- Associated Press - Monday, October 31, 2016

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. (AP) - West Virginia’s wealthy candidates poured money into their races this past month, while the national association of Republican attorneys general outspent them, paying $2.83 million for ads bidding to keep Patrick Morrisey in office.

The group previously paid $3.4 million for advertisements backing Morrisey, West Virginia’s first-term Republican attorney general, and attacking Huntington businessman and state delegate Doug Reynolds.

Morrisey is a member of the Washington-based association whose stated goals include limited government, free enterprise and fighting what it calls aggressive federal overreach. Its funding comes from a long list of businesses, with at least $1.4 million contributed by pharmaceutical interests over the past two years.

At a debate two weeks ago, Reynolds accused Morrisey of being swayed by the pharmaceutical industry that has employed his wife as a lobbyist in one of the worst states for prescription drug abuse. Morrisey said she stopped representing Cardinal Health in May and the drug companies have no influence on his office.

“We are honored that national groups have recognized that Morrisey is leading the fight against Obama’s EPA and the current opioid epidemic,” campaign spokeswoman Kayla Berube said Monday.

Morrisey’s own campaign filing shows he raised about $133,000 from donations in the past month and spent $710,000. That left a $374,000 balance in his fund.

Reynolds, a Democrat, collected $172,000 in donations while spending $1 million of his own money, including $800,000 in loans to the campaign and $210,000 in personal ad buys. That’s on top of $1.8 million he previously put in.

In their debate at the Capitol steps, Morrisey accused Reynolds of supporting legislation trying to limit his ability as attorney general to lead a 27-state coalition in suing the federal Environmental Protection Agency over carbon-emission regulations damaging to coal companies. Reynolds said the bill was intended to make the attorney general’s office accountable to its clients, the governor and legislators.

Reynolds is managing partner of the Huntington newspaper and president of Energy Services of America, a pipeline construction company.

In the governor’s race, the national Republican governors’ association spent $913,000 supporting state Senate President Bill Cole’s race. That followed $1.6 million the Washington-based group previously spent on ads for him and attacking his opponent Democrat Jim Justice. Association spokesman Jon Thompson said they have also spent “considerably” in the governor’s races in North Carolina, Indiana, Montana, New Hampshire and Vermont.

Cole, an auto dealer, also raised $163,000, spent $492,000 and lent his campaign another $100,000, following $500,000 in previous loans.

Justice, a businessman, raised $201,000, spent $835,000, and lent another $1.12 million to his campaign during the month. He owns coal mines, farms and the Greenbrier Resort and previously loaned his campaign $2.6 million.

The reporting period was Sept. 26 to Oct. 23. It’s the last state campaign finance report required before next week’s election.

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