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Households divided by campaign donations

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President Obama appears at the Oregon Convention Center Tuesday, July 24, 2012, in Portland, Ore.(AP Photo/Don Ryan)

Husbands and wives may share checking accounts, but they don’t always share political preferences. So what happens when one-half of the marriage wants to donate to a candidate?

A wife writes a $1,000 check to her preferred candidate, President Obama. A week later, her irritated spouse fires back with a $1,000 check to Republican Mitt Romney. The money cancels out, leaving the candidates even, television stations and campaign consultants a little bit richer — and the couple quite a bit poorer.

When politics meet family, emotion often trumps reason.

A Washington Times survey of campaign contribution records found 20,000 families that split affections over the past four presidential elections. Their reasons range from a union of two opposite true believers who make the marriage work to couples who spar through their wallets.

Dick Wright, the owner of an Ohio tool-making company, has given $37,000 to Republicans this election cycle, with money going to Mr. Romney and rivals Newt Gingrich, Herman Cain and Ron Paul.

His wife, Dianne, has given $2,000 to Mr. Obama and $1,000 to House Democrats’ campaign fund. Mr. Wright donated heavily until March, when his contributions stopped. But his wife made one last donation to Mr. Obama in May.

“We have had some very wild fights,” she said, adding that she is “pretty good at debating.”

Mrs. Wright recalled that after she won arguments, her husband would give to a Republican out of spite.

“If he weren’t giving anything, I wouldn’t feel that I had to,” she said.

“I tried to explain to him that we’re doing nothing but enriching advertisers. I keep explaining to him that I have one vote, you have one vote. We’re canceling each other out.”

Giving patterns

As with the Wrights, it’s typically the husband who backs the GOP and the wife who supports Democrats. And usually, the husband’s contributions wind up being larger than the wife’s.

But sometimes the records show an escalating conjugal arms race.

Consider David C. Abrams, founder of Massachusetts-based Abrams Capital, and his wife, Amy. In 2011, Mrs. Abrams gave $35,800 to Mr. Obama, then watched her husband give $2,500 to Mr. Romney and $2,500 to Scott P. Brown, the state’s Republican senator who is locked in a re-election battle with Democrat Elizabeth Warren. In March, Mrs. Abrams gave $5,000 to Mrs. Warren. A week later, Mr. Abrams gave $4,900 to Mr. Brown.

In April, Mrs. Abrams gave another $20,000 to Mr. Obama.

The Abramses are not alone:

• Last year, Christine Yorda of Connecticut gave $950 to Mr. Obama. Her husband, Jaime, a top executive at Citigroup, came back with $1,000 to Mr. Romney. She gave $500 more to Mr. Obama on March 30. Her husband gave another $1,000 to Mr. Romney on April 10. The next month, she escalated the spending wars, giving to Priorities USA Action, the super PAC backing Mr. Obama that can accept contributions of any size.

• Wayne Weaver, the former owner of the NFL’s Jacksonville Jaguars, gave $25,000 to Restore Our Future, a Romney super PAC. Four months earlier, his wife, Delores, a longtime Democratic supporter, gave $10,000 to Mr. Obama.

• Don Foss, a Michigan financier, gave to Mr. Gingrich but also is one of the well-heeled donors to Restore Our Future. He gave $35,000 in March. His homemaker wife, Constance, gave $5,000 to Mr. Obama the next month. A week later, she asked for a refund from the campaign.

“We don’t have political arguments. I don’t really let him. I just cut him off and say, ‘Save it for your friends,’” Mrs. Foss said.

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About the Author
Luke Rosiak

Luke Rosiak is a projects reporter on The Washington Times’ investigative team. He formerly covered lobbying and campaign finance for two watchdog groups as well as transportation for The Washington Post. Luke can be reached at lrosiak@washingtontimes.com.

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