The Money to Run: Benninghoff campaign backed by health sector

Kerry Benninghoff gets the crowd ready for Vice Presidential candidate Sarah Palin at Rec Hall on the Penn State campus October 28, 2008.
Kerry Benninghoff gets the crowd ready for Vice Presidential candidate Sarah Palin at Rec Hall on the Penn State campus October 28, 2008. Centre Daily Times, file

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 Rep. Kerry Benninghoff, R-Bellefonte, says he is looking to raise about $50,000 to fund and maintain the direct and indirect costs of his re-election campaign this year. He has raised $1,000 since January.

In 2014 he raised nearly $149,000 for that year’s campaign, according to FollowTheMoney.org, which tracks campaign contributions in all 50 states. His report for that year is the most recent in that database.

Benninghoff represents the 171st District, which includes parts of Centre and Mifflin counties. He was first elected to the state House of Representatives in 1996.

Since 1998 he has raised a total of $575,609, according to the nonpartisan FollowTheMoney.

In a phone interview, Benninghoff said that some of his campaign money gets reinvested in the community during election years — newspaper advertisements being one example.

An alternative to advertising that Benninghoff utilizes is hosting legislative receptions, where people can learn about issues and the candidate collects donations.

By the time the campaign is over, you’re already in January. In December you’re thinking about running again.

State Rep. Kerry Benninghoff, R-Bellefonte

He will face Democrat Melody Fleck, of Pine Grove Mills, in the November general election.

In the Republican Party, it’s expected that the party will support its candidates, said Benninghoff, whose largest donation in 2014 — $10,000 — came from Friends of Jake Corman, the campaign finance committee of state Senate’s Republican majority leader.

A top contributor to Benninghoff’s campaign is the health sector, which gave nearly $15,000 in 2014. The Hospital and Health System Association of Pennsylvania donated the largest amount in that category, $3,465.

Benninghoff is a former hospital orderly, a two-term Centre County coroner and an advocate for childhood cancer research. He is a founder and the chairman of the House Cancer Caucus. His daughter, Ryleigh, succumbed to brain cancer on Dec. 31, 2010.

“Our goal as the House Cancer Caucus is to make sure the personal stories of cancer patients, cancer survivors and those who have succumbed to cancer make it into the policy debate,” Benninghoff’s website says.

In 2014, he was selected to serve as chairman of the House Majority Policy Committee, which travels across the state to conduct hearings and gather information about the development of policies.

Previously, he had served as majority chairman of the House Finance Committee, which oversees issues about fiscal policy and taxation, investment of the state’s money and regulations of the Department of Revenue.

Finance, insurance and real estate was another of Benninghoff’s top contributing sectors in 2014. He received 25 donations totaling nearly $20,000.

The Pennsylvania Bankers Association, which donated $5,709, led all contributions in that sector and was Benninghoff’s second-largest contributor.

Michael D. Hawbaker, vice president of Glenn O. Hawbaker Inc., who donated $4,667, was the third-largest contributor, followed by the Pennsylvania Automotive Association, which gave $4,000.

Benninghoff said one can only hope that there is money left over at the end of the campaign.

“By the time the campaign is over, you’re already in January,” he said. “In December you’re thinking about running again.”

Victoria Arabskyj is a Penn State journalism student.

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