U.S. Rep. Shelley Moore Capito’s “Wild and Wonderful” Political Action Committee is providing campaign contributions to an increasing number of Republican candidates running for state Senate and House of Delegates in West Virginia.
Capito’s PAC has distributed $25,000 to 38 GOP legislative candidates during the current election cycle, up from $9,000 sent to 23 candidates in 2012, according to reports filed with the Federal Election Commission. The PAC is expected to contribute additional funds to Republicans in House and Senate races in the months leading up to the November election.
Capito’s support is critical to the state GOP’s plan to take control of the House of Delegates for the first time in 84 years. Republicans trail Democrats by six seats in the 100-seat House.
“We all have a vested interest in the outcome in the legislative races this year, and Congresswoman Capito is obviously excited to support strong candidates who will put West Virginia on the path to success,” said state Republican Party Chairman Conrad Lucas.
State Democratic Party Chairman Larry Puccio said Capito is being hypocritical, asking Democrat voters to support her in her U.S. Senate campaign against Secretary of State Natalie Tennant while using the Wild and Wonderful PAC to defeat Democratic candidates.
“Shelley’s definitely drawing the line in the sand by bringing in this out-of-state money and funneling it to Republican House and Senate candidates,” Puccio said. “She’s making it clear she’ll do whatever is possible to defeat Democrats in the state of West Virginia. And at the same time, she’s out asking Democrats to support her.”
In recent years, the Wild and Wonderful PAC has received most of its funds from out-of-state political action committees affiliated with the banking, energy, railroad, insurance and housing industries.
Since Capito started her PAC in 2010, the bulk of the committee’s contributions have gone to out-of-state GOP congressional candidates.
This year, an increasing share of the Wild and Wonderful PAC money has funded Republican House and Senate candidates in West Virginia, with most contributions going to GOP incumbents and first-time office-seekers who face tight races against Democrats.
Most House candidates received $500 each, while the PAC gave $1,000 to Republican Senate candidates.
Many GOP House and Senate candidates solicited the contributions from Capito’s PAC, said Steve Ralls, the committee’s treasurer.
In Kanawha County, the PAC gave money to Delegate J.B. McCuskey, R-Kanawha, and Ed Gaunch, a Republican running against Sen. Erik Wells, D-Kanawha.
“Wild and Wonderful was set up to help support party organization and candidates who share pro-growth, pro-jobs, pro-energy values and believe in improving West Virginia,” Ralls said. “Capito has a long history of supporting candidates who share her commitment to the state and will continue to do so with transparency.”
In 2012, Capito’s PAC delivered a check to only one state Senate candidate, Republican Jim Ruland, who ran unsuccessfully against Sen. Herb Snyder, D-Jefferson, in the 16th District.
In the current election cycle, the PAC has funded 11 Republicans running for the Senate, which now has 24 Democrats and 10 Republicans.
Senate President Jeff Kessler said he isn’t “overly concerned” about Capito’s PAC.
“Obviously, it’s showing she’s towing the party line, supporting Republican candidates against incumbent Democrats,” Kessler said, “but I expect to not only hold our own, I expect to pick up seats in the Senate. Historically, out-of-state money has not been successful buying elections here. “
In past elections, the Wild and Wonderful PAC also has given money to GOP candidates in other statewide races. Those candidates have included West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey, who received $2,000 from the PAC in 2012 and went on to defeat longtime incumbent Democrat Darrell McGraw. Former West Virginia gubernatorial candidate Bill Maloney and Kent Leonhardt, who ran unsuccessfully for state agriculture commissioner, also received $1,000 each from the PAC.
Also in 2012, the Wild and Wonderful PAC gave $1,000 to Morgantown businessman John Raese’s failed run for the U.S. Senate and $2,000 to Rick Snuffer, who lost to Rep. Nick Rahall in West Virginia’s 3rd Congressional District race.
The PAC hasn’t spent any money in West Virginia’s three congressional races this year.
In addition to funding political candidates, Capito’s PAC has given money to the state Republican Party, county GOP groups and nonprofit community organizations, such as the Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts.
Reach Eric Eyre at firstname.lastname@example.org or 304-348-4869.