Maryland residents donated over three times more to Democrats than to Republicans in federal races this year, according to data compiled by the Center for Responsive Politics.
Large donors across the country tended to be white, wealthy, and male, the Center said. Within Maryland, ZIP Codes with relatively high average incomes and lower rates of racial diversity gave more money, according to an analysis by Capital News Service that overlaid Federal Election Commission data released Oct. 22 with U.S. Census Bureau data.
“That’s not reflective of what our democracy is,” said Emily Scarr, state director of the Maryland Public Interest Research Group. “Ideally, the donor demographics would look more similar to the community generally.”
Montgomery County residents donated $23 million, around half of the state’s total contributions to federal races, according to the CNS analysis. No other county donated more than $3.5 million to federal elections in the 2019-2020 election cycle.
Montgomery County is 20% Black, compared to 30% statewide. Montgomery also was one of the 20 wealthiest counties in the United States, according to a Fox Business report last year.
When certain demographics or populations are overrepresented in the donor base, Scarr said, “our democracy is thrown out of whack.”
Thirteen Maryland counties gave more money to Republicans, while 11 gave more to Democrats. But those that gave to Democrats tended to contribute far more money.
Even within counties, donations are often concentrated in certain areas, according to the CNS analysis of FEC and census data.
For example, residents in just one ZIP Code – 20815 in Chevy Chase – gave over half of all contributions from Montgomery County. This ZIP Code is far whiter – 80.3% – than the county average, which is 60%, according to census figures. It also has a higher than county average median household income.
Nationally, former Vice President Joe Biden’s campaign and supporting outside groups have out-raised those of President Donald Trump, roughly $1.4 billion to $860 million, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. In Maryland, Biden’s advantage is roughly $27 million to $9.9 million, according to the CNS analysis.
Five ZIP Codes in Maryland each gave over $1 million to the Biden campaign: Fulton in Howard County, and in Chevy Chase, Potomac and Bethesda in Montgomery County. The same Potomac ZIP Code was also among the state’s top areas contributing to the Trump campaign and supporting committees – a total of about $300,000.
Baltimore County’s Lutherville-Timonium suburb, ZIP Code 21093, was another top Trump donor area, giving roughly $225,000 to the president’s campaign and supporting committees, compared to about $160,000 to Biden and affilkated groups from that same ZIP Code.
Overall, however, Baltimore County and Baltimore City gave far more to Biden than to Trump, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. Again, the ZIP Codes that contributed the most money overall in the Baltimore area were richer and whiter than their surroundings, according to census figures.
CNS spoke to a major Biden donor in a pro-Trump area and a major Trump donor in a pro-Biden area about the geographical and political divides in Maryland.
Miriam Zadek, 91, who lives in Baltimore County, gave more than $9,000 to Biden’s campaign and supporting committees during the 2020 election cycle. She said she couldn’t really comment on her neighbors’ political views.
Zadek, who received a Governor’s Service Award in 2017 from the State of Maryland for work setting up interpreting services for the deaf, said she supported Biden because she thought he would take a more reasonable approach to the COVID-19 pandemic than Trump. She felt the president’s response had written off seniors, leaving them to die.
“I resent that now Trump assumes I do not count,” Zadek said. “We can’t leave states to fend for themselves. We need a reasoned approach.”
Zadek said she was delighted with Biden’s choice of California Sen. Kamala Harris as his running mate, and hopes that Biden, should he win, would have a Democratic majority in the Senate.
Meanwhile, in the 20815 ZIP Code in Montgomery County’s Chevy Chase that gave millions more to Biden than to Trump, a top donor to the president’s re-election campaign and supporting committees said she felt isolated from her neighbors.
Carol Greenwald, who heads Potomac Investment, gave roughly $13,000 to Trump and affiliated groups, according to FEC filings.
“I actually do believe this is the most important election of my lifetime, and I’m 77 years old, so that’s saying a lot,” Greenwald said.
Greenwald said her support for the president meant that many of her old friends no longer talk to her about politics. She said she felt her neighbors were so hostile to her political views that they wanted to eject her from her condominium’s health club for wearing a pro-Trump t-shirt.
Greenwald came to Washington at the end of the Carter administration to head the National Consumer Cooperative Bank, after four years as a banking commissioner in Democratic Gov. Michael Dukakis’s administration in Massachusetts.
She said she felt the Democratic Party had left her behind after 9/11, and despite voting for Al Gore in 2000, was drawn towards the Republicans.
Greenwald said she now considers the Democrats an existential threat to the nation.
“I do believe that the Democrats have been taken over by a Marxist cohort,” Greenwald said. She alleged that proposals by some Democrats to add the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico as states, among other ideas, would spell the end of American democracy.
Maryland PIRG’s Scarr said the concerns of wealthier donors have a disproportionate impact on national and state politics.
“It’ll influence who is able to run for office, what issues make it onto the agenda, and ultimately, public policy,” Scarr said.
The Maryland PIRG advocates for campaign finance reform, pushing for small donor public financing at the local, state and federal levels.
Under MPIRG’s plan, public funds would match contributions under $200 at a ratio of roughly 6 to 1. For example, for a donor who gives $10, the candidate of choice would receive about $60. But there’s a caveat: the candidate must reject large contributions from corporations and outside groups.
The group has seen success already in Howard, Prince George’s, and Montgomery Counties, “where it’s definitely changed the donor demographics for the Montgomery County Council,” according to Scarr, making them closer to being representative of the county’s overall demographics.