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Springfield businesspeople bolster presidential campaigns, debate policies

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Casting a ballot Nov. 4 will be a formality for a politically active sect of Springfield businesspeople who already have voted for president with their checkbooks.

U.S. Sens. John McCain, an Arizona Republican, and Barack Obama, an Illinois Democrat, have pulled in almost $188,000 from campaign contributors in Springfield ZIP codes, according to Federal Election Commission data through August, the most recent available.

McCain's campaign has raised slightly more than Obama in Springfield with nearly $96,000 in contributions, according to the FEC. Statewide, though, Obama's fundraising has exceeded McCain's by more than $1 million. Obama's campaign in Missouri had raised almost $3 million by the end of August.

Results of a Fox News/Rasmussen Reports survey released Oct. 13 had Obama leading McCain by three percentage points in Missouri, a state with 11 electoral votes that pollsters still consider a toss-up. The poll also found that 49 percent of Missouri voters rate the economy as the No. 1 issue in the presidential election.

And while several local businesspeople who have donated to the dueling campaigns acknowledged that the economy is a principal issue, they disagreed on which candidate would steer it in the right direction.

Donors dig into debate

Contributors to both campaigns said they were at least partially motivated by the candidates' divergent economic and taxation policies.

Some in the business community -- Dameron Color Labs owner Roy Dameron, for instance - oppose Obama's proposal to raise the capital gains tax to 20 percent for married couples who earn more than $250,000 annually or individuals with an annual income of at least $200,000. Dameron, who describes himself as a "middle-of-the-roader," also criticized Obama's support for a so-called windfall tax on oil company profits and a federal minimum wage of $9.50 an hour.

"The Democrats, in general, view the economy and businesses as a goose that lays a golden egg and that they can take as many of those eggs as they want," said Dameron, who gave $2,000 to McCain. "The truth of the matter is that every action in the marketplace has a reaction to it, and lots of times, unforeseen circumstances come about."

But Dale Peer of Dale Peer Home Design Inc. said she supports the economic policies floated by Obama. Peer's company, which does residential architectural design mainly for custom homes, has lost two employees amid the housing slowdown.

"If you're doing really, really well right now - and you should be thankful that you are - you might have to pay more taxes," said Peer, who has given more than $1,000 to Obama this year. "I think that's fair. I think the middle class has carried the load long enough."

Ed Rice, CEO of Ozarks Coca-Cola Dr Pepper Bottling Co., is a McCain backer and fair-tax advocate who said that increasing taxes on businesses and wealthier Americans won't accomplish much.

"If it worked, that's where we'd be already," he said. "Businesses remit taxes. They don't pay them. ... The free market is the answer. And only when we tamper with it a great deal is when we run into problems."

Rice said he's no fan of the $700 billion government bailout package recently approved by Congress, yet he trusts McCain, who, along with Obama, voted for the plan, to lead the country through its economic recovery. Rice, a Republican, and wife Phoebe contributed $4,600 to McCain's coffers.

Springfield attorney Rob Palmer, however, suggested that McCain's economic policies too closely mirror those of President Bush. Palmer, who handles personal injury and product liability cases, said Obama is the best person to lead the federal government's much-needed re-regulation of the ailing financial markets.

McCain's plan to spend $300 billion in federal funds to buy up bad mortgages and renegotiate the loans is "the worst of all worlds," said Palmer, who gave $650 to Obama.

True colors

Obama's biggest supporters in Springfield include construction contractor Bill Killian, owner of Killian Group of Cos., Noble & Associates Inc. advertising firm owner Bob Noble and attorney Douglas Harpool of Baird, Lightner, Millsap & Harpool PC.

Sam Hamra, chairman and CEO of Springfield-based Wendy's of Missouri, also is an Obama contributor. Hamra has given $3,250 to the Illinois senator's campaign, in addition to $9,200 he and his wife pumped into U.S. Sen. Hillary Clinton's campaign before she withdrew from the race in June.

Attorney Joe Carmichael of Carmichael & Neal PC, however, has been a die-hard Obama supporter from the start. Carmichael, who chaired the Missouri State Democratic Party 1993-2002, and wife Marie have together contributed $4,651 to Obama. Carmichael also funneled $11,000 to the state Democratic Party Committee last year.

Another Springfield attorney, Mayor Tom Carlson, also was among Obama's contributors, giving a one-time donation of $100 in April.

Prominent Springfield businesspeople who have boosted McCain's campaign include New Prime Inc. trucking magnate Robert Low and Republican Party stalwarts John and Fredna Mahaffey, who own radio stations in Missouri, Kansas and Oklahoma through Mahaffey Enterprises.

McCain also saw his share of financial support from local attorneys - a group that included former mayor Lee Gannaway, Frank Evans III of Lathrop & Gage LC and Ransom Ellis Jr. of Ellis, Ellis, Hammons & Johnson PC. The trio gave a combined $2,650 to the Arizona senator's campaign.

Dr. David Randall, owner of Springfield Ear, Nose and Throat and Facial Plastic Surgery, also was among McCain's largest local contributors, giving a total of $4,600. Randall said he'd like to see both candidates offer more specifics on how they plan to control health care costs, which are increasing by about 20 percent annually.

"We're going to wind up with some form of universal health care coverage," he said. "The government will come up with something, and I suspect that we won't be that happy. Someone made the comment that it'll have the efficiency of the postal service and the compassion of the Internal Revenue Service."[[In-content Ad]]

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