various times,'" said, Tom Clark, president and chief executive officer of TulsaAir Beechcraft.
But he had chosen to support Bartlett before Taylor entered the race. While Clark said he had been a donor to Taylor's earlier, successful mayoral campaign, writing a check to her after giving to Bartlett "just wouldn't make sense." He added: "It had nothing to do with being against Kathy," he said.
But while Clark and others praised one candidate or the other based on their character or what they would do for the city, "there are people who are out there who will give money to both parties, both people, because they want influence no matter who wins," Clark said.
There were no dual donations from Clark in 2013. Not so for Meredith Siegfried, however. The chief executive officer for aerospace company NORDAM gave $2,000 in April and May to support Kathy Taylor and then turned around and gave $1,000 to help Bartlett in July. Apartment developer Mike Case is also a part of this club, giving $2,500 to Bartlett in June after giving $3,000 to Taylor in May.
Some donors give frequently to other candidates, while others far less so. Both Bartlett and Taylor no doubt are hoping their lists of donors will expand even further as the Nov. 12 election date approaches.
"I really think he's a fine person and will do a great job. I do like the job he's done so far, as well," said Bob Sullivan, principal with oil-and-gas company Sullivan & Co., about Bartlett.
In 2013, Bartlett has raised about $460,000 from individuals, at least as of July 29. That doesn't include a loan of $180,000 Bartlett made to his campaign.
Taylor's campaign did not file a report in July, but Bartlett's total of about 430 donors giving at least $50 falls far short of the number of donors Taylor reported as of May. In his most recent filing, from May 28-July 29, about three out of every four Bartlett donors listed a Tulsa address.
Unsurprisingly, given that Bartlett is president of Keener Oil & Gas Company, he enjoys support from others in the oil and gas industry statewide.
In his most recent filing, more than one in four entries for donors had no information regarding occupation. But examining those industry ties listed, donors from energy companies - be they CEOs, engineers, accountants, attorneys or other employees -- comprise about one out of every four Bartlett donors.
Bartlett sits on the board of directors for the Oklahoma Independent Petroleum Association, and several others involved with the association have been sizeable contributors to his campaign in 2013, including Sullivan ($5,000, the household limit), Barry Mullennix ($2,000), L.O. Ward ($750) and Kent Harrell ($1,500).
Also in that group is billionaire Harold Hamm, chairman and chief executive officer of Oklahoma City-based Continental Resources. Hamm is recognized by Forbes as having a net worth of $11.3 billion. His interest in the Tulsa mayoral race has included a $1,000 donation to Bartlett's campaign.
Notably, Hamm at one point was named energy advisor to presidential candidate Mitt Romney. While Tulsa's mayoral race is nonpartisan, Bartlett's donors frequently also gave in support of Romney or other Republican candidates.
While gender can be difficult to decipher from the first names of donors, it appears that women make up just over one out of five of Bartlett's financial supporters in his most recent filing.
Sullivan, 67, said there are an "endless number" of fundraising events associated with political campaigns, generally.
"I know how important it is to get your message out, so my main motivation in contributing to the Bartlett campaign is to allow him to get his message out," Sullivan said. "I think he's done a good job of interacting with the city council and getting our city in an upward plane."
Sullivan said he's known Bartlett since they were both children.
"I think he has found a way to interact meaningfully with the city council," Sullivan said. "Number two, I think he has righted the ship financially for the city. We had some financial problems at the beginning of his term." He also praised Bartlett for his leadership during the Good Friday Shootings in 2012, the apparently racially-motivated, random attacks in North Tulsa.
"I thought she was a good mayor before, I think she would be a good mayor now," said George Krumme, a Tulsa-area oilman and also a key figure in Democratic politics for decades in Oklahoma, about Taylor.
In 2013, Taylor has raised $440,500 from individuals as of May 27, the most recent information her campaign has filed with election authorities. That number does not include $852,000 in money Taylor has loaned to herself.
A lawyer by training and by occupation when not serving in public office, Taylor has strong support from her legal brethren. About 125 donors listing themselves as either an attorney or lawyer are included in her donor totals. In a total of about 650 significant donors, more than one out of every six is a lawyer.
The level of Tulsa-based contributors is similar to Bartlett's, under 80 percent. However, it appears Taylor has drawn much more financial support from women. Almost two out of every five donors are women, based on an analysis of donor names.
"I think maybe the most significant thing is Kathy's broad base of support, both financially and her volunteers," said Vincent LoVoi, managing partner in Mimosa Tree Capital Partners, a Tulsa-based venture capital firm.
In an email, Paula Kuykendall, formerly a Vanguard Car Rental employee (Taylor and especially Taylor's husband, Bill Lobeck, have held leadership roles in the car rental industry, and several donors seem to have overlapped with them at either Vanguard or later rental ventures), described why she's supporting Taylor.
"I know her work ethic, her leadership and her quest for accountability," Kuykendall wrote, adding, that Taylor "understands what hard work really means because she has done it her entire life."
For Krumme, a loyal Democrat, political parties still resonate, especially given that Taylor previously ran as a Democrat and Bartlett a Republican.
"I don't need access to Kathy Taylor. She probably will not have any position to affect my particular welfare," Krumme said.
But giving is undoubtedly important for candidates, the veteran of the political scene said.
"Money is necessary in most cases to inform the public," Krumme said. "And that's about all I think I could say."
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