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  • From left to right: Sen. Joe Donnelly, D-Ind.; Rep. Luke Messer, R-6th and Rep. Todd Rokita, R-4th.

  • Donnelly

  • Rokita

  • Messer

Sunday, July 23, 2017 1:00 am

PACs helping Senate candidates

Defense, medical companies giving to all 3 candidates

BRIAN FRANCISCO | The Journal Gazette

The three main rivals for a U.S. Senate seat from Indiana are collecting campaign funds from some of the same sources.

At least a dozen political action committees each contributed money to the campaigns of Sen. Joe Donnelly, D-Ind., and Reps. Luke Messer, R-6th, and Todd Rokita, R-4th, during the second quarter of this year.

Neither Messer nor Rokita has formally announced his candidacy. But they have assembled statewide campaign finance organizations and are sniping at each other as if the May 2018 Republican primary election were just around the corner.

Rokita announced last week that he had “massively outraised potential Senate primary opponent Luke Messer by nearly $500,000” during the second quarter and that Messer “was largely reliant on money from political action committees in Washington.”

Messer did not publicly respond to Rokita on that but said in an email to supporters that Rokita “has spread lies and half-truths about my family” – prompting Rokita to send an email saying he had done nothing of the kind. The dispute stems from Associated Press reports in May on Messer's wife's earnings for legal consulting she has done for the city of Fishers.

Rokita raised $1.04 million in the second quarter, with $246,000 coming from PACs and the rest from individual donors. Messer raised more than $578,000 during that period, with roughly $348,000 of it from PACs.

By comparison, Donnelly raised $1.34 million during the quarter, with more than $559,000 from PACs. 

The campaign finance reports filed with the Federal Election Commission show all three lawmakers received contributions from PACs representing medical companies Roche, Batesville-based Hill-Rom Holdings and Warsaw-based Zimmer Biomet, and defense contractors Lockheed Martin and Raytheon Corp., which has a plant in Fort Wayne.

Other common contributors included PACs for Delta Air Lines, State Farm Insurance, Navient, the American Soybean Association, the National Apartment Association, the Advanced Medical Technology Association and the National Association of Realtors.

Some of those PACS have spread money far and wide. The Realtors group contributed nearly $4 million to hundreds of federal candidates of both parties during the 2015-16 election cycle, the largest amount spent by any PAC, according to the non-partisan Center for Responsive Politics. Lockheed Martin was the eighth-largest contributor to candidates, at $2.5 million.

Zimmer Biomet, on the other hand, gave $75,000 in 2015-16 to 33 federal candidates, including 10 from Indiana.

A PAC may contribute as much as $5,000 per election to a federal candidate, according to campaign finance law.

Individual donors from the Fort Wayne area are evenly divided between Messer and Rokita. Nine people from the region gave a combined $16,400 to Rokita in the second quarter, and nine people donated a combined $15,000 to Messer. An individual may give as much as $2,700 per election to a federal candidate.

Messer's donors included Fort Wayne auto dealer Thomas Kelley, Fort Wayne banker James Marcuccilli, state Senate President Pro Tem David Long, R-Fort Wayne, and Warsaw duck producer Terry Tucker.

Rokita's contributors included Fort Wayne musical equipment seller Charles Surack, restaurant owner Peter Eshelman of Columbia City, Auburn entrepreneur Daryle Doden and Columbia City resident Byron Lamm, co-founder of the Indiana Policy Review Foundation.

Rokita last week named Lamm, Doden, Eshelman and Warsaw medical device producer Nick Deeter to his 60-member campaign finance team. In March, Messer announced the formation of a 43-member campaign finance team that includes Fort Wayne real estate developer Bill Bean and former state senator Tom Wyss of Fort Wayne.

For the election cycle to date, Rokita, a resident of Brownsburg, has raised $1.37 million and has $2.35 million in cash. Messer, of Greensburg, has raised $1.5 million and has nearly $2.03 million in cash. Their cash includes money left over from previous House campaigns.

Donnelly, a former House member from Granger who was elected to the Senate in 2012, has raised $5.4 million and has almost $3.7 million in cash. During the second quarter, he raised roughly $8,700 from 14 residents of the Fort Wayne area. They included Cindy Henry, wife of Fort Wayne Mayor Tom Henry; the mayor's brother, venture capitalist Jerome Henry of Fort Wayne; attorney Timothy Pape of Fort Wayne; and attorney John Whiteleather of Columbia City.

Three Republicans have announced they will run for Donnelly's seat – Hamilton County businessman Terry Henderson, New Albany college administrator Andrew Takami and Kokomo attorney Mark Hurt. Henderson has reported raising nearly $267,000, including a $250,000 loan to himself, and he has almost $263,000 in cash; Takami has raised more than $114,000 and has $72,000 in cash; and Hurt has raised $75,000, including an $18,000 loan from himself, and has less than $11,000 in cash. 

Freshman Republican U.S. Rep. Jim Banks of Columbia City has raised more than $291,000 and has nearly $205,000 in cash on hand to defend his House seat in northeast Indiana's 3rd Congressional District.

Fort Wayne marketing consultant Courtney Tritch, who seeks the Democratic nomination in the 3rd District, has raised more than $12,000 and has almost $11,000 in cash since launching her campaign in June. David Roach and Tommy Schrader, both of Fort Wayne, have announced they will seek the 3rd District Democratic nomination but have not filed campaign finance reports. Candidates must submit such reports if they raise or spend at least $5,000.

bfrancisco@jg.net