Wolf
Wolf

To have a friend of such generosity might be rare. To have a friend of such resources, rarer still.

Prominent York County businessman Tim Grumbacher has donated $1 million to Tom Wolf's gubernatorial campaign, saying he made the gift with "no hesitation" and was proud to do it.

"I know political donations are usually suspect, but I would hope people know I did this because I really believe he's the best guy for the job," Grumbacher said. "I don't expect to get anything out of this. To put up the amount of money that I'm giving, I look at it really as a gift to all of us, to Pennsylvania, in an attempt to get somebody who really cares about Pennsylvania in as governor."

Grumbacher said he viewed the donation the same way he considers charitable contributions that he thinks will do good for the community.

Both from York, the two met and become friends more than 30 years ago. Both have both found prosperity in family businesses, and both are noted for their philanthropy.

Wolf is heralded with near hero status for saving his family's building products company, the Wolf Organization, during the recession. He also served as Secretary of Revenue under Gov. Ed Rendell.

Grumbacher, whose grandfather founded The Bon-Ton, was the retail chain's CEO from 1985 to 1995. He was named chairman of the board of directors last year.

Wolf, who once served on Grumbacher's board, told The York Dispatch last fall that he's a loyal Bon-Ton shopper and buys most of his clothing there as a nod to Grumbacher.

But $1 million is a lot of dress shirts, and Wolf said Tuesday he was "surprised and gratified" by his friend's gesture.

"I called him and asked him for a number and he thought about it and said, 'No, this is what I want to do instead,' and it was much bigger than my number," Wolf said.

Grumbacher said Wolf had initially refused the contribution, "But then he went and told his advisors and they said, 'Crazy person! Go back and take it!'"

Served together: Grumbacher and Wolf once served together on Bon-Ton's board, and Grumbacher said he was impressed with Wolf's business sense and his courage to make difficult decisions.

"I wouldn't call him a fashion plate, but he was entrepreneurial enough that, when I had to recommend some rather aggressive moves in the company, he was someone who could see the promise and value in that when some other board members didn't," Grumbacher said, crediting the change with the retailer's survival.

A York Township resident, the 74-year-old Grumbacher said he was a Republican back when the party was "more sane," but he changed to a Democratic party affiliation when Wolf considered a run for governor in 2009. His overall political philosophy is aligned with Wolf, he said.

"Whatever (Wolf) decides to do and however he decides to do it, it will be well thought out and in the best interest of most of the people," Grumbacher said. "He just combines intellect with wanting to bring people together to do good things, to emphasize the commonality we have as citizens. There's so much talk about divisions by class, money, ethnicity, and religion, and it's not getting us anywhere."

His million-dollar contribution to Wolf is the largest political donation Grumbacher has ever made, he said, though he's a noted supporter of charitable and other causes. In 2005, Grumbacher and his wife, on behalf of some foundations, gave $2.5 million to York College for construction of a new sports facility, classrooms, and a college theater. The college named it Grumbacher Sport and Fitness Center.

Biggest donation: Wolf, who lives in Mount Wolf, said Grumbacher's contribution is his campaign's biggest except for the $10 million in personal money Wolf and his wife have pledged.

Wolf said both contributions will be reflected in the finance report his campaign files Friday, the deadline for gubernatorial candidates to report their contributions and expenditures to the Department of State.

The campaign announced earlier this month that it has raised more than $13 million, which includes the Wolf and Grumbacher donations. According to analysts, it costs about $10 million to be a viable gubernatorial candidate.

It's clear how at least some of that money will be spent. Wolf's first statewide television ad started airing Thursday morning. The ad features Wolf, his wife, his two adult daughters, and some York County Wolf employees telling the story of his time spent in the Peace Corps, his MIT education, his business, and his beginning.

"I started out driving a forklift," Wolf says in the ad, which also features various locations in York County.

In one segment of the 60-second ad, Wolf beeps the horn of his Jeep Wrangler while driving through his home town and current place of residence, Mount Wolf.

— Reach Christina Kauffman at ckauffman@yorkdispatch.com.