New information made public by the U.S. Federal Election Commission reveals that members of the accounting profession are opening their checkbooks early and often in an effort to help candidates in the 2012 Presidential elections.
While the first round of next year’s state primary elections is still months away, accountants from across the country have already “voted” for the Presidential candidate of their choice through cash donations to campaigns totaling hundreds of thousands of dollars.
An analysis of those FEC disclosures by Accounting Today found that the nation’s accountants have already made personal, out-of-pocket contributions to President Obama and his Republican challengers totaling well over a quarter of a million dollars.
Campaign donations from accountants, partners and others at the five largest U.S. accounting firms alone exceeded $223,000 at the start of October. Significantly, these donations represent personal cash contributions by individuals—not the separate and even heftier financial support that is typically provided to candidates by accounting industry–sponsored political action committees.
With the field of GOP candidates narrowing as campaigners close in on the start of the 2012 primaries and caucuses, the pace of political donations by accounting professionals is likely to pick up even more steam.
But even this early in the race, a number of distinct patterns in the direction of political sentiment by the nation’s accountants are becoming apparent.
The trends uncovered by Accounting Today’s analysis are not good news for President Obama.
As the campaign rounded the first turn and headed into the backstretch, contributions from accountants and others employed by Deloitte, Ernst & Young, KPMG, PricewaterhouseCoopers and Grant Thornton were favoring Republican challengers over President Obama by a better than two-to-one margin.
Combined contributions to the President’s re-election campaign from individuals at those five firms totaled just over $62,000—less than 28 percent of the total contributed by accounting professionals prior to October 1.
The GOP hopefuls—former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, Texas Governor Rick Perry, U.S. Representatives Ron Paul (Texas) and Michelle Bachman (Minnesota), former Governors Jon Huntsman (Utah) and Tim Pawlenty (Minnesota), businessman Herman Cain, and former U.S. Senator Rick Santorum (Pennsylvania) —collectively received more than $161,000 from major accountant firm personnel, over 72 percent of the total contributions.
Frontrunner Mitt Romney has been on the receiving end of the largest slice of the individual contributions from accounting professionals, and has added over $103,000 to his campaign war chest with the help of donations from personnel at the five firms reviewed by Accounting Today.
Nearly one in every four of the accountants who provided early support to 2012 Presidential candidates gave money to Romney’s campaign. The former Massachusetts Governor is running 60 percent ahead of President Obama in political donations from accountants.
Romney is also outdistancing the President in terms of the average size of campaign contributions from the accounting profession. On average, the accountants who donated to the Governor’s election fund contributed more than $1,400 each, compared to an average of only $904 to the President.
Texas Governor Perry is running a distant third to Romney and Obama in terms of contributions from accountants—a position that may be at least partially attributable to his late entry into the campaign.
The analysis shows that Perry started October with $39,000 in contributions from individuals at the five CPA firms tracked by Accounting Today, with each donation averaging a hefty $1,500.
Significantly, however, the vast majority of this early support for Perry’s campaign is coming from accounting professionals at Ernst & Young. Personnel at E&Y—including a number of the firm’s accountants in Texas—have so far provided the Governor with almost 90 percent of his total contributions from the profession.
The other GOP Presidential candidates have collected only scattered donations from individuals at the five accounting firms studied. The size of contributions to these campaigns averaged considerably less than the amounts given to the leaders.
Jon Huntsman did the best among the second-tier candidates, attracting about $3,900 in donations to his campaign, while libertarian Ron Paul received nearly $3,800.
Businessman Herman Cain—a former pizza company CEO who criticized “accountants” and “tax lawyers” for blocking federal tax reforms such as his “9-9-9” plan during the recent debate in Las Vegas—pocketed $1,600 in contributions from accounting professionals.
Pawlenty, who has already dropped out of the running, collected nearly $5,000 from accountants before folding his tent. The rest of the field—including Bachman and Santorum—received total contributions of $1,300 or less from individuals at the five firms, and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich (Georgia) didn’t receive a dime.
While Accounting Today’s analysis focused on the five largest and most politically active accounting firms, the 2012 Presidential candidates also received at least scattered contributions from individuals at other large firms (including Crowe Horwath, BDO and Moss Adams) as well as from many individual CPAs at smaller firms and in solo practice.
Among the large firms studied, Ernst & Young emerged as the clear leader in terms of campaign donations. According to reports filed by the candidates, by the beginning of October accountants and other personnel at that firm had contributed more than $89,000 to support Presidential hopefuls in next year’s primaries.
Only 18 percent of the early donations by E&Y professionals went to President Obama. Perry and Romney received 39 percent and 37 percent, respectively.
Contributions by Deloitte personnel totaled $57,490, with Romney on the receiving end of 41 percent of those funds. Obama received 37 percent, while Pawlenty pulled in 8 percent before dropping out of the race earlier this year.
Professionals at PricewaterhouseCoopers paid out $36,520 to support the candidates, with Romney edging out Obama by a 51 percent to 48 percent margin.
Obama was the clear favorite among individuals at KPMG who contributed to this year’s crowded field of Presidential candidates. The President received almost half (47 percent) of the nearly $15,000 donated personnel at that firm. Romney pulled in 32 percent, while Perry drew 17 percent of the money.
It was a different story at Grant Thornton, where individuals who contributed to the Presidential candidates all but ignored President Obama. Of the $23,050 that the candidates reported receiving from GT personnel, a whopping 97 percent went to help the campaign of Mitt Romney.
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