Rahall rejects Jenkins’ bid to ban outside money

Rep. Nick Rahall, D-W.Va., (left) and West Virginia state Sen. Evan Jenkins, R-Cabell

It didn’t take long for Rep. Nick Rahall, D-W.Va., to reject an invitation from his Republican opponent, state Sen. Evan Jenkins, to ban outside spending in their race for Congress.

Friday morning, Jenkins proposed a ban on all spending by outside groups and on campaign donations from political action committees — after such groups already have played a significant role in the campaign for both candidates. About two and a half hours later, Rahall’s campaign emphatically declined to participate, saying it was too late.

Jenkins’ proposal would have required both candidates to reject all spending from groups that are unaffiliated with the campaign.

House Majority PAC, a Democratic group, has spent about $1 million on advertisements either supporting Rahall or attacking Jenkins, according to records compiled by the Center for Responsive Politics.

Jenkins, who switched parties to challenge Rahall in the general election, also has received significant advertising on his behalf from outside groups, including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the American Energy Alliance and Americans for Prosperity. The American Energy Alliance and Americans for Prosperity are primarily funded by Charles and David Koch, the billionaire industrialist brothers who are major conservative donors.

Under Jenkins’ proposal, each campaign would have been required to publicly call on such groups to not spend any more money on the race for the House seat in West Virginia’s Southern district.

Candidates are legally prohibited from any sort of coordination with such outside groups.

“If Rahall’s rhetoric is sincere, this pledge is a perfect opportunity for him to demonstrate that he is capable of being honest with West Virginians,” Andy Sere, a Jenkins spokesman, said in an email.

Jenkins’ proposal also called on both candidates to refuse donations from political action committees and to donate to charity any money they’ve received from PACs.

Had Rahall agreed, that would have been a much bigger financial blow to him than to Jenkins. So far in the campaign, Rahall has raised about $1.1 million from PACs, compared to Jenkins’ $200,000, according to the CRP. In total, Rahall has outraised Jenkins by about $600,000.

“It is too bad this topic could not have been discussed before Evan Jenkins sold his soul to New York billionaires,” Sam Raymond, Rahall’s campaign manager wrote, in declining the proposal. “Unfortunately Jenkins’ proposal is more than a year and over $2 million too late.”

Jenkins’ proposal would have established a “War on Coal Victims Assistance Fund,” which would receive the previously donated PAC money. The fund, Jenkins’ campaign said, would offer financial assistance to laid-off coal miners.

The idea to limit outside spending was a response to a group called CounterPAC, which took out full-page ads in both Charleston newspapers on Thursday calling on both candidates to reject the support of any group that does not disclose its donors.

Reach David Gutman at david.gutman@wvgazette.com, 304-348-5119 or follow @davidlgutman on Twitter.

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