Pittsburgh Mayor Luke Ravenstahl raised seven times as much campaign cash as city Councilman William Peduto last year, driving the challenger to take the unusual step of reporting his January collections early in reports filed yesterday with the Allegheny County Elections Division.
The reports suggest that the mayor will be able to do more advertising for the May 15 Democratic primary, but that Mr. Peduto is picking up his fund-raising pace.
Mr. Ravenstahl's campaign raised $260,087 last year, spent $3,134, and finished with $256,954 in the bank.
Top contributions were $25,000 from county Chief Executive Dan Onorato's campaign fund, and $12,500 each from John Fitzmaurice and Jeff Engelstad, executives at Seattle-based advertising firm Liberty Pacific Media.
The mayor's campaign got $10,000 each from Matthew McTish of engineering firm McTish, Kunkle & Associates; Alco Parking owner Merrill Stabile; developer James A. West; Evan Segal of Dormont Manufacturing; funeral home owner Mark Devlin; developer Ira Gumberg; and Jack Piatt of development firm Millcraft Industries.
Mr. Peduto started last year with $4,232, got $33,796 in campaign contributions last year, spent $8,656, and had $29,372 in cash left over.
He filed an addendum to his annual report showing that last month his campaign raised $89,465, spent $3,054, and has $115,783 in the bank. He isn't required to report money raised this year until May 4.
His top donor was William Benter, owner of Downtown-based Acusis Medical Transcription, who gave $50,000. "I think [Mr. Peduto] is well attuned to the sectors of the business community that can spur economic development," he said, explaining his support.
Donating $5,000 each were Jim Lampl of Giant Eagle, Henry Simonds of Headwater Films, and Ellen Kaplan Goldstein, who listed no employer.
Mr. Ravenstahl said he raised $250,000 in January, most of it at a $1,000-a-plate event on Tuesday at LeMont Restaurant.
On the federal level, individuals can only give a candidate up to $2,100 in the primary and $2,100 in the general election, and political committees can donate $5,000 in each election. Many states limit political donations, but Pennsylvania does not.
Five-figure donations are "a bit obscene" and can reduce the competitiveness of local races, said Jerry Shuster, professor of political communication at the University of Pittsburgh.
"The big money goes to the incumbent," he said, especially when the political elite have lined up behind him. "Are you going to irritate [county Chief Executive] Dan Onorato, who everybody knows is supporting Luke Ravenstahl?"
Big interests know that by giving to the incumbent, they can bet not just on the future, but on the present, said Sara Grove, who holds the Hillman Chair in Politics at Chatham College.
"That incumbent is in office right now," she said, adding that studies show that for a campaign check, "you get access."
Neither candidate is on pace with 2005's fund raising. In 2004, Bob O'Connor's campaign raised $338,103, on the way to bringing in $1,862,119 through 2005.
The late Mr. O'Connor's campaign continued raising money last year, bringing in $237,029 before his Sept. 1 death, and finishing with $199,391.
In 2004, Mr. Peduto raised $116,662. Through the 2005 mayoral primary, in which he got 24.4 percent of the vote, he raised $354,502.
Rich Lord can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-1542.