Out-of-state cash pours into lo­cal cam­paigns

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USA TODAY US Edition - - FRONT PAGE - Rui Kaneya and Joe Yer­ardi

AL­BU­QUERQUE, N.M. – In New Mex­ico’s State­house, Jim­mie Hall is some­thing of a fix­ture: The veteran Repub­li­can rep­re­sen­ta­tive has served District 28 in this sun-dried, high­desert city for seven terms.

For much of Hall’s ten­ure, the district, which lies along the foothills of the San­dia Moun­tains on the eastern edge of Al­bu­querque, has been re­li­ably con­ser­va­tive, so much so that he has coasted to vic­tory with­out hav­ing to face any Demo­cratic op­po­nent in his three most re­cent re-elec­tion bids.

This year is dif­fer­ent. In No­vem­ber, Hall will square off against Me­lanie Stans­bury, who is among a slew of

young, lib­eral Democrats run­ning for of­fice at ev­ery level of govern­ment across the coun­try.

It’s a hy­per-lo­cal race to rep­re­sent about 30,000 New Mex­i­cans. What’s sur­pris­ing is how much oth­ers out­side the Land of En­chant­ment are par­tic­i­pat­ing in it. More than one out of ev­ery three dol­lars the two can­di­dates raised came from out of state – the lat­est sign Amer­ica is pay­ing at­ten­tion to what hap­pens even in the tini­est of state leg­isla­tive dis­tricts in a mo­men­tous year when so much is at stake.

To fend off Stans­bury’s chal­lenge, Hall stepped up his fundrais­ing game: His war chest of $65,000 is big­ger than what he raised for his bids in 2016 and

2014 com­bined. Al­most a third of it came from out of state – mostly in

$400-to-$5,000 chunks from oil and gas com­pa­nies based in Cal­i­for­nia, Ok­la­homa and Texas.

Stans­bury has out­per­formed her op­po­nent and raised about $124,000, net­ting al­most 40 per­cent from out-of­s­tate donors who hail from as far as Illi­nois, Ore­gon and Ver­mont. Her money came mostly in small amounts – as lit­tle as $1 apiece.

This level of out-of-state sup­port isn’t unique this year, nor is Stans­bury’s fundrais­ing prow­ess. Na­tion­wide, many Democrats run­ning for state-level of­fices from gov­er­nor to state rep­re­sen­ta­tive are haul­ing in a sig­nif­i­cant amount of do­na­tions from across state lines, ac­cord­ing to a Cen­ter for Pub­lic In­tegrity anal­y­sis of cam­paign fi­nance data col­lected by the Na­tional In­sti­tute on Money in Pol­i­tics.

Though Democrats trail Repub­li­cans in the over­all fundrais­ing tally, they raised at least $101 mil­lion from out of state – about $29 mil­lion more than their GOP coun­ter­parts have taken in – as part of the newly en­er­gized “blue wave.” That’s a far cry from the 2014 elec­tions, when Repub­li­cans out­raised Democrats by al­most $9 mil­lion in outof-state con­tri­bu­tions and by $191 mil­lion over­all.

The Cen­ter for Pub­lic In­tegrity’s anal­y­sis found:

❚ The ma­jor­ity of money from out of state goes to can­di­dates for gov­er­nor and lieu­tenant gov­er­nor – who often run on the same ticket. To­gether, they raised

“It used to be that, at least at the state level, the in­ter­ests of con­stituents vastly out­weighed any in­ter­ests com­ing from else­where around the coun­try. But that’s no longer true to some ex­tent be­cause of the pro­lif­er­a­tion of the cam­paign fi­nance free-for-all.”

Dan Weiner,

about three-fifths of the more than

$173 mil­lion from across state lines.

❚ Three gu­ber­na­to­rial can­di­dates – in Penn­syl­va­nia, New York and Wis­con­sin — each raised at least $5.5 mil­lion from states other than their own, mak­ing up

18 per­cent to 50 per­cent of their cam­paign funds. Na­tion­wide, out-of-state con­tri­bu­tions make up only 10 per­cent of di­rect gu­ber­na­to­rial fundrais­ing.

❚ Democrats run­ning for state leg­isla­tive seats rely on a larger pool of outof-state donors who give in smaller amounts – rais­ing an av­er­age of about

$640 per donor from more than 64,000 con­trib­u­tors, com­pared with about

$2,200 per donor from more than

13,000 con­trib­u­tors for their GOP coun­ter­parts.

❚ The gap widened com­pared with the same pe­riod in the 2010 elec­tions, when an av­er­age out-of-state donor gave about $1,030 to Democrats and

$1,210 to Repub­li­cans.

The in­flux of out-of-state con­tri­bu­tions comes from a mix of com­pa­nies with lo­cal in­ter­ests, net­works of con- tacts scat­tered across the coun­try and newly em­bold­ened na­tional groups on both ends of the ide­o­log­i­cal spec­trum that mo­bi­lize to in­flu­ence state-level elec­tions, mind­ful that the out­comes will in­flu­ence pol­i­tics at the state and na­tional lev­els last­ing well into the next decade.

What hap­pens in No­vem­ber could de­ter­mine the fate of abor­tion laws in the states or the fu­ture of Med­i­caid ex­pan­sion if the U.S. Supreme Court moves to un­der­cut Roe v. Wade or the Af­ford­able Care Act. Gov­er­nors and many law­mak­ers elected this year will still be in of­fice when the re­sults of the 2020 Cen­sus come back and re­draw­ing of the con­gres­sional map be­gins – a process largely con­trolled by state leg­is­la­tures, though many gov­er­nors hold a veto pen.

With the stakes so high, the grow­ing in­flu­ence of money from out of state de­mands closer ex­am­i­na­tion, said Dan Weiner, se­nior coun­sel at New York Uni­ver­sity’s Brennan Cen­ter for Jus­tice, which ad­vo­cates for tighter cam­paign fi­nance rules. Ul­ti­mately, he said, it poses fun­da­men­tal ques­tions about state sovereignty: Who should re­ally have a say in how each state is run?

“It is very trou­bling to think that peo­ple would lose con­trol of their own elec­toral process,” Weiner said. “It used to be that, at least at the state level, the in­ter­ests of con­stituents vastly out­weighed any in­ter­ests com­ing from else­where around the coun­try. But that’s no longer true to some ex­tent be­cause of the pro­lif­er­a­tion of the cam­paign fi­nance free-for-all.”

The Cen­ter for Pub­lic In­tegrity’s anal­y­sis shows a sig­nif­i­cant amount of do­na­tions from out of state went to some of the most com­pet­i­tive gu­ber­na­to­rial races. Top­ping the chart is the close con­test be­tween Wis­con­sin Gov. Scott Walker, a Repub­li­can seek­ing a third term, and Demo­cratic chal­lenger Tony Evers, su­per­in­ten­dent of the De­part­ment of Pub­lic In­struc­tion.

Among can­di­dates for state-level of­fices, Walker raised the most from out of state, haul­ing in about $11.5 mil­lion to make up more than half of his cam­paign money. Evers trails by some dis­tance: He raised about $2.5 mil­lion, one-fifth of which came from across state lines.

Walker’s and Evers’ cam­paigns de­clined to com­ment.

In con­trast to gu­ber­na­to­rial races, the ma­jor­ity of races for state leg­isla­tive seats don’t carry the flash and cash: The av­er­age 2018 can­di­date has raised only $72,000, about 11 per­cent of which came from out of state.

In New Mex­ico, Hall counts on vot­ers to rec­og­nize his name and his years of rep­re­sent­ing the district to carry the day for him. “I’ve got a long record, which is very con­ser­va­tive, and I’m run­ning on it,” he said.

Stans­bury has fo­cused her en­ergy on can­vass­ing the district ev­ery night and en­cour­ag­ing peo­ple of all po­lit­i­cal per­sua­sions to vote.

“What we’re try­ing to do is not re­ally po­lit­i­cal. It’s re­ally about try­ing to lift up our com­mu­nity,” Stans­bury said.

Stans­bury’s get-out-the-vote cam­paign could prove crit­i­cal for an­other rea­son: Her fundrais­ing prow­ess won’t nec­es­sar­ily trans­late to suc­cess at the polls.

Out-of-state donors, af­ter all, can’t turn out on Elec­tion Day.

JUSTIN LANE/EPA-EFE

The midterm elec­tions are com­ing up in a few weeks.

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