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Big Money from Outside the State Attacking Rahall

GRAPHIC: A complex network of large, out-of-state political organizations founded by oil and chemical billionaires Charles and David Koch are funding a flood of attacks on Congressman Nick Rahall. Their spending is far exceeding the money coming in to support him. Chart by Robert Maguire at the Center for Responsive Politics.
GRAPHIC: A complex network of large, out-of-state political organizations founded by oil and chemical billionaires Charles and David Koch are funding a flood of attacks on Congressman Nick Rahall. Their spending is far exceeding the money coming in to support him. Chart by Robert Maguire at the Center for Responsive Politics.
August 18, 2014

HUNTINGTON, W.V. - Of all the outside money flooding into the U.S. House race in West Virginia's 3rd congressional district, funds for attacks on Congressman Nick Rahall are measuring almost twice those supporting him.

With an enormous ad buy last week by Karl Rove's Crossroads GPS, out-of-state groups have spent or committed $4 million in attacks on the congressman. Some $3 million of that amount comes from groups allied to oil and chemical billionaires Charles and David Koch.

Matt Thornton of the House Majority PAC, a political action committee supporting Rahall, says the Koch Brothers are secretive about their donors and aims, but emphasizes voters need to dig past that secrecy.

"You don't have to go too deep into the Kochs' record to see they are intent on privatizing Social Security, turning Medicare into a voucher program, and eliminating the minimum wage," says Thornton. "Folks need to become educated on who is paying for these ads, and why."

The state director of the Koch group Americans For Prosperity (AFP) declined to be interviewed for this story, but said by e-mail they want to "hold Rahall accountable."

Outside groups allied to the congressman have spent or committed about $2 million in the race.

The figures for outside spending do not include money spent by political parties, or money raised by candidates. Federal records suggest more money has already been committed to attacking Rahall than has ever been spent in any previous 3rd district race.

Robert Rupp, a professor of history and political science at West Virginia Wesleyan College, notes it's not even September yet. He says the race is part of a high-stakes battle for control of Congress, and that puts local voters accustomed to personal, "retail" politics at the receiving end of a barrage of messages coming from out of state.

"Voters in the 3rd district will be overwhelmed with television and robo-calls," says Rupp. "It's outside money rather than campaigning by either of the candidates."

Rupp says groups like the Koch-allied Americans For Prosperity and the American Energy Alliance can magnify the power of wealthy individual donors. While the West Virginia branch of Americans for Prosperity has refused to say who is paying for their campaign ads, Thornton with the House Majority PAC says his group is required to say who their donors are - but Americans for Prosperity isn't.

"AFP is organized as a different type of organization," says Thornton. "They're a 501(c)(4), which they claim is a non-profit public advocacy organization. And by using that distinction they're actually allowed to hide who their donors are."

Dan Heyman, Public News Service - WV