Money from outside the Mountain State is pouring into West Virginia’s Senate race, with more likely to appear before the 2018 elections.
Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., has received more money from individual donors in Texas ($95,600), Washington D.C. ($33,000), New York ($32,300), Massachusetts ($22,500), Virginia ($19,700), Maryland ($10,700) and Connecticut ($10,400) than West Virginia.
According to data from his recent Federal Election Commission filing, five West Virginians have donated a total of $7,900 to Manchin’s Senate campaign for the first quarter of 2018.
Manchin raised a total of $234,750 in individual contributions between Jan. 1 and March 31, totaling to $2.17 million in cash on hand.
Breaking down the numbers, just 3 percent of Manchin’s contributions came from West Virginia residents, as opposed to 41 percent from Texas, 14 percent from Washington, D.C., and 14 percent from New York.
The senator’s individual contributions on his campaign filing also include $22,500 from ActBlue, a political action committee from Massachusetts that funnels individual donations to various Democratic candidates, along with $1,000 from a Texas law firm and $1,000 from the Chickasaw Nation in Oklahoma. Jefrey Pollock, a spokesman and consultant for Manchin, could not immediately confirm whether these were reported in error and should have been marked as committee contributions.
Speaking about the out-of-state money, Jefrey Pollock, a spokesman and consultant for Manchin, said local dollar amounts are low because Manchin has focused on constituent services while in town, not fundraising for the campaign.
“When the senator is in the state, he is generally spending a lot of his time trying to help constituents do the things they’re asking him to do on their behalf, which is to help create new jobs and find new opportunities for jobs,” he said. “Nationally, people are giving him money all over the country because they know how important the senator is, they recognize the national effort he’s been a part of, and see him as a real leader who they want to see get elected to the United States Senate.”
U.S. Rep. Evan Jenkins, R-W.Va., has been raising money for his upcoming House race. He has not announced his candidacy for Manchin’s seat, although he is expected to do so and has said in the past he’s strongly considering it.
Though Jenkins has raised a more modest $138,056 in contributions for the quarter, comprising some of his $1.04 million in cash on hand, the bulk of his donations come from within state lines.
West Virginia residents gave Jenkins $89,407 for his campaign, compared to $11,800 from Florida residents, $11,400 from Tennessee, $10,800 from Texas, $9,990 from Virginia, and smaller dollar amounts from Pennsylvania, Illinois, Washington D.C. and Ohio.
Andy Sere, a consultant for Jenkins’ campaign, said the Congressman is “humbled and encouraged” by the contributions he has received from West Virginians.
Because House and Senate races are both federal, candidates can transfer funds from one to the other.
A third potential candidate, Attorney General Patrick Morrisey, has not yet received any campaign contributions, according to the FEC database.
Norman Ornstein is a political analyst for the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative think-tank. When asked about the out-of-state funding, he said Americans at-large had better get used to it.
“It’s becoming the new normal and it is what we can expect going forward, and it’s for a couple of reasons,” he said. “We’re seeing an explosion of money in campaigns, much of that coming from big money sources, much of it dark money, a lot of it coming from outside.”
He went on to say given the 60 seats needed to fully control the Senate, and West Virginia’s hurting economy, outside money will fuel much of the long Senate race ahead.
Ray Smock, director of the Robert C. Byrd Center for Congressional History and Education, said while he could not speak to this race in particular, he’s noticed a trend over the past decade of local races becoming “nationalized” via funding from across state borders.
“We have nationalized our local elections, and that’s fairly new,” he said.
The Charleston Gazette-Mail reached out to dozens of out-of-state donors for this story to ask why they donated funds for races so far from home. Though most declined to comment, a few agreed to share their thoughts on the condition of anonymity.
One donor from Texas said he’s friends with a West Virginia transplant who does business with a supporter of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, a pro-Israel lobbyist group that sometimes solicits donations from political action committees. He said his friend, under counsel from AIPAC, recommended he help Manchin, leading to a donation.
Another Texas donor, a registered Republican who occasionally donates across state lines, said he respected Manchin for his willingness to cross party lines, specifically when it came to the Iran nuclear deal in 2015. He donated because he knew it could be a tough race, given the President Donald Trump’s landslide win in the state.
“I like that he voted against the Iran nuclear deal, considering he was a Democrat and one of the few who was willing to stand up and do what he thought was right,” he said. “I thought he was an above board, straight-look-you-in-the-eye deal.”
A fellow Texan Manchin donor, Mark Newman, said Manchin’s Iran-nuclear vote led to his donation as well, and also said some of his personal friends have ties to AIPAC who recommended the donation.
Senate campaigns fielding donations from out of state is not necessarily out of the ordinary, though incumbents closer to the leadership tend to receive more funding from outside their states.
According to data from Open Secrets, a non-partisan political transparency organization under the Center for Responsive Politics, Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., received the most out-of-state funding in 2016 with $11.7 million in out-of-state dollars comprising 68 percent of his fundraising, followed by Sens. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., Rob Portman, R-Ohio, Rand Paul, R-Ky., and Tim Kaine, D-Va.
CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story misidentified the American Israel Public Affairs Committee. AIPAC is a lobbyist group that sometimes solicits donations from political action committees.
Also, because a campaign finance filing from U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin counted donations funneled through the ActBlue political action committee twice, the total U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin raised through individual contributions was wrong. The correct total is $234,750 for the first quarter of this year.