Editor’s note: “The Money to Run” looks at contributions to the election campaigns of local politicians, state and federal. The series was reported by Penn State journalism students using public campaign finance reports archived on the websites of the Federal Election Commission, FollowTheMoney.org and OpenSecrets.org.
State Sen. Jake Corman is not up for re-election this year, but that doesn’t mean he’s a bystander in the political process.
As other high-level politicians do and as allowed by state law, state Senate Majority Leader Corman and his supporters dole out money to other candidates each election cycle.
Friends of Jake Corman, the senator’s political action committee, has contributed more than $1.5 million to political campaigns since 2002, according to Follow The Money, a database that tracks campaign contributions.
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FollowTheMoney.org calls itself “the nation’s only free, nonpartisan, verifiable archive of contributions to political campaigns in all 50 states” and is run by the nonpartisan, nonprofit National Institute on Money in State Politics, located in Helena, Mont.
In a telephone interview, Corman said those figures sound accurate, based on his knowledge of his campaign’s finances.
When making campaign contributions, “You try to find individuals who have same philosophical beliefs as you,” said Corman, whose district includes Centre, Juniata and Mifflin counties.
In 2016, Friends of Jake Corman contributed $1,000 to the presidential campaign of Rick Santorum, a former Republican U.S. senator from Pennsylvania and a fellow graduate of Penn State.
While Santorum’s presidential run was unsuccessful, Corman said the values and background he shared with Santorum led him to contribute.
Centre County is close to Corman’s heart. He was born in Bellefonte, and during his nearly 20 years in the Senate he has advocated for Penn State, his alma mater.
In recent years, Corman has been outspoken in his support of the late football coach Joe Paterno. He sued the NCAA, alleging the college athletics’ governing body unfairly punished Penn State with harsh sanctions after the Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse scandal. His suit led to the NCAA lifting most of the sanctions two years earlier than planned.
In 2015, Friends of Jake Corman donated $90,000 to a Republican super PAC and nearly $11,000 to the Centre County Republican Committee, according to Follow The Money. Corman said money donated to the county’s Republican committee helps to fund party activities in the county and not specific candidates whom donors support.
Corman’s campaign spent the most on contributions in 2014. That year, Friends of Jake Corman doled out more than $400,000. It gave the most to Patrick Stefano, a Republican state senator serving Fayette, Somerset and Westmoreland counties in southwestern Pennsylvania.
Other contributions that year included $90,000 to Camera Bartolotta, a Republican who went on to oust an incumbent from his state Senate seat, and $85,000 to Thomas McGarrigle, a Republican senator from the Philadelphia suburbs who won the election.
Corman said the first priority of Friends of Jake Corman is always his own campaign. Then, he said, the group turns its attention to local races, particularly those in and around Centre County.
While advisers offer guidance and suggestions, Corman said, he is the final arbiter of where the extra campaign funds end up.
Erin McCarthy is a Penn State journalism student.