The Center profiled the top individuals giving to state political party and caucus committees in 2003 and 2004.
James E. Pederson
People: founder of the Pederson Group
Places: This real estate man’s funds were a key factor in Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano’s victory in 2002. In the following election cycle, Pederson contributed money to the Democrat Senatorial Campaign Committee and to several well-known Democratic senators, such as Edward Kennedy (Mass.), Harry Reid (Nev.) and then-Minority Leader Tom Daschle (S.D.). Pederson also stayed close to the party’s last president, Bill Clinton, accompanying him to economic summits in Saudia Arabia and Switzerland in 2004.
Politics: Pederson committed much of his own money to fund a successful 2000 ballot initiative to create an independent commission to conduct redistricting in Arizona rather than leave it in the hands of the Republican-controlled legislature. By the next year, Pederson was the state’s Democrat party chair. Now, it is rumored that the real estate developer might run for election against Arizona’s junior senator, Republican Jon Kyl, in 2006.
Jay Van Andel
People: now deceased, founder of Amway Corp. and Alticor Inc., appointed as an ambassador to an international exposition in Genoa by President George H.W. Bush
Places: Van Andel founded the billion-dollar “multi-level marketing” company Amway (Alticor became its parent company in 2000) with Richard DeVos, another big Republican donor, in 1959. Based in Michigan, Van Andel used his wealth to finance his philanthropy, including several conservative and Christian causes. Van Andel also provided $2 million to the 527 group Progress for America in the final push to support President George W. Bush’s re-election. Van Andel died in December 2004, after suffering from Parkinson’s disease.
Politics: Once chairman of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and a member of the Heritage Foundation since 1985, Van Andel was a champion of free-market philosophy. Yet the government was not always a fan: the Federal Trade Commission investigated for six years whether Amway was an illegal pyramid scheme, beginning in 1969, but found no wrong-doing. He also founded the Van Andel Institute, an organization dedicated to medical research and education, in Grand Rapids, Mich.