More constituents doesn't necessarily mean more money. Campaign finance figures show that, while major population centers can be great places to tap for political donations, candidates looking to raise major money would do also well to seek out the homes of big business.
According to a U.S. News analysis of campaign finance data from the Center for Responsive Politics, a nonprofit campaign finance watchdog organization, many of the cities that gave the most to political campaigns in the 2010 election cycle are also among the most populous. Eight of the 10 cities that gave the most in individual donations are also among the 30 most populous U.S. cities. But some cities, like Atlanta (population: 420,003) are outliers in this sense.
Dave Levinthal, spokesman for the Center for Responsive Politics, says that a city's political and economic activity can be just as important a factor in political giving as population size. "Once you get beyond the top population centers in a country, business is a big factor" in determining a particular place's rate of political giving, says Levinthal. "Where there's money, there's political giving. And if a particular city has several large corporate headquarters, or if it has a significant amount of industry that's politically active, you're likely to get a lot of those corporations, top officials, and their employees making political donations."
That means that some small cities can make a big splash during election seasons, says Levinthal: "If you have a big company in a relatively small or midsize city, that particular geographic area may end up having outsized political clout."
One case in point is Cincinnati. Residents of the city of 333,000 gave over $10.6 million in political donations during the 2010 election cycle, and some of the people who gave the most came from major businesses that are headquartered locally, like Cincinnati-based uniform supplier Cintas. Likewise, the small city of Richmond has big donors from locally-based companies like Genworth Financial and Altria Group, parent company of tobacco giant Phillip Morris.
Below are the 10 cities whose residents gave the most to candidates, parties, and PACs in the 2010 election cycle, as well as the 10 cities that gave the most per capita. The data includes all contributions of $200 or greater by individuals, not counting candidate self-contributions.
|City||Total Individual Donations|
|City||Total Individual Donations||Population||Giving per capita|
Note: Contributions are classified by the cities that people claimed when they donated. Misspellings or misstatements of city names may skew results slightly. Population figures are U.S. Census 2010 counts. Analysis was limited to cities with populations of 200,000 or greater. Contribution totals include Levin Funds, which are contributions to state and local parties for voter registration and get-out-the-vote efforts.