Top campaign donors switch teams

Mitt Romney by Tim Somero via flickr

Mitt Romney by Tim Somero via flickr

Oct. 16 2008

WASHINGTON – He was the region’s most prodigal Mitt Romney supporter. During the presidential primaries, Augustus Kinsolving poured $2,300 – the maximum legal donation – into the former Republican candidate’s then-flourishing campaign.

Now, the Fishers Island, N.Y., lawyer is pledging his money and vote to another presidential hopeful: Democratic nominee Sen. Barack Obama.

“I have a very distinct opinion that Barack Obama is needed by this country right now,” said Kinsolving, a registered independent who considered himself a Republican “as a young man” – but who admired Democratic President John F. Kennedy as a college student in the early 1960s.

“Barack Obama reminds me of Jack Kennedy,” he said.

Kinsolving is not the only benefactor of a doomed campaign who has turned away from his preferred candidate’s party. In Southern Connecticut, only a few of the most generous supporters of Sen. Hillary Clinton – whom Obama defeated in a long, bitter contest for the Democratic nomination – have opened their wallets for Obama, according to Federal Election Commission filings.

Some of Clinton’s top donors say they don’t think the notoriously deep-pocketed Obama campaign needs their money; indeed, Obama’s fundraising prowess played a key role in Clinton’s defeat. But others still refuse to support the Illinois senator’s bid for the presidency.

“Basically I’m on the McCain side now,” said Donna Carroll, a registered Democrat, environmentalist and abortion-rights advocate who donated $500 to Clinton’s campaign.

Carroll praised Sen. John McCain, the Republican nominee, for his “experience,” and compared Obama to an idealistic college graduate who is not “ready to go to work.”

“You think you’re going to be able to step into the workplace and make all sorts of contributions right away,” Carroll said, explaining the comparison, “when in reality, there’s a learning curve.”

While Kinsolving and Carroll have jumped decisively to the other side, many disappointed Clinton donors remain on the fence.

Thomas Haggerty and Gail Shea, a retired married couple from Pawcatuck, were enthusiastic Clinton supporters; he contributed $1,250 to the New York senator’s campaign, according to reports filed with the election commission.

Although Haggerty remains “very disappointed [Clinton] didn’t get the nomination,” he said he looked forward to voting for Obama.

Shea, however, said she would only do so reluctantly.

“I can’t vote for McCain, so I guess I have to,” she said. “What do I do, not vote?”

Neither has sent money to Obama’s campaign so far, though Haggerty said he would “if I thought for a moment he really needed my money.”

Several of Clinton’s top local donors, including Deborah Moshier-Dunn of Waterford, said this was their first time donating to a presidential campaign.

Moshier-Dunn, who gave Clinton $500, said she has come around to voting for Obama, but continued to donate to Clinton after the primaries to help pay off the former First Lady’s campaign debt.

“I’m not worried about Obama,” she said, referring to his fundraising abilities.

Kathleen Naparty of Ledyard donated $1,450 to Clinton’s campaign- her first political donation. But she’s not ready to vote for Obama, much less add to his campaign’s coffers.

In fact, Naparty blames Obama’s fundraising success for Clinton’s defeat.

“He comes out of nowhere, gets all this funding, and she goes broke?” she said. “I’m really disappointed.”

For the first time in her adult life, Naparty said she plans to boycott the polls this November. And she doesn’t see herself spending money on a presidential candidate any time soon.

“I’m kind of sick of the whole electoral process,” she said.

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