Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Superdelegates and Campaign Donations

Last night, I found an article on Capital Eye which investigated the contributions made by Senator Clinton's and Senator Obama's PACs to the campaigns of various superdelegates since 2006.  The article finds that the donations made by the candidates to superdelegates provide a good indicator of who the superdelegate has committed to:

Yet the Center for Responsive Politics has found that campaign contributions have been a generally reliable predictor of whose side a superdelegate will take. In cases where superdelegates had received contributions from both Clinton and Obama, seven out of eight elected officials who received more money from Clinton have committed to her. The one exception: Sen. Ted Kennedy of Massachusetts, whose endorsement of Obama was highly publicized, received more from Clinton than from the Illinois senator--$10,000 compared to $4,200. Thirty-four of the 43 superdelegates who received more money from Obama, or 79 percent, are backing him. In every case the Center found in which superdelegates received money from one candidate but not the other, the superdelegate is backing the candidate who gave them money.

I added the campaign contribution data to the Superdelegate Roundup Spreadsheet to see if the donations affected whether the superdelegates were following the will of the voters.  I also added contribution data for Hillary's PAC going back to 2002, which I found on OpenSecrets.org.  

I was pleasantly surprised to find that the donations do not seem to be having nearly as much impact as implied by the Capital Eye article. Out of the 105 total defectors identified by my spreadsheet, only 3 have defected to a candidate that gave them the most donations.  I have highlighted these superdelegates in red, 2 are pledged to Obama and 1 to Clinton.  Next, I looked at superdelegates from areas which have not yet voted.  Out of the 235 superdelegates from these areas, only 11 have pledged to the candidate who provided them with the most funds.  I have highlighted these in orange, 8 are pledged to Obama, 3 to Clinton.  Finally, I looked at the uncommitted superdelegates from areas where primaries or caucuses have already been held.  Out of the 189 of these "undeciders", only 9 received greater donations from the candidate who lost the election in the superdelegate's state or district.  These are highlighted in yellow, 6 are witholding support from Clinton, comapred to 3 witholding support from Obama.

If we view a "normal" superdelegate vote as being one that conforms to primary or caucus results for the superdelegate's state or congressional district, then the campaign donations from the candidates to the superdelegates (as has been uncovered so far by public records) can only be said to cause 23 "deviations" from this norm, out of 768 superdelegates (3%).  Out of these 23 "deviations", 16 are in favor of Obama and 7 are in favor of Clinton.  I will continue to monitor these numbers to see if the impact of contributions increases or decreases as election results and delegate pledges are reported.  

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