Who has funded the ascent of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi? A prominent trial lawyer, his graphic-designer wife, a healing-touch practitioner whose grandfather founded IBM, a land developer, and a savings and loan magnate comprise the top five individual donors throughout Pelosi’s career, while eight labor unions, the National Association of Realtors, and JPMorgan Chase lead all political action committee contributors to the California Democrat.
The rankings emerged from the Center for Public Integrity’s examination of CQ MoneyLine data on Pelosi’s contribution records for both campaign accounts and leadership PACs, stretching back to her initial federal race in 1987. The Center’s probe of Pelosi’s finances marks the fourth in a series of pieces on top donors to congressional leaders.
When Pelosi won a June 1987 special election to represent California’s Fifth (now Eighth) Congressional District, her campaign cost about $1 million. The daughter and sister of former Baltimore mayors only narrowly won her primary (35 percent to 31 percent) but easily won the general election with roughly 63 percent of the vote. In 11 elections since, her San Francisco-based district re-elected her with at least 70 percent every time. With little electoral opposition, Pelosi didn’t ramp up her fundraising again until 1999, when she began a campaign for Congressional leadership and established PAC to the Future, a leadership political action committee. It distributed hundreds of thousands of dollars to her Democratic colleagues, and they elected her Democratic whip in 2001, minority leader in 2002, and the first female speaker of the House in 2007.