When it came to hedging on Pennsylvania's race for governor, Richard W. Vague couldn't lose.

The venture capitalist pumped $120,000 into Tom Wolf's successful campaign, a figure that includes $45,000 in late October, campaign-finance records show.

But the Philadelphia businessman poured nearly as much cash into Gov. Corbett's failed reelection bid. Vague signed a $25,000 check in April - on top of $75,000 he gave earlier in the governor's term.

Vague said the money reflects his appreciation for both men, such as Corbett's efforts to eliminate wasteful spending, and Wolf's stance on same-sex marriage and gay rights.

But his contributions, among many analyzed by The Inquirer in the waning weeks of the campaign, also show that the age-old practice of double giving is alive and well in Pennsylvania, where donors face no limits.

The desire to maintain relationships and the need for access - not political conviction - likely propel many of the dueling donations, experts say.

Some hedgers own businesses or run them. Several are law firms that get lucrative state contracts to defend or push an administration's agenda.

For instance:

Ed Hillis is the founder and president of Domus, a Philadelphia-based construction company that often receives federal, state, and city grants through building contracts. Hillis gave Wolf's campaign $30,000 in September and $5,000 in April. He pumped $25,000 into Corbett's reelection effort since 2011, including a $5,000 donation in May.

Michael J. Mitchell is a vice chairman of the Graham Co., a Philadelphia-based insurance broker that has had contracts with government entities, including the Delaware River Port Authority. Mitchell put $20,000 into Wolf's campaign in December and gave an additional $5,000 on the day Wolf won the May primary. Mitchell also wrote checks to Corbett, one for $2,500 in August and another for $5,000 in late October.

Jeff Koons is an artist renowned for stainless steel sculptures that look like balloon animals and sell for millions of dollars. He gave Wolf's campaign $50,000 in September and Corbett's $10,000 in February. Corbett's campaign also got $50,000 from Koons in January 2011, just weeks after the governor took office. It's unclear what specific interests Koons has in Pennsylvania. He lists a New York address in campaign-finance records. But he has hired at least one Keystone State business, a glass company in Punxsutawney, to fabricate some of his artwork. And a report published last year said he grew up in York and owns a 650-acre farm nearby.

Ballard Spahr, the national law firm based in Center City, wrote $10,000 checks to Corbett's campaign in May and September. The firm also donated $10,000 to Wolf in July and an additional $25,000 in September.

Hillis, Mitchell, and Koons did not return phone calls seeking comment. A spokeswoman for Ballard Spahr said the firm typically does not comment on such matters.

Experts say the donations are not terribly surprising.

"They're hedging their bets. There's no secret to it," said Charlie Gerow, a Republican consultant based in Harrisburg. "They're giving not out of reasons of philosophy but to 'gain access.' And they are generally giving to both sides because they have business interests they want to promote or protect."

Mark Nevins, a Democratic consultant, said some contributors likely felt the need to continue to show Corbett support even while giving to Wolf, whom polls favored.

"It's important to remember that Gov. Corbett is still the governor, and he's not going anywhere till January 2015," Nevins said. "And giving to the Republican governor also sends a signal to the Republican speaker of the House or the Republican Senate president that you're not all in for one side or another."

Vague is a managing partner of the Center City-based Gabriel Investments. His background includes cofounding credit-card companies and a firm that sells natural gas and electricity on the retail market. He also sits on boards supporting the arts.

He said he doesn't conduct any business with the commonwealth. He declined to say how he voted. He has not registered with a political party. And he has no problem giving to both sides in a race.

He donated $10,000 to Republican David Freed's bid for attorney general in 2012, while also $25,000 to the eventual winner, Democrat Kathleen G. Kane.

"In a lot of cases, you have a friend whom you have a real connection with who has an interest in a particular candidate," Vague said of donating to Freed's campaign. "And it's about supporting that friend as anything else."

Vague said that he has met with Corbett and Wolf but that his donations were not about gaining access to them.

"For me, it's more of an interest in the progress of the state," he said. "I'm really committed to a lot of policies that fall on both sides of the aisle. I've been this way my whole life. I've tried to think more about policies than party."


610-313-8118 @Ben_Finley

Inquirer staff writer Joseph N. DiStefano

contributed to this article.