Party Animals: Political Donations By Madison Ave.

Ogilvy & Mather’s Shelly Lazarus pitched in $2,000 for Howard Dean. Donny Deutsch bet $1,000 on Richard Gephardt. Grey’s Ed Meyer poured $25,000 into the Kerry Victory 2004 war chest but put just $1,000 toward Joe Lieberman’s campaign.

Though one might expect such a creatively driven industry centered in a Democratic stronghold like New York to support more left-leaning candidates, there are a number of George W. Bush supporters among the ranks, based on an analysis of data through July from Washington-based PoliticalMoneyLine, which tracks the influence of money in politics via figures reported to the Federal Election Commission.

Under federal election law, individuals can contribute up to $2,000 to candidates, $10,000 to political-action committees and $25,000 to party committees. For example, Deutsch has also given $25,000 to the Democratic National Committee and is supporting Kerry. (The chart below does not include contributions to political-action committees and party committees.)

Tom Messner, a former member of the “Tuesday Team” that worked on Ronald Reagan’s 1984 re-election campaign, focused on Congress this year. He gave $500 to Republican Marvin Scott’s Senate bid in Indiana and put up $2,500 for Vernon Robinson, a North Carolina Republican who lost a runoff election for Congress. “Clearly, I pick my races with a fondness for the underdog,” Messner said.

Some hedged their bets. Arnold’s Ed Eskandarian contributed $2,000 each to Sen. John Kerry and President George Bush.

Roy Spence, CEO of Omnicom Group’s GSD&M in Austin, Texas, whose clients include the U.S. Air Force, has contributed to Democratic congressional candidates, giving $1,000 to Rep. Martin Frost, past chair of the House Democratic Caucus, and $1,500 to Rep. Lloyd Doggett. Spence, whom sources have said may be positioning himself for a run at state office in Texas—possibly the governorship—has donated $2,000 to Friends of Hillary for Sen. Hillary Clinton of New York. “It’s not something I would rule out in the future,” said Spence, who worked on Walter Mondale’s 1984 presidential campaign and also helped draft the speech Sen. John Edwards gave at this year’s Democratic National Convention.

A number of agency executives contributed to the Professionals in Advertising Political Action Committee, which has historically focused on Congress since it began in 1970. They include Tim Love, president of global clients at Omnicom’s TBWA\Chiat\Day ($1,500), and Ken Kaess, president and CEO of DDB Worldwide ($1,000). Pro-Ad PAC, a midsize PAC giving about $200,000 per year, supports Congressional candidates who favor limiting attempts to restrict advertising. “We put all personal politics aside and look at who can help us with the issues that affect our industry,” said Pro-Ad PAC treasurer Dick O’Brien, evp of the American Association of Advertising Agencies’ Washington office.

But politics is not always considered good for business, which is one reason why many product-oriented ad executives shy away from working directly on a candidate’s campaign. “It’s true for advertising, as well as other industries, that where you want to have broad support, anything that detracts from those relationships might hamper business,” said Kent Cooper, co-founder of PoliticalMoneyLine.

Cooper said ad-industry contributions are not tracked separately because only rarely does the industry exert political influence in Washington. “The ones we track have continual legislative interests in Congress, usually because of regulations,” he explained. But Cooper added that the political climate can change. “Microsoft and Wal-Mart never felt they needed a presence [in Washington], and now they’ve come on like gangbusters,” he said.

People like O’Brien would object to that perspective. “For almost 20 years we have been supporting Congressmen and Senators, and for almost 20 years they have been our very effective champions,” he said.