This article originally provided by The Sunday Gazette-Mail

Aug. 13, 2006

GOP’s Raese activates ‘millionaire’s provision’

Byrd, already well ahead, can triple his fundraising after opponent adds funds

By Tom Searls
Staff writer

U.S. Sen. Robert C. Byrd, already far ahead in fundraising in his re-election race, will be able to collect triple what he previously could from donors, after opponent John Raese tripped the Federal Election Commission’s “millionaire’s provision” last week.

Raese, a multimillionaire Republican businessman from Morgantown, added more than $250,000 of his own money to his campaign coffers last week. Altogether, he has loaned or given about $1.15 million to his own campaign.

Under a convoluted FEC formula involving the amount given, population of the state and amount the opponent has raised, it tripped the clause meant to make elections fairer.

“Basically, it allows Byrd to go to triple what he could raise,” said Raese campaign spokesman Gary Abernathy.

Until this week, donors to Byrd had been able to give $2,100 each. They can now donate up to $6,300 each.

“We suppose this allows Byrd to go back and milk his supporters,” Abernathy said.

The liberal-leaning group focused on helping Byrd raise campaign funds in 2005 after Republicans targeted him for his fierce opposition to the Iraq war. In one two-day period in April 2005, more than 19,000 supporters of contributed more than $800,000 to Byrd.

The FEC formula for West Virginia allows for a candidate to contribute more than two times $207,000 before kicking into the phase where the opponent can collect triple contributions, an FEC spokeswoman said. But it’s not exactly that simple.

The formula is based on the number of people of voting age in a state multiplied by four cents, plus $150,000. It also takes into account how much the opponent has contributed to himself and how much that candidate has raised.

At the end of the June campaign finance reporting period, Byrd had raised $4.3 million and spent $1.8 million. The eight-term Democrat had contributed no personal funds to his campaign and retained more than $2.5 million to spend.

At that same time, Raese had received more than $1.3 million, with $900,000 being his own money. On June 30, he had $183,000 left over.

Raese’s biggest fundraising problem seems to be a lack of interest from the national party and national GOP leaders. In the last reporting period, he had received $74,000 from other politicians’ political action committees. He got no party contributions and no contributions from other candidates/incumbents. The national party and others spent no money in running any type of coordinated campaign on his behalf.

Byrd, however, picked up $37,000 from his party, had $124,000 spent in coordinated campaigns, got $162,300 from other politicians’ PACs and $45,100 from other candidates and incumbents.

Abernathy said Raese put the additional $250,000 in the campaign coffers to expand the range of his currently running television advertisement about Byrd’s voting record on taxes. Currently, the ad is being run mainly on cable systems, which is cheaper than broadcast stations.

“We’re expanding that tax ad to some broadcast outlets,” Abernathy said. “We think it’s a good message.”

Byrd’s campaign responded with a TV ad of its own attacking Raese.

The money message, Abernathy said, is clear: John Raese plans an all-out campaign to defeat the 88-year-old Byrd, the longest-serving U.S. senator in history.

Byrd and Raese spent Saturday on opposite ends of West Virginia. Byrd was in his home county of Raleigh to dedicate a new 911 center. Raese spent the day in the Eastern Panhandle campaigning at a parade.

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


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