Editor's Note: If you have been curious about money, power and
politics in West Virginia, you really should consider reading this story.|
A special report by Lawrence Messina: The Charleston Gazette
Campaign Finance Bill Means Changes Here -
State residents fund a wide range of candidates, causes
Sunday March 24, 2002
By Lawrence Messina
For a poor state, West Virginia throws a lot of money around at election
time, campaign finance data
Only three other states spent as large a share of their Gross State Product
on candidates, political action
committees and parties as the Mountain State did in 2000, figures show.
And despite its reputation as a Democratic stronghold, West Virginia
contributed more federal campaign
cash to Republican causes in 2000. Just over half went to the GOP that year,
and the giving gap has
widened to 2-to-1 this election cycle.
In fact, campaign finance watchers could have predicted President Bush's
victory in the state. More than
400 West Virginians contributed a total of $277,363 to Bush. Al Gore,
meanwhile, amassed less than
$53,000, and from one-fourth as many donors.
But West Virginia's political spending habits will now change, following last
week's passage of federal
campaign finance legislation.
For instance, Mountaineers have donated nearly $650,000 since 1998 in
"soft money." The bill will ban
such funds for national political parties and sharply limit them on the state
Peggy W. McCrory describes herself variously as "retired," "unemployed" and
a "clerical homemaker."
She is also West Virginia's largest individual donor to federal candidates,
committees and PACs for 2000.
McCrory, of Beckley, contributed $57,950, Federal Election Commission
records show. She spent the
money entirely on Democrats, including $39,500 to the Democratic National
Federal law requires donors to list their employer and occupation every time
they give more than $200,
which McCrory did 40 times during the 2000 election cycle. She did not
name an employer with her
varying job descriptions.
A woman who identified herself as McCrory hung up the phone when a
reporter contacted her last
The largest overall donor with a Mountain State address is actually a global
corporation: Owens Corning.
Its Charleston offices spent nearly $90,000 - all of it soft money - on 2000
campaigns. Nearly two-thirds
of the funds benefited the Democratic Party.
Though a Fortune 500 company, Owens Corning has filed for bankruptcy
protection amid the deluge of
lawsuits filed over asbestos products. A number of those claims have been
filed against the composite
materials maker in West Virginia.
As for West Virginia's other top 10 donors:
James "Buck" Harless contributed $46,400. The Gilbert industrialist
shared his money with 23
causes, including candidates in New York, Georgia, Tennessee, Arizona and
Florida. All but $2,500
Nursing home chain operator John Elliot gave $43,150, including $10,000
donated in the name of his
company, AMFM Inc. Besides $9,900 to a health-care PAC, Elliot's money
went to the state and
national Democratic parties, and to candidate Martha Walker.
Despite rumblings over the "liberal media," a major West Virginia
publisher donated almost
exclusively to GOP causes. G. Ogden Nutting, whose newspapers in
Wheeling, Parkersburg and
elsewhere consistently opine against campaign finance reform, contributed
$37,000 in 2000. Only $1,000
went to Democrats, and that was donated by other family members.
Financier Robert Ludwig and his family contributed $30,000, entirely to
Dr. Jaywant Parmar of Wheeling gave Democratic causes $26,500.
Montgomery Equipment Co. owner Thomas Falbo and his family gave
$26,100, entirely to
Morgantown drug maker Milan Puskar and his company, Mylan
$22,600. Three-fourths of the money benefited Republicans, and went to
candidates in California, North
Carolina and Utah as well as border states.
Charleston lawyer Stanley Hostler gave Democrats $19,800.
Though he wasn't running for re-election in 2000, Sen. Jay Rockefeller,
D-W.Va., raised more money
that year than a number of actively campaigning candidates in the Mountain
Rockefeller, who is on this year's ballot, gathered $152,950 from West
Virginians. Without this effort,
Republicans would have outpaced Democrats by an even greater margin
among federal contributors in
His senior colleague, meanwhile, amassed $388,450 from constituents. Sen.
Robert C. Byrd faced no
serious opposition in his 2000 re-election.
The easy win may explain why the venerable politician did not top the list of
recipients of in-state
largesse. That honor belongs to Rep. Shelley Moore Capito, the state's sole
Republican in Congress.
More than 800 West Virginians contributed to Capito, who raised $457,337 in
the state. Her 2nd District
opponent, Democrat Jim Humphreys, collected $128,170 from 195 in-state
Though he made the top 10, Humphreys raised less money in-state than
Walker, whom he beat in the
2000 primary. She raised $162,398 from 343 West Virginians.
Besides these candidates and Bush, the other top 10 recipients were:
The Republican National Committee, which collected $171,444.
The state Democratic Executive Committee, which received $150,831.
The DNC gathered $114,648 from 126 people.
The National Republican Congressional Committee received $106,969
from 278 contributors.
Beneficiaries Near And Far
West Virginians fueled federal campaigns in 45 states, as well as 18
presidential campaigns, in 2000. But
they spent most of their federal cash at home.
More than $1.6 million of the $3.4 million contributed from the Mountain
State that year went to
homegrown candidates, party groups and PACs. All five border states also
benefited, to the tune of
But New York saw more West Virginia campaign cash than any other state,
thanks to the Senate race
involving Hillary Clinton. She received about $8,000; her opponents reaped
more than three times that
More than 360 federal candidates and causes gained cash from West
Virginians in 2000, FEC records
Nearly $40,000 funded third-party efforts.
More than 130 PACs, from trial lawyers and auto dealers, to both sides of
the abortion debate, and to
several coal-related outfits, received $366,000.
A Randolph County man sent $300 to David Duke, the former Ku Klux
Klansman and white
supremacist leader, for his failed 1999 U.S. House bid in Louisiana.
Perennial fringe candidate Lyndon LaRouche found 37 West Virginians
willing to give him a total of
$12,715 for his 2000 presidential campaign.
The Few Who Give
FEC records list 5,767 contributions from West Virginia for the 2000 election
cycle. But the number of
actual donors is actually quite less.
The roster boils down to about 2,000 Mountain State families. About 300 of
these families contributed
five or more times during the cycle; nearly 100 account for 10 or more
Residents of upscale South Hills in Charleston, for instance, supplied nearly
13 percent of the campaign
cash, yet comprise 1/2 of 1 percent of the state's population. The
neighborhood was the largest single
source of federal campaign contributions in West Virginia, as ranked by ZIP
Such affluent pockets may help explain why the Mountain State provided
political cash at a rate
disproportionate to its economic health:
Only three states - Montana, Virginia and Louisiana - saw such contributions
equal a larger share of their
Gross State Product as West Virginia, whose GSP ranks 40th overall.