This article originally provided by
October 23, 2006
Byrd-Raese contest priciest W.Va. race
By LAWRENCE MESSINA
CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) -- Differing approaches to
fundraising by U.S. Sen. Robert C. Byrd and Republican challenger John Raese
have helped make their race West Virginia's most expensive this election.
Not counting the Republican field that Raese bested in May
to challenge the veteran Democrat, the contest has seen receipts clear $7.5
million and spending approach $7 million as of Sept. 30, according to Federal
Election Commission reports.
Those amounts outstrip any of the state's three U.S. House
races in the off-year election. They also exceed all 75 state legislative races
- 17 Senate and 58 House of Delegates districts - combined.
But the Byrd-Raese money race ranks only 20th among this
year's U.S. Senate contests, according to Congressional Quarterly's
PoliticalMoneyLine. All four of West Virginia's neighbors with a Senate seat on
this year's ballot have seen more expensive contests.
Seeking a record ninth term, Byrd has been amassing
campaign funds since early 2005. The early start has allowed him to collect more
than 2,500 contributions totaling $1.7 million from individuals who each gave at
Courted by national Republicans, Raese did not enter the
race until January. He has attracted only about 600 of these large-dollar
contributions, which total $553,000.
But as a media owner and heir to a fortune in limestone,
steel and other industrial holdings, Raese has been able to self-finance his
campaign. He has pumped more than $2.2 million from his personal wealth into his
effort, including $200,000 added on Friday.
About $1.6 million of that amount has come since the
primary. Though it has helped narrow the funding gap between his campaign and
Byrd's, it also benefits the eight-term senator. Federal campaign finance law
features a "millionaire's amendment" that increases individual contribution caps
for candidates facing opponents who spend massive amounts of personal funds.
The FEC has set a $207,360 self-financing threshold for
West Virginia, a figure based on its voting-age population. Though the
per-person cap is normally $2,100 per election, Raese's self-giving initially
allowed Byrd supporters to give up to $6,300 apiece.
Raese's more recent largesse has increased Byrd's
per-donor limit even higher, to $12,600. The amendment will also allow Byrd's
national and state parties to give unlimited funds if Raese loans another
$463,600 to his campaign.
Byrd has also benefited from a support base that extends
beyond the Mountain State's borders. His stance against the Iraq war and other
Bush administration policies has won him fans from around the country, as has
his 2004 best-seller, "Losing America: Confronting a Reckless and Arrogant
As a result, out-of-state donors account for about 56
percent of Byrd's large-dollar contributions. His national profile is also
likely a factor behind the $2 million worth of under-$250 contributions, which
are not itemized, that he has received.
Though Byrd has likewise incurred the wrath of Bush
supporters and the national GOP, Raese has not seen a resulting boon. Raese's
leading primary opponent, Republican Hiram Lewis, proved much more adept at
courting anti-Byrd sentiment. With a direct-mail and Internet fundraising
strategy that ultimately consumed most of his funds, Lewis raised about $1
million - more than twice Raese's total for the primary.
Most of Lewis' funds came from out of state. By contrast,
about 70 percent of Raese's contributors hail from West Virginia. Nearly
two-thirds of these donors are, like Raese, from Morgantown.
About 4 percent of Raese's contributions have come from
Florida, where his two daughters attend school and his wife spends most of the
year at their $2.9 million Palm Beach estate. The Raeses also have a home in
Telluride, Colo., though FEC records list no contributions from that state.
Raese and Byrd must file one more report, by Thursday, in
advance of the Nov. 7 election. Byrd, 88, this year became the longest-serving
senator in U.S. history.
Lawrence Messina covers the statehouse for The Associated