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Governors' donors play big in the Barack Obama-John McCain battle

October 17, 2008 | 12:46 pm

If the past is any indication, Democratic and Republicans governors could be key in several states where Barack Obama and John McCain are locked in close contests.

They act as surrogates for the candidates and deploy their political organizations to help win their states for their party’s nominee.

They also have considerable fundraising abilities, tapping donors that have interest in state and federal affairs, as their latest campaign disclosures show.

As 11 states prepare to elect new governors, the Republican Governors Assn. has raised $21.8 million this year, to the Democratic Governors Assn.’s $18.7 million. Many of the biggest donors are major players in national politics.

Republican donors include Texas homebuilder Bob Perry, at $750,000. Perry gained fame as being the largest backer of....

...Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, the group that attacked John Kerry four years ago over his Vietnam service.

Led by $1.2 million from the American Federation of State, County & Municipal Employees, labor is the Democratic Governors’ biggest donor. AFSCME also is a major Obama booster.

Democrats have been critical of Wal-Mart over its opposition to unionizing efforts, but took $136,763 from the Arkansas retailer. Wal-Mart donated $130,000 to the GOP governors. A Wal-Mart executive stirred controversy earlier in the campaign by urging Wal-Mart employees to donate to Republicans.

The National Education Assn., which represents public school teachers and works for Obama’s election, gave $100,500 to Democrats and $35,000 to Republicans.

The National Rifle Assn. is spending millions to defeat Obama. It has given $25,250 to Democratic governors and $75,000 to Republican governors.

Both associations take big bucks from corporate America, much of which has stakes in national and state actions.

Drug maker GlaxoSmithKline gave $500,000 to Democrats and $250,000 to the Republicans this year. Drug companies will have a stake in any national healthcare legislation, and also sell pharmaceuticals to state healthcare systems.

Tobacco companies, which fend off state taxes and federal regulation, also give heavily. Altria, formerly known as Philip Morris, gave $50,000 to Democratic governors this year and $49,421 to Republicans. Reynolds American, another major tobacco company, gave $140,000 to the GOP governors.

Then there is American International Group, the insurance giant that was bailed out last month. It gave $100,275 to the Democratic Governors and $100,000 to Republicans. Its most recent donations of $75,000 to both entities came in July, before the bailout.

-- Dan Morain