Eclectic Mix of Donors in Race to Succeed Cantor
WASHINGTON — The race to succeed House Majority Leader Eric Cantor has attracted donations from Sarah Palin and Emmy-winning TV producer Jonathan Littman, as both Republican and Democratic candidates reap the benefits of Cantor’s upset loss in last month’s GOP primary.
Dave Brat picked up $5,000 from Palin’s political action committee, along with donations from several other GOP PACs.
Brat’s Democratic opponent, Jack Trammell, received $2,600 from Littman, a producer for Jerry Bruckheimer TV, and $250 from theater producer Susan Dietz. Both live in California.
Overall, in the roughly 5 ½-week reporting period ending June 30, Brat raised $400,000, while Trammell, who started later, raised $155,000, according to Federal Election Commission records.
Brat made national front-page headlines in the June 10 Republican primary by defeating Cantor, who was seen as next in line to be speaker of the House. Brat portrayed Cantor as a Washington insider out of touch with his Richmond, Virginia-area congressional district.
The treasurer at Palin’s PAC did not return phone and email messages. Littman declined to comment on his contribution. Dietz didn’t return telephone messages seeking comment.
Brat also received donations from several other GOP politicians’ PACs, including $5,000 from Texas Republican Rep. Louie Gohmert’s. In addition, Brat picked up $5,000 from the National Association for Gun Rights PAC.
In a sign of how nationalized the race has become between the candidates — both of whom are professors at small Randolph-Macon College — Brat picked up donations from people in dozens of states, as far away as Hawaii and Alaska. Trammell raised money from more than a dozen states, including Washington state and Texas, mostly through ActBlue, a fundraising website for Democratic candidates.
Small donors made up the bulk of both candidates’ money. About 60 percent of Brat’s individual donations, and 70 percent of Trammell’s, were under $200, meaning those donors’ named didn’t have to be listed in the candidates’ campaign reports.
Darrin Gulla, an economics professor at the University of Kentucky, gave $2,500 to Brat, whom he knows from meeting at the annual Moral Foundations of Capitalism Conference at Clemson University a few years ago.
“I always enjoyed talking with Dave, particularly economics of religion which I had just begun teaching and of which he has very good insights,” Gulla said.
Gulla wasn’t able to attend the conference this year and wasn’t aware that Brat was running in the Republican primary.
“When I saw his acceptance speech the day after the election, I was so surprised,” he said. “More importantly, I was very excited about the possibility of one of us, free-marketeers, serving in Congress, hence my contribution.”
Elliott Ozment, an immigration attorney in Nashville whose firm website proclaims, “Fighting for immigrant rights,” gave $250 to Trammell. In the GOP primary campaign, Brat made immigration the central issue, accusing Cantor of embracing “amnesty” and open borders.
“My contribution to Trammel was in reaction to the terrible immigration stance of Brat, and for portraying Cantor as pro-immigrant, when Cantor was the furthest thing from it,” said Ozment. “This would not have been on my radar had he not made immigration an issue.”
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