Two outside groups that successfully meddled in West Virginia’s Republican Senate primary this month by spending millions of dollars on advertising were funded entirely by donors from outside the state.
The super PACs Mountain Families PAC and Duty and Country revealed in reports filed with the Federal Election Commission on Sunday that they were funded by major donors affiliated with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky or Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York, respectively.
Neither group received a single cent from West Virginians.
The filings show how big donors, party leaders and consultants can dramatically alter the outcome of elections without disclosing who funded the ads until after the election is over. West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morissey, the winner of the May 8 Republican primary, was subject to far fewer attacks from the super PACs than his two opponents, ex-con coal baron Don Blankenship and Rep. Evan Jenkins.
Morissey will face Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin in November in a race that will be critical to control of the U.S. Senate.
Mountain Families PAC, which raised $1.4 million from the McConnell-controlled Senate Leadership Fund, aired ads blistering Blankenship for his role in the deaths of 29 miners in the disaster at Upper Big Branch in 2010. The campaign led to an ugly fight between Blankenship and McConnell, culminating in Blankenship using racist attacks against McConnell’s wife, Elaine Chao, and infamously calling the majority leader “Cocaine Mitch.”
After Blankenship’s third-place primary finish, Senate Leadership Fund didn’t exactly hide its excitement.
Senate Leadership Fund, based in Washington, has raised nearly $24 million this election cycle. Just one donation ― a $5,000 check from Swanson Industries in August ― came from West Virginia.
Duty and Country aired ads attacking both Morrisey and Jenkins, but Jenkins, a Democrat-turned-Republican who ousted Rep. Nick Rahall in 2014, was their primary target. Some Democratic strategists thought Jenkins’ strength in southern West Virginia would make him the most formidable opponent against Manchin in the fall. Duty and Country spent $1.8 million on ads attacking him.
Most of Duty and Country’s donors were from either New York or Massachusetts. The Greater New York Hospital Association Management Corp. donated $500,000 to the effort, and New York-based hedge fund manager James Simons donated an additional $400,000. Both have also donated to Senate Majority PAC, Schumer’s flagship super PAC.