While the outcome of the 2012 presidential election is still up in the air, the nation’s accountants are putting their money behind the candidate they hope will change Washington.

It’s not the kind of hope and change that President Barack Obama campaigned for in 2008, however. This time around the accounting profession is directing its support and campaign contributions to help elect Republican challenger Mitt Romney.

A new Accounting Today analysis of the latest political fundraising reports filed with the Federal Election Commission found that former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney is outdrawing President Obama in campaign donations from accountants by nearly a four to one margin.

As this year’s campaign headed into the home stretch, contributions to the two presidential candidates from accountants and others at the nation’s major CPA firms had already topped $900,000. That total, which reflects individual donations as well as contributions from political action committee fundraising groups sponsored by leading accounting firms, appeared likely to rise to record seven-figure levels as the campaign continues to heat up.

Romney has emerged as the clear favorite of the accounting profession, collecting more than $735,000 from accountants at major CPA firms, other industry professionals and PACs organized by the Big Four. In contrast, President Obama’s campaign received just under $204,000 from accountants -- less than 22 percent of the industry’s total campaign contributions in this year’s presidential race.

The landslide level of accounting’s financial support for Romney comes in stark contrast to recent elections, when the profession’s PAC men seemed to be warming up to Democrats. Although accounting has traditionally backed Republicans over Democrats in national campaigns by a 2:1 margin, the profession’s political fundraisers took a significantly more balanced approach during the last two elections.

When Obama won the White House in 2008, financial support for GOP candidates from the major U.S. accounting firms slipped to 59 percent. And during the 2010 campaign, with Democrats in control of both houses of Congress as well as the White House, the Republican edge fell to 56 percent to 43 percent.

 

FOCUS ON CONGRESS

The industry’s campaign contributions to presidential candidates represent only a small slice of the money advanced by accountants to influence the 2012 national elections. The big money from CPA industry PACs this year is going to congressional candidates.

As the final gavel fell at the 2012 Republican and Democratic conventions, PACs sponsored by accounting firms had already raised more than $10 million to influence the outcome of this year’s congressional elections. And CPAs aren’t sitting on their money -- these accounting industry PACs have already paid out almost $5.5 million in campaign support to candidates for the U.S. House and Senate. IN the middle of September, with more than six weeks to go before the election -- and a collective war chest of more than $3 million still in reserve -- accounting industry political fundraisers were on track to exceed the record $6,296,257 paid out to congressional candidates in 2010.

As with the presidential election, accountants are throwing the majority of their financial support to Republicans. GOP candidates for House and Senate seats have been on the receiving end of a solid 65 percent of the money spent by industry PACs in this year’s races.

At the start of the closing two months of the 2012 election campaign, accounting firm PACs made donations averaging more than $15,000 each to 233 Republican House candidates. Of the more than $5.1 million contributed by these PACs to House campaigns this year, $3.5 million (69 percent) went to GOP candidates.

The 158 Democrats who received support from accountants in this year’s House elections received smaller average donations (just over $10,000 each), and a much smaller total ($1,596,982) -- less than half the campaign support paid out to House Democrats by accounting industry PACs just two years ago.

It was a different story in the Senate, however. With Democrats still in control of that chamber and in charge of powerful Senate committees, the accounting industry political fundraisers targeted the bulk of their campaign aid to Democratic Senate candidates.

Of the $1.3 million contributed by accounting PACs to Senate campaigns, 57 percent (over $738,000) was earmarked for Democrats. The 37 Senate Democrats on the receiving end of CPA contributions collected an average of nearly $20,000 each. A total of 32 Republican Senate hopefuls received an average of $17,552 from industry PACs.

 

TRACKING THE PACS

Accounting Today’s exclusive analysis of campaign financing trends in the 2012 election tracked the fundraising activities of PACs organized by the American Institute of CPAs, the Big Four U.S. accounting firms, and several smaller PACs sponsored by others in the accounting field. Here’s how they break down entering the home stretch of this year’s campaign:

• Deloitte. The industry’s most active political fundraising group, Deloitte’s PAC raised $2.5 million for the 2012 campaigns and has contributed a whopping $1.6 million to candidates in this years federal elections. Over 68 percent ($1.1 million) of Deloitte’s donations have gone to Republican candidates. In the race for the White House, Governor Romney received just over $248,000 from Deloitte accountants and others affiliated with the firm, while President Obama collected almost $105,000. The firm’s PAC has more than $750,000 on hand for contributions to candidates during the campaign homestretch.

• PricewaterhouseCoopers. PwC’s PAC raised more than $2,653,000 to support candidates in the 2012 election -- the most of any accounting industry political group. The PAC has paid out almost $1.4 million to federal candidates so far, with 71 percent of that money ($973,500) going to GOP candidates. PwC’s PAC and its accountants were even more lopsidedly Republican in portioning out presidential contributions, with Obama receiving less than $40,000 (14 percent of the total) compared to over $251,000 for Romney. At the start of September, the PAC had a war chest of almost $600,000 on hand and available for additional donations during the closing weeks of this year’s campaign.

• Ernst & Young. This group raised over $2.1 million for the 2012 elections and so far has contributed more than $811,000 to federal candidates. GOP campaigns are collecting 65 percent of that cash ($524,000). In the presidential race, E&Y’s PAC and others associated with the firm gave Romney the edge in financial support by a four to one margin -- a total of more than $134,000 to the Governor versus only $34,000 to President Obama. The PAC still has more than $1.3 million to splash around.

• KPMG. Of the more than $1.4 million raised by this PAC, $800,000 has already been donated to federal candidates in November’s elections. The split went 39 percent to Democrats ($314,000) and 61 percent to Republicans ($487,000). In the presidential campaign, KPMG and its personnel have contributed more than $82,000 so far, with 72 percent going to Romney. There’s another $1.4 million in PAC money on hand for additional donations this year.

• American Institute of CPAs. AICPA political fundraisers assembled a war chest of more than $1 million from member donations since the last election, and the institute’s PAC has contributed over $672,000 to congressional candidates in the 2012 campaign. In the process, the AICPA showed the most bipartisan balance among the industry’s major PACs. More than 46 percent of the AICPA’s campaign contributions during this election cycle have gone to House and Senate Democrats ($311,000 total), with the rest channeled to Republican hopefuls. The PAC made no contributions to candidates in this year’s presidential contest, but has over $1.4 million in its war chest to make additional donations during the closing weeks of this year’s campaign.

• Grant Thornton. Of the more than $391,000 raised by Grant Thornton’s PAC during the current election cycle, $153,000 has been donated to federal candidates. Better than 69 percent (over $105,000) was earmarked for Republicans. At last check, the PAC had nearly $190,000 on hand for the homestretch.

• And the rest. The PAC sponsored by the Reznick Group collected over $56,000 on behalf of political candidates in 2012, donated $39,500 (67 percent) to Republicans, and still has over $61,000 in reserve. The National Society of Accountants raised more than $30,000, paid out $4,500 in campaign contributions (all to Republicans), and has almost $200,000 in reserve. Padgett, Stratemann raised $7,575, donated $2,500 (60 percent to Democrats), and has more than $25,000 left over. And Moss Adams’ PAC raised $5,000 this cycle, contributed it all to GOP candidates, and has over $17,000 in the kitty for the final weeks of the campaign.

Click here for our slideshow of the profession's favorite senators, ranked by the donations they receive from accounting PACs.

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