Citigroup. Blue Cross Blue Shield. JP Morgan. They rank among the most powerful economic interests in the world.
Yet in the effort to support Senate Pat Toomey's re-election bid, they have so far proven mere pikers when compared to the political might of … Martin’s Famous Pastry Shoppe.
As Mr. Toomey gears up for his 2016 race, the Chambersburg Pa.-based bakery -- known in Pennsylvania and beyond for its potato rolls -- ranks ninth among his supporters. Members of the Martin family, which owns the company, have contributed a total of $41,600, according to numbers compiled by the Center for Responsive Politics.
That has outpaced JP Morgan and Citigroup so far, and edged out such heavy hitters as cable giant Comcast and Wall Street titan Goldman Sachs. And the CRP's numbers understate the family's support: FEC records show the Martins have also contributed to Mr. Toomey's acronym-friendly leadership committee, "Citizens for Prosperity in America Today," or CPAT.
"We feel he understands the issues involving family-owned businesses,” said Julie Martin, who handles public relations and social media for the company. "We think his fiscally conservative mindset helps us keep jobs here, and we like his common-sense approach to the Second Amendment."
Ms. Martin also praised Mr. Toomey's personal touch: “He has come to Martin’s and flat-out looked us in the eyes and said, 'How can government help you do what you're already doing well?' It really felt like he was listening to us and our concerns.”
She allowed that "we may not always agree with everything he does" -- and confessed to some trepidation concerning Mr. Toomey’s previous foray into expanding background checks on firearm purchases. "We weren't exactly sure what that was going to look like."
Indeed, that proposal has already proved a bit of a stumbling block for Mr. Toomey's campaign: Democrat Katie McGinty raised it just yesterday. But Ms. Martin said she didn't expect the gun issue to be much of a concern for her family going forward:
"After meeting and understanding what he was going for, it did make a little more sense," though she decilned to discuss specifics.
Mr. Toomey isn't the only recipient of the Martin family's dough. FEC records show that since 2004, the Martins have backed conservatives including Rick Santorum, Sam Brownbeck and Michele Bachmann, as well as the National Rifle Association, as well as a political committee tied to the American Bakers Association ("the voice of the wholesale baking industry").
One family member has backed a committee supporting presidential candidate Ben Carson, though Julie Martin, for one, said she was "still undecided" among a list of three presidential contenders. Family members "don't always agree" on politics, she added, though, "We come down on God, country, and taking care of jobs here."
Mr. Toomey doesn't lack for support from larger businesses, and the Martin family's role as contributor may shrink as the campaign wends on: The Pastry Shoppe has actually fallen from the 6th-place spot it held among Mr. Toomey's supporters last month. Far and away Mr. Toomey's largest supporter is the Club for Growth, a pro-business non-profit that Mr. Toomey once headed. Individuals tied to Club for Growth have given Mr. Toomey just under $170,000 -- roughly quadruple what the Martins have provided.
Then again, Mr. Toomey is among the top recipients of small-dollar contributions so far this election cycle, suggesting he has the ability to draw both from Wall Street and a Main Street business -- one that literally started in a family garage.
"Senator Toomey has earned the support of people from across the entire political spectrum," said his campaign last week.