New York City is King of Presidential Contributions

(Photo by Tony Webster, Creative Commons License)
(Photo by Tony Webster, Creative Commons License)

For political fundraising, the nation’s capital isn’t Washington, D.C. It’s New York City.


New Yorkers poured more cash into presidential politics last year than residents of any other American metro area. With nearly $66 million donated to Republican and Democratic candidates’ campaigns and the outside groups like super PACs backing them, the city was the candidates’ top source of both direct campaign contributions and super PAC funds. (We’ve included all the major party candidates from this election cycle in our tally.)


Contributions to candidates’ campaigns, which are limited to $2,700, provide a clearer picture of an area’s political leanings than super PAC contributions, which have no upper boundary and can skew the view. When split by party, New York was the top source of contributions for Democrats and only Houston gave Republicans slightly more in direct campaign contributions.


Still, three of Republicans’ top 10 ZIP codes for campaign cash lie in deep-blue New York City. For Democrats, six NYC ZIP codes appear in the top 10. Campaign finance data analyzed by the Center for Responsive Politics show that within the city, Manhattan dominated the giving to campaign committees.



Outside the Big Apple, the Democratic presidential candidates turned to Washington, D.C. as their runner-up source of campaign cash, raising $10.5 million from the capital region. Republicans raised about half that from the area, just $5.2 million. Several wealthy ZIP codes in the District, plus the Northern Virginia suburbs, accounted for much of that giving.



In Houston lay three of Republicans’ top ZIP codes for direct campaign cash in 2015, making it the top metro area for GOP candidate contributions — beating out NYC for the top spot by just $1 million. Republican candidates raised $7.2 million from the country’s fourth largest city.


Super PACs blow up these maps

Just as in breakdowns by gender and industry, outside groups backing the candidates — with their ability to take unlimited contributions — distorted the picture, allowing donors in several ZIP codes to overshadow contributions to candidates. Contributions like Hank Greenberg’s $10 million donation to Bush’s Right to Rise super PAC through insurance conglomerate C.V. Starr Co. pushed liberal New York into the red when gifts to outside groups were factored in.



Super PACs may have also blunted Washington, D.C.’s influence, allowing geographic outsiders a greater financial impact. Even as lobbyist bundlers — who collect contributions from their networks of friends and clients and present all the cash to their chosen candidates —largely stuck to the sidelines, the D.C. metro area came in second to New York as a source of candidate campaign contributions. But Washington just isn’t a billionaire’s playground: It placed 16th among the top 20 metro areas by contributions to super PACs and other outside groups.


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