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WNY presidential fundraising parade is being led by Bush, Rubio, Clinton

The political pundits say Jeb Bush doesn’t have much chance in the Iowa caucuses, but the former Florida governor is doing pretty well raising money in Western New York.

So is one of his Republican rivals, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio.

And the presidential campaign of Hillary Clinton, the former first lady, secretary of state and New York senator, also has raked in quite a few local dollars.

Those are some of the takeaways from a study of figures from the Federal Election Commission.

The nonprofit Center for Responsive Politics crunched the election commission’s numbers and came up with figures showing – by every ZIP code in America – how much money was given to presidential candidates through Sept. 30, the latest figures available from the commission.

Based on a Buffalo News analysis of 75 ZIP codes in Western New York, Bush raised the most local money, $153,750, with Rubio second at $147,555 and Democrat Clinton third at $57,046. All other candidates were well behind the top three.

But there’s a huge asterisk next to those numbers, because they do not include a Nov. 10 fundraiser for Clinton in Buffalo that brought in nearly $400,000, according to Democrats.

That was the most successful Democratic fundraising event ever held in this region.

That event, in all likelihood, will put Clinton far ahead of all other presidential hopefuls in terms of Western New York fundraising.

“It wasn’t that hard to raise that money for Hillary, because she’s such an excellent candidate,” said Orchard Park attorney Margaret A. Murphy, a Democratic National Convention delegate who was one of the organizers of the November fundraiser. “It’s not easy to do it if you don’t have a candidate that people can rally around.”

Anthony H. Gioia, a Buffalo businessman who is raising money locally for Rubio’s campaign, feels the same way about his candidate.

“Marco has a lot of support here, and not just locally,” Gioia said. “He’s the personification of the American dream, and I think he is, by far, the most articulate candidate in either party.”

The presidential campaign dollars gathered in Western New York so far – even Clinton’s – are the tiny droplets in a gigantic bucket.

More than $2.6 billion was spent during the 2012 presidential campaign, when President Obama defeated Republican nominee Mitt Romney, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

Some political experts predict that this year’s campaign spending will rise above $5 billion, according to an article published last month by The Hill, a Washington, D.C., newspaper specializing in politics and government.

With billions of dollars in play, much of it provided by huge political action committees, why do individuals choose to give a few thousand dollars – or, in some cases, a few hundred – to political candidates?

“I think there are various classifications of people who give for various reasons,” Murphy said. “Many are just solid, hard-core political donors who give to the candidate that they feel best represents their views and their party.”

There are also people who seek to gain power and influence by tying themselves to presidential candidates, Murphy said.

“There will always be some who feel the key to power is raising money for powerful people. They want something out of it. There definitely are people like that,” Murphy said.

She said that it bothers her that, in each presidential election, PACs, super PACs and big businesses put increasingly more money into the political process.

“But that makes it more important than ever for the individual voter to get involved, get out and vote for your candidate,” Murphy said.

Gioia has a different take on the situation.

“Unions have been giving big money for years and years,” said Gioia, who has been involved in politics more than 40 years.

“Everyone is entitled to give to the candidate they like. Average citizens and businesses should have the right to do it, as well. … I’m OK with it. Not everybody can write a check, but anyone can get involved in the process.

“Anyone can vote, volunteer, work on a phone bank, do all kinds of things in the election process,” Gioia said.

Search a Buffalo News database to find out how much each of the candidates raised in 120 ZIP codes in Western New York.

Research shows that Bush got large donations from donors in Clarence, Rubio from people in Williamsville and Clinton got more money than any other candidate from donors in North Tonawanda. Among the larger local donations as of last September:

• Rubio got $9,100 from Christopher H. Koch of the New Era Cap Co.; and $5,400 each from businesspeople Eugene P. Vukelic, Peter F. Hunt, Brian J. Lipke and nonprofit organization executive Heather Williams.

• Construction company executive James J. Panepinto and lawyer Mark J. Longo each gave $5,400 to Bush; and the former governor also got $2,700 donations from attorney Daniel C. Oliverio; Gioia; businessmen Erik Chretian and Gerald A. Buchheit, retiree Nancy Ackerman and homemaker Peggy Winter.

• Clinton got $2,700 from Erie County Democratic Elections Commissioner Leonard R. Lenihan and North Tonawanda businessman James J. Stephen.

Many larger donations probably arrived after the reporting period that ended Sept. 30, political experts speculated.

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