JOPLIN, Mo. —
Jay Rosenberg believes America is at a crossroads.
“The deficit will kill us,” the Joplin man said this week, referring to the fact that the nation is now spending a trillion dollars more each year than it collects in revenue.
“We have to live within our means,” said Rosenberg.
Mitt Romney is the candidate with the best chance of changing the country’s direction, Rosenberg said.
“I’ve always been a strong Republican and as a businessman, I really feel we’re going the wrong way. I think Mitt Romney is the man for the problems at hand and I feel very strongly about that.
“Barack Obama is a good man but he has no business background. I don’t think he knows what he’s doing.”
To that end, Rosenberg, in May and again in June, made two political donations to Romney’s campaign, each for $250, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, a nonpartisan organization in Washington, D.C., that tracks political giving.
Joseph Cowen also put money behind his candidate this summer. He gave $1,000 to Democratic U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill in July and is contemplating giving more. He pointed to McCaskill’s support for ending earmarks as one of the reasons he favors her candidacy.
He also said he is impressed by her intelligence and political savvy, as well as her support for Joplin in the aftermath of the tornado.
“Claire demonstrated to people the role of government in people’s lives,” said Cowen. “As a society you just have to have it and it has to function correctly.”
“I know her philosophy and the Democratic philosophy and they are congruent with my philosophy on many issues,” said Cowen, who was recently elected chairman of the Jasper County Democratic Central Committee.
Rosenberg’s $500 and Cowen’s $1,000 are part of more than $1.6 million — so far — that has been given by residents in the Joplin metropolitan area to federal candidates, political action committees, super PACs and the two major parties in the 2012 election cycle.
Nearly all of that money has gone to Republicans.
Southwest Missouri has always been a reliable stronghold for GOP votes. And by turning out a large percentage of Republican voters in the region, the party hopes to offset Democratic majorities that historically come out of Kansas City and St. Louis.
But the area also has become a key source of revenue for the party as well.
In fact, according to data compiled by the Center for Responsive Politics, the four Joplin zip codes are all above the norm when it comes to political giving. One zip code — 64802 — is pumping money into campaigns at a rate 20 times the national average, thanks to two $500,000 donations this year. That zip code is the fifth most generous in Missouri when it comes to political contributions.
The 64801 zip code — Joplin residential addresses generally north of 15th Street — is contributing to political races at a pace nearly four times the average for the nation’s more than 40,000 zip codes.
The average zip code contributes $50,227, according to the Center, while residents in the 64801 zip code have given $190,704 so far in the 2012 election cycle. Top contributions came from Joplin residents David Humphreys and his mother, Ethel Mae Humphreys. Their largest contributions — $30,400 and $28,300, respectively — went to the National Republican Senatorial Committee and the Republican National Committee.
The 64802 zip code, which is for post office boxes in Joplin, has contributed $1,007,827 to political candidates and organizations so far in this cycle. Almost all of that was in the form of two half-million dollar contributions given by David Humphreys and his sister, Virginia resident Sarah Atkins. Both contributions went to Restore Our Future, a Super PAC that has collected nearly $90 million, according to the Center. The Super PAC has spent that money promoting Mitt Romney and targeting Barack Obama, as well as Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich in earlier battles.
The 64803 zip code, which also is for post office boxes, has contributed $166,000 so far in this election, or more than three times the average. All but $4,000 of that was from David Humphreys or his wife, Debra. More than $90,000 of that went to the National Republican Senatorial Committee and the National Republican Congressional Committee.
Joplin residences south of 15th Street — the 64804 zip code — have given $96,653 so far in this election cycle, or nearly twice the national average. The two largest contributions from that zip code were $10,000 each from Alison Hershewe, a Joplin attorney. Her contributions went to the Missouri Democratic State Committee, which also is a federal committee that allows some of the money to be spent for federal races, according to the Center.
Carthage — 64836 — is close to the national average, having given $53,059 so far in this election cycle. The largest contribution was $7,500 from Harry M. Cornell Jr. to the Republican National Committee. Although Cornell lives in Joplin, he was formerly the president and chief executive officer of Leggett & Platt Inc., based in Carthage.
Residents in Neosho — 64850 — contributed $127,197, a rate between two and three times the national average.
The top contributions came from Dorothy Farber and Rudy Farber, with each giving $30,800 to the Republican National Senatorial Committee.
The respective zip codes for other communities in the metropolitan area of Jasper and Newton counties do not reflect any large-scale giving. Webb City, Carl Junction and Seneca have each as a community contributed less than $10,000.
The data compiled by the Center comes from filings reported by the candidates, committees and PACs to the Federal Election Commission as of Sept. 3.
Asked about his donations, Humphreys issued a statement: “My contributions are to support individual liberty and personal responsibility, lower taxes, and less restrictive government regulation of people and commerce (as the most efficient constraints are those imposed by markets) because these values are fundamental to the survival of free enterprise and personal liberty.
“I am hopeful that, by supporting politicians who appear to share this same philosophy, we can help preserve and advance a free society so that all our children can enjoy the same kinds of freedom and opportunities that we have had. And being blessed with significant resources, I have a personal sense of duty to play some part in that endeavor both for my own children and our broader community.”
Neither Farber, of Neosho, or Cornell, of Joplin, could be reached for comment.
While the large five- and six-figure donations push Southwest Missouri out of the box for donations, it is only part of the story.
There actually have been more than 530 contributions from those six zip codes.
Most of those are smaller donations of a few hundred or a couple thousand dollars, and that’s typical, said Russ Choma, spokesperson of the Center for Responsive Politics. According to its data, most Americans don’t give to political campaigns. In fact, only 0.26 percent make contributions. Even fewer — 0.05 percent — give $2,500 or more.
Roger Johnson, of Joplin, has made a number of donations to Democratic candidates, including several contributions totaling $3,500 to Barack Obama and several totaling $2,000 to Claire McCaskill during this election cycle.
“The Citizens United decision changed the landscape,” he said, referring to the U.S. Supreme Court case in 2008 that removed restrictions on corporate giving. “It has dramatically changed how we elect officials. It is, I think, frightening.”
He believes the Supreme Court ruling made it easier for people with wealth to influence or outright control elections, and the antidote to that is what he called “grass-roots efforts” — getting 10,000 people to each give $100 to offset million dollar donations.
Johnson said that he believes Obama and McCaskill are looking out for the interests of all groups in society, and not just the wealthy. Of McCaskill, he added: “I don’t think she has tried to do anything other than help the people in Missouri. If we look at her voting record, she has done an outstanding job.”
Charlotte Cable, of Joplin, has given a total of $2,185 in this election cycle.
Her donations, ranging from $200 to $400, went to former GOP presidential candidates Rick Santorum and Herman Cain; to U.S. Rep. Todd Akin, who is challenging McCaskill; and to U.S. Speaker of the House John Boehner, an Ohio Republican.
“I just want to keep our freedoms. I feel like the liberal agenda leans toward socialism. A lot of these people want to change us into a socialist country.”
Cable, 84, also has a theory about why Joplin is a wellspring of votes and money for the GOP.
“I feel like Joplin has held on to its traditional values,” she said.
JOPLIN, Mo. —
Jay Rosenberg believes America is at a crossroads.
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