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Voters vs. cash: Races could be turned by out-of-state money
Ad surges give warped reflection of true support
Judging by the fundraising, one might think Republican Nancy Jacobs has no chance in her bid for a House seat representing parts of Anne Arundel County. Rep. C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger, a five-term Democrat, raised three times as much cash last quarter, giving the impression of broad support that will let him blanket the district with advertising.
A closer look at his list of financial supporters shows it’s missing one thing, though: people who can actually vote for him.
The bulk of Mr. Ruppersberger’s money, instead, came from Washington-based unions and from defense contractors such as Lockheed Martin Corp. Until earlier this summer, Mr. Ruppersberger sat on the House Armed Services Committee.
“I think it’s pretty clear that my supporters are local Marylanders who believe in me, not lobbyists and PACs from other parts of the country,” Mrs. Jacobs said.
The disparity between in-state and out-of-state contributions on display in the Maryland congressional race is playing out in other races across the country this year, as well.
A Washington Times analysis of newly released Federal Election Commission records found 70 House races and two Senate races where one candidate raised the most money from within the state, but the opponent raised the most overall thanks to out-of-state donations.
Local races, national money
Most often, it was Democrats who led in the total dollar chase, but were outdone by their Republican opponents when it came to in-state money.
An incumbent often was relying on money tied to interests of the candidate’s congressional committees.
There were also instances in which national groups such as ActBlue or Club for Growth had swooped in to local races to try to knock out an incumbent for ideological reasons.
The stark disparity between Mr. Ruppersberger and Mrs. Jacobs took place in the second quarter, after the lesser-known Mrs. Jacobs‘ bid gained steam. In this case, PACs were primarily responsible for giving Mr. Ruppersberger his edge.
Mr. Ruppersberger’s campaign noted that his percentage of Maryland money was higher earlier in the year and that Washington-based PACs don’t always represent purely outside interests.
“Some PAC contributors are headquartered out-of-state but have strong Maryland ties — businesses with Maryland facilities and Maryland employees, or trade associations with Maryland members,” spokeswoman Jaime Lennon said in an email.
In Michigan, Republican Glenn Anderson raised four times as much as the Democratic incumbent, Rep. John Conyers Jr., from state residents last quarter, even though Mr. Conyers has represented the district since 1965. Yet Mr. Conyers, who also has withstood a series of ethical controversies, raised twice as much cash overall.
No totals reflect contributions less than $200 because their sources are not disclosed.
Incumbency not always key
As often as incumbents use out-of-state money to beat back challengers, the tables occasionally have turned the other way, including in the Washington region.
Near Frederick, Md., the talk has been that Democrat John Delaney is poised to knock out Rep. Roscoe G. Bartlett, turning a long-red seat blue. Indeed, Mr. Delaney outraised his opponent by 50 percent in itemized contributions last quarter.
But Maryland donors aren’t as blue as they might seem: Mr. Bartlett has outraised Mr. Delaney by half in home-state money.
In Minnesota, meanwhile, Republican Rep. John Kline raised $400,000 last quarter — in the top 30 of all candidates, and twice as much as his opponent, Democrat Mike Obermueller. But Mr. Obermueller raised more from Minnesotans.
Only one-fourth of Mr. Kline’s itemized contributions came from inside his state, while 55 percent of his money came from corporate PACs, such as those of for-profit colleges, which are seeking to fend off regulation. Mr. Kline is chairman of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce.
Outside groups, literally
In the age of “outside advocacy groups,” spending by campaigns themselves is only part of the picture.
Newly legalized independent super PACs have thrown a wrinkle in seemingly every area of politics, but few effects are so pronounced as the ability they give national and out-of-state interests to exert control over local races.
The Times found that money spent by super PACs on congressional races almost always comes nearly entirely from out of state.
The Indiana Values super PAC opposing Richard Mourdock in the Senate race there? Of $435,000 spent on attack ads, $388,000 came from outside Indiana. The PAC was run by Andrew Klingenstein, a long-ago aide to Sen. Richard G. Lugar, the Republican whom Mr. Mourdock defeated in the primary.
It was an arms-race response to fears about out-of-state money that caused him to establish the independent group, Mr. Klingenstein said.
“We were fearful about large amounts of money coming into the race from tea party or other folks, money not raised by the candidates. In the case of Mourdock, the money came in from Club for Growth, FreedomWorks, the [National Rifle Association].”
“We tried very hard to get money inside the state. I can’t tell you why, but we were just more successful getting money outside. Maybe it was easier to convince people outside that [Mr. Lugar] was facing a difficult battle, whereas people inside the state had seen him re-elected five times.”
The Majority PAC, a Democratic super PAC, has spent $2.3 million opposing Mr. Mandel in Ohio, $300,000 opposing Senate candidate Rick Berg in North Dakota, and $800,000 supporting Sen. Claire McCaskill in Missouri, even though records show it hasn’t received any money from those states this year, except for $5,000 from an Ohio union.
The PAC is funded largely by Hollywood figures such as Haim Saban, creator of the Power Rangers, New York lawyers, and Washington-based unions.
In Massachusetts, where Republican Sen. Scott P. Brown is trying to fend off Democratic challenger Elizabeth Warren, the race has largely been funded from out of state.
Mrs. Warren has received 56 percent of her funds from outside Massachusetts, compared with 45 percent for Mr. Brown.
Part of the attraction for out-of-state donors is that each of these races could determine control of a chamber in Congress. They aren’t worried so much about the pork lawmakers bring home to their constituents as they are the broader national issues such as spending, taxes and war.
Still, for Mrs. Jacobs, the Maryland state senator, whether a candidate has constituents’ support is what should determine whether that person should be the one casting that vote.
“I’ve got my checks here in front of me, and I only have nine from out of state, and four are from the same people,” she said. “And one’s from my niece in Florida.”
© Copyright 2014 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.
About the Author
Luke Rosiak is a projects reporter on The Washington Times’ investigative team. He formerly covered lobbying and campaign finance for two watchdog groups as well as transportation for The Washington Post. Luke can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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