This article originally provided by The Charleston Gazette

April 19, 2006

Mollohan fills his war chest

GOP leaders boost Wakim

By Tom Searls
Staff writer

Despite controversy swirling around him, U.S. Rep. Alan Mollohan reported raising more than $500,000 in the first three months of the year.

Mollohan, D-W.Va., spent more than $200,000 and had $416,000 on hand as of March 31, according to his campaign finance report.

The 12-term congressman is unopposed in the May 9 primary, as is his Republican opponent, Delegate Chris Wakim, R-Ohio. Wakim reported raising more than $70,000 and loaning his campaign $70,000 in the year’s first quarter.

Wakim spent $26,449 from January to March had more than $118,000 on hand, according to his report.

“We’re working forward to a real good second quarter, especially with the vice president coming,” said Wakim’s campaign manager, Will Holley.

Vice President Dick Cheney will campaign for Wakim on Friday in Morgantown, the second high-ranking Republican to host a fundraiser for him. Earlier this year, U.S. House Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Ill., hosted a fundraiser for Wakim in Parkersburg.

That could show that Republican view the Mollohan-Wakim race as important, said Robert Rupp, a West Virginia Wesleyan College political scientist. “What other district with a 33 percent Republican registration has the vice president visited?” Rupp said.

He said to watch for donations to flow from national GOP groups, like the Republican National Committee, which has already committed $5,000 to Wakim’s campaign.

“I heard the RNC has targeted [the race] and will put in between $1 [million] and $2 million,” he said.

Holley said, “We’re getting great national support.”

Mollohan has been under fire from a conservative group for a series of nonprofit organizations he established to receive earmarked funds for projects.

He also has been scolded for the quick rise in his assets, which jumped from $565,000 in 2000 to somewhere between $6.3 million and $24 million. Mollohan said his property investments in Washington, D.C., and North Carolina have risen sharply in value, and he inherited real estate from his father in 2001.

The congressman also points out that his personal debt has risen to between $3.66 million and $13.5 million.

The controversy has drawn national attention, with national newspapers calling for Mollohan to step aside from his ranking position on the House Committee on Standards of Official Conduct, commonly called the ethics committee. He has refused to do so.

Holley said the controversy has been good for Wakim. “Certainly anytime a race like this gets exposure across the district it’s going to help,” he said.

Rupp said Mollohan meets several criteria for an incumbent to be seriously challenged: He has never had a serious GOP challenge, President Bush carried his district, he has less campaign cash on reserve than most incumbents, and he has baggage to carry.

“I think there’s a one out of five chance this could be a competitive race because the pieces are in place,” Rupp said.

He said the next two months should tell whether “the concrete hardens” in Mollohan’s controversy.

While national Republicans have jumped in to aid Wakim, a West Point graduate and Wheeling bar operator, Democrats have done the same for Mollohan. Reps. John Murtha, D-Pa.; Rep. Paul Kanjorski, D-Pa.; and Nick Rahall, D-W.Va., and Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., all have contributed more than $2,000 to Mollohan’s campaign fund.

To contact staff writer Tom Searls, use e-mail or call 348-5192.

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