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Carolina Public Press: Candidates for Federal Seats Affecting WNC PAC’ing in the Dollars

BY MICHAEL GEBELEIN | Carolina Public Press

Do dollars determine the outcomes of elections? They obviously make some difference as candidates boost their name recognition, disparage their opponents and coordinate efforts to get the vote early and on Election Day.

Campaign money could help determine which politicians represent North Carolina on Capitol Hill after the 2016 election.

Vast sums of money have flowed into the campaign coffers for North Carolina candidates vying for federal offices this year including U.S. Senate and Congress. But whether dollars make the difference in these races will be hard to know until the votes have been counted next week.

Regardless, Carolina Public Press has taken a look at the most recent wave of campaign filings for the four federal races affecting Western North Carolina and analyzed the amount of money raised and who its coming from.

U.S. Senate

Sen. Richard Burr has raised more than $11 million in his race against Deborah Ross, and held a $3 million fundraising edge as of Oct. 19, according to Federal Election Commission filings.

More than 55 percent of Burr’s contributions came from individuals but he did receive more than $3.5 million – more than the amount of his fundraising edge in the race — from political action committees. Ross raised $8.4 million since October 2015, less than $600,000 of it from PACs.

If it weren’t for the PACs, Ross would be narrowly ahead in the battle for dollars.

Burr collected contributions from several major Republican Party donors, including billionaire Las Vegas casino mogul Sheldon Adelson and his wife, Miriam Adelson, who each gave the maximum allowable amount of $5,400. Several executives of the Altria Group, which owns the Philip Morris tobacco company, gave $13,500 combined, and employees of the R.J. Reynolds tobacco company gave more than $21,000. Billionaire businessman Sam Zell gave $5,400 and former senator Elizabeth Dole and NASCAR CEO Brian France each gave $2,700.

Chairman of the Senate intelligence committee, Burr received almost $25,000 from executives with defense contractor Northrop Grumman. World Wrestling Entertainment CEO Vince McMahon and his wife, Linda McMahon, each gave $5,400 to Burr.

Burr received contributions of at least $5,000 from political action committees linked to Duke Energy, Pfizer, Home Depot, Verizon, AT&T and Coca-Cola, and from super PAC’s like Defend America, 21st Century Majority Fund, Common Values and Heartland Values.

Ross, a former state legislator from Raleigh, also received support from well-known Democratic Party donors. Three members of the Soros family, including billionaire philanthropist George Soros, gave a total of almost $11,000. Laurene Jobs, the widow of Apple co-founder Steve Jobs, gave $2,700 to Ross’s campaign.

Self-described “provocateur” Woody Kaplan, chairman of the Secular Coalition for America and a former national board member of the American Civil Liberties Union, gave Ross $5,400. Ross was the state director of the ACLU in North Carolina for almost 10 years, prior to her state legislative career. Ross also received support from professors at UNC-Chapel Hill, Duke University, NC Central University, Appalachian State University and East Carolina University.

Ross received more than $500,000 from a total of 126 political action committees. Major contributors, who gave $5,000 or more, included pro-choice PAC Emily’s List, the End Citizens United PAC and political action committees tied to unions for iron workers, machinists, municipal employees, electrical workers and letter carriers.

U.S. House of Representatives, N.C. District 11

Incumbent Republican Rep. Mark Meadows raised more than $320,000 from individuals during his campaign against Democrat Rick Bryson, and also received more than $250,000 from political action committees. FEC filings show that, as of Oct. 19, Meadows still had $226,000 in the bank. Bryson raised $43,000 and had $12,000 on hand on Oct. 19.

Meadows received significant individual support of $5,000 or more from Vermont heiress Lenore Broughton, Research Affiliates CEO Robert Arnott, New Verizon Capitol investment manager Thomas Patrick and College Loan Corporation board member Cary Katz.

The Meadows campaign received major political action committee support of $5,000 from Citizens United, the Senate Conservatives Fund, Deloitte PAC and committees associated with anesthesiologists, car dealers and insurance and financial advisors.

Bryson received $2,600 from Louisiana real estate developer Carolyn Martin, $2,000 from Morganton retiree Marcus Key and $1,000 from Morganton resident Jimmy Furr.

U.S. House of Representatives, N.C. District 10

Republican Rep. Patrick McHenry, the chief deputy whip in the House of Representatives, was the lone congressional candidate in Western North Carolina to receive more contributions from political action committees than individual donors. McHenry raised more than $3 million, with $1.6 million coming from PACs. Individual donors gave $1.04 million and McHenry received $360,000 from other campaigns.

McHenry’s campaign received contributions of $5,000 or more from PACs tied to Altria Group, AT&T, Bank of America, Capital One, Chevron, Eli Lilly, Experian, J.P. Morgan Chase, Koch Industries, PNC Bank, Dow Chemical and Verizon. The strong support from financial interests isn’t hard to understand — McHenry is vice chairman of the House Committee on Financial Services.

McHenry’s largest individual donations came from Andrew Barth of The Capital Group ($5,400), J.P. Morgan Chase CEO James Dimon ($2,700), Napster co-founder and former Facebook president Sean Parker and his wife, Alexandra Parker ($10,800) and employees of Blackstone Group, Fidelity Investments, J.P. Morgan Chase, Prudential Financial, Re/Max, Signature Bank and State Street Corporation.

His opponent, Polk County Democrat Andy Millard, brought in $380,000, almost entirely from individual donors and a $122,500 loan. Filings show the bulk of his support coming from donors in Tryon, his hometown. He also received a $1,000 donation from former UNC system president and failed Democratic Senate candidate Erskine Bowles.

U.S. House of Representatives, N.C. District 5

Democrat Josh Brannon, who is running to unseat Republican Rep. Virginia Foxx, didn’t file any campaign finance reports with the FEC, according to the government website.

Foxx received $1.4 million since 2015 and had more than $2.5 million on hand as of Oct. 19.

Foxx’s contributions came from PACs tied to the banking industry, AT&T and other communications companies, Koch Industries, Duke Energy, the NRA and the Turkish Coalition, which says it supports candidates who “understand the value of positive US-Turkish relations,” according to its website.