IPG leads industry in political gifts

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interpublic group of cos. officials contributed $215,444 to support federal candidates running for president, the Senate and the House of Representatives, the largest outlay of any agency holding company.

The figures, tracked by the Center for Responsive Politics, are based on reports the Federal Election Commission published online as of March 29 and include contributions by family members of agency executives. Some of the contributions were made in 2003. The most any individual can give to a candidate during the primary campaign is $2,000, though a husband and wife can each give that.

Interpublic's total was pushed ahead by heavy contributions at Hill Holliday Connors Cosmopolus, in Sen. John Kerry's home state of Massachusetts. Hill Holliday's executives strongly supported Sen. Kerry as well as Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y. The agency's contributions totaled $81,950, with Sen. Kerry, at $53,750, receiving more than half the Hill Holliday total. Sen. Schumer received $22,000.

Sen. Kerry's contributor list reads like personnel directory at the agency, including John M. "Jack" Connors Jr., CEO; Kristi Argyilan, exec VP-media director; Brian T. Carty, president of the New York office and Karen Agresti, senior VP-director of local broadcast at Hill Holliday, Boston.

Sen. Kerry picked up another $7,000 in contributions from Interpublic executives outside Hill Holliday. But contributions overall at the holding company tilted heavily toward Republicans as the result of $50,000 given to the National Republican Senatorial Committee ($25,000 is listed as coming from Philip H. Geler Jr., presumably a misspelling of Philip H. Geier Jr., Interpublic's former chairman-CEO, and $25,000 from one Faith P. Geler). Another $3,000 from Interpublic went to the Republican National Committee and $2,500 to President Bush. The Interpublic totals include contributions from MWW Group and Draft, which the center lists separately.

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Omnicom Group was the second-largest holding company contributor with individuals from the company kicking in $140,150.

The outlay was decidedly Democratic at GSD&M, Austin, Texas, where its president, Roy M. Spence, is close to former President Clinton and active in Democratic politics. At GSD&M, contributions included $3,750 to retired Gen. Wesley Clark and $7,000 to Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-N.Y.

Omnicom's other contributions were split almost evenly between Democrats and Republicans. The biggest beneficiaries: President Bush ($27,250); Rep. Richard Gephardt, the Missouri Democrat who left the presidential race early ($11,000); Sen. Christopher S. "Kit" Bond, R-Mo., for a Senate race, ($19,000); and Sen. Kerry ($4,550). In addition, the Committee for a Democratic Future received a $5,000 contribution.

Contributions from agency holding companies' PR or lobbying groups aren't included in the center's totals because they are viewed as coming from the clients the lobbying firms represent-not the lobbying firms themselves or their parent companies.

That may be why WPP Group's contributions, at $37,100, came in the lowest of the holding companies. WPP is one of the biggest players in lobbying contributions.

If lobbying contributions are included, agencies become far bigger players in the political game. If contributions from its lobbying firm Cassidy & Associates are included, Interpublic in total gave $736,848. Omnicom's outlay jumped to $331,578 and WPP's to $625,971.

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