Following the Funds: Who has donated to presidential candidates in Hampton Roads?

Your Local Election HQ

PORTSMOUTH, Va. (WAVY) — Who has donated to presidential candidates in Hampton Roads? The answer: many people.

Eleven days before the election, and roughly $2 million worth of $1.5 billion raised between President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden has come from donors in the southeast Virginia and northeast North Carolina region, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

That mirrors the national trend of record fundraising, as only $1.3 million in cash from the region went between the presidential campaigns of Trump and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in 2016.

While it’s true that some individuals gave more than others, no one person can be listed as the top spender to one of the major party nominees.

Unlike Virginia — where the lack of contribution limits allows for single donors to pour in tens of thousands of dollars into one candidate’s coffers — current federal rules cap an individual’s spending at $5,600 between the primary and general election.

A 10 On Your Side analysis of public campaign finance reports showed there was a multitude of people within the region donating the maximum amount.

In addition, donations under $200 don’t have to be recorded showing who donated them.

“For both candidates, small-donor support has been huge,” said Brendan Quinn, the outreach director for OpenSecrets.org, which follows money in federal politics.

In the latest campaign finance reports filed by the campaigns — which covers the first 14 days of October — Trump and Biden received $13 million and $25 million respectively across the country from “small donations.”

Locally, a visual completed back in September by the Virginia Public Access Project shows who is the cash king by zip code.

By their calculations, Trump outraised Biden in the region by nearly $230,000. However, in the zip code with the largest donation amount — the one encompassing the Virginia Beach Oceanfront and North End — Biden has a slight advantage.

“There is a lot of enthusiasm, especially among Democratic donors, that we are seeing. To not only defeat President Trump but increase the majority in the house and increase the Senate,” Quinn said.

That enthusiasm can be seen in the way donors contribute to Political Action Committees or Super PACs, where donation limits are higher.

Viewed in that lens, the top regional supporters of the president and his challenger become much more clear.

In Virginia Beach, Todd Copeland, who is president of Hercules Living — a property management and real estate company based in the city — donated $5,600 directly to Biden’s campaign and another $35,500 to the DNC Services Corp., which is spending money in support of Biden’s candidacy, according to OpenSecreats.org.

On the other side of the aisle, Tassos Paphites — the chairman and CEO of BurgerBusters Inc., which the 11th-largest Taco Bell franchise operator in the country — has donated his $5,600 contribution to the Trump campaign. He also donated $30,000 to the Trump-supporting Great America PAC.

Neither Copeland and Paphites immediately returned requests for comment on why they chose to donate.

“The one thing that money does buy — and we do know this — it buys access,” said Dr. Ben Melusky, an assistant professor of political science at Old Dominion University.

Melusky explained that regardless of a candidate’s win or loss, a donation can often help garner a donator a “seat at the table” when needed.


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