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    Shirley Leung

    Following the Massachusetts money in the presidential race

    Suffolk Construction Company CEO John Fish.
    (Wendy Maeda/Globe Staff/file
    Suffolk Construction Company CEO John Fish.

    Even without a major presidential candidate from Massachusetts, local donors are restless and itching to leave a mark on the election.

    They’ve given just shy of $11 million in contributions directly to candidate campaigns and to outside support groups, according to an analysis done by the Center for Responsive Politics. That’s not much less than what was collected in a similar period in the 2012 cycle, when former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney was running for a spot on the Republican ticket.

    The big difference this time is that most of the donations are going to Democrats. About $5.8 million went to Hillary Clinton and another $950,000 to Bernie Sanders, according to the center’s figures. These filings give a snapshot of money in the race but may not provide the full picture because some groups aren’t required to list donors.


    Clinton’s biggest benefactor here has been Cambridge philanthropist and political activist Barbara Lee, who has doled out about $1.8 million to pro-Clinton efforts. Lee’s fortune comes from a hefty divorce settlement from leveraged buyout king Thomas Lee, and she has used that money to start a nonpartisan foundation to help more women run for public office. Barbara Lee’s goal has been to help elect the country’s first female president.

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    “I am inspired by Hillary Clinton’s lifelong advocacy for children and families and her ability to bring people together,” Lee said in a statement. “I hope that my leadership is a catalyst for other women to step up and use their power.”

    The former secretary of state and first lady has also won the support of high-profile female executives in town including Bank of America vice chairman Anne Finucane, Startup Institute CEO Diane Hessan, Bright Horizons cofounder Linda Mason, and Houghton Mifflin CEO Linda Zecher.

    “None of the candidates are perfect, but to me, we are living in very tricky times that require someone with deep experience both domestically and internationally,” Hessan wrote in an e-mail. “Hillary is outrageously qualified, tough, bold and brilliant, and she cares about the things I care about, such as human rights, affordable health care, minimum wage, race relations, gun control, women’s rights, and more. And, just as I haven’t benefited from those times that I acted out of anger, I have no interest in voting for an angry candidate.”

    Prominent businessmen and their companies have also stepped up. Former state treasurer Steve Grossman and his family — including 93-year-old mom Shirley Grossman — have been writing $2,700 checks, the primary limit for candidates’ campaigns, to Clinton. Rob Hale, who runs Granite Telecommunications in Quincy, gave $100,000 to Priorities USA Action, a pro-Clinton super PAC, while John Fish’s Suffolk Construction donated $200,000 to that group.


    After Clinton, Jeb Bush has drawn the most money from Massachusetts, which can sometimes feel like a giant ATM for political campaigns. Robert Reynolds, the Putnam Investments chief executive, forked over $100,000 to pro-Bush super PAC Right to Rise USA, as did Bush cousin Jonathan Bush, chief executive of athenahealth in Watertown.

    Babson College president Kerry Healey also backed the two-time Florida governor and scion of the Bush political dynasty with a $50,000 check. But Bush, who a year ago was considered a Republican front-runner, dropped out on Saturday after a poor showing in the South Carolina primary.

    Healey, who was Romney’s lieutenant governor, is now getting behind Rubio.

    “My sense is that a majority of those who have supported Bush may find themselves in the Rubio camp,” Healey told me. “There had always been a great deal of respect, admiration, and mentorship between Rubio and Bush during their careers.”

    Healey, who has met Rubio several times, likes the Florida senator because he has a “firm grasp of foreign policy and a long-standing commitment to supporting small business and entrepreneurs.”


    Another local fan has been Seth Klarman, CEO of giant hedge fund firm Baupost Group, who gave $250,000 to pro-Rubio group Conservative Solutions. The billionaire, however, seems to be dating a lot of Republicans. He also handed out $200,000 to a group supporting New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, as well as smaller checks to support Bush, Carly Fiorina, and Lindsey Graham — all of whom have since dropped out.

    Fish, the Suffolk Construction CEO, has also been hedging his bets. Beyond Clinton, his construction company contributed $10,000 to a pro-Bush super PAC, and Fish personally has given to Rubio, Christie, and former Maryland governor Martin O’Malley, a Democrat who has since suspended his White House bid.

    The construction king doesn’t outright dismiss Donald Trump, the Republican front-runner, but thinks the election won’t be about how a candidate handles the economy.

    “The prime mover will be foreign policy,” said Fish.

    Fish, a registered independent, won’t drop hints on whom he will pull the lever for on Super Tuesday. A new WBUR poll shows Trump with a big lead among likely Republican voters, and Clinton with a slight edge over Sanders among likely Democrat voters.

    “I want to keep my options,” Fish said. “There is a lot of disruption in the political world. Sometimes disruption creates opportunity.”

    In other words, this election is too crazy to predict.

    Shirley Leung is a Globe columnist. She can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @leung.