Under the Dome

Slicing, dicing the money in the NC governor campaign

A lot of money has been spent already by the men who want to be North Carolina’s governor starting in 2017, and the fun — and fundraising — is just getting started.

Spending might not reach the level of the U.S. Senate campaign in 2014, when Kay Hagan narrowly lost to Thom Tillis after she raised more than twice as much as he did: $25 million to $11 million. Outside groups spent another $82 million on that contest, making it the most expensive race in the country that year.

But election-year fundraising is typically twice as much as the previous year in competitive races, says David McLennan, a political science professor at Meredith College. “I would expect the governor’s race to be in the $20 million range, if not higher,” he told Dome.

With eight months to go before the general election, the fundraising leaders by far — Republican Gov. Pat McCrory and Democratic Attorney General Roy Cooper — already have raised more than $13 million between them.

Let’s break down that number.

Burn rate

Cooper, who has raised $7.6 million, has outraised McCrory, with $5.5 million, in the latest three reporting periods.

So far this year, McCrory has burned through 70 percent of the money he raised in the first two months, compared with Cooper’s 30 percent burn rate.

That leaves Cooper with $5.7 million cash on hand and McCrory with $4.3 million. By comparison, in 2011 then-Gov. Bev Perdue raised $4 million and ended the year with $2 million on hand, before deciding not to seek re-election.

At it since ’13

You might not have noticed, but both campaigns have been underway since the day McCrory became governor in January 2013, if not sooner. OK, probably sooner.

He received his first $50 contribution two days before he was sworn in.

The candidates raised close to $1 million in 2013, which bumped up to $1.3 million in 2014 and started hitting the gas last year with $9 million. The two have already collected $2 million so far this year.

Who is giving?

▪ Contributors in 61 of the state’s 100 counties have given more to Cooper than to McCrory.

▪ Both candidates have received about the same number of itemized contributions of less than $500 each: Those comprise 46 percent of Cooper’s contributions and 43 percent of McCrory’s. Contributions of less than $50 comprise 38 percent for Cooper and 32 percent for McCrory.

▪ Seventy-four percent of Cooper’s contributions came in payments of $100 or less.

▪ When it comes to big-money donors, McCrory raised 34 percent of his total from those giving $4,000 or more. Cooper raised 22 percent.

▪ Contributions from out of state amount to 15 percent of McCrory’s take and 10 percent of Cooper’s.

▪ Political action and other committees have not been big players yet. Less than 1 percent of either candidate’s receipts have come from them. They include trial attorneys, a union PAC, gay-rights PACs, and a car dealers’ PAC for Cooper; real estate, FEDEX, bank, Deere and Co., restaurant and lodging, beer and wine, Duke Energy (a former employer) and McGuireWoods PACs for McCrory.

▪ In some cases, you can’t tell who the donors are. Cooper received 858 contributions of $50 or more from people whose employer or profession are not listed in state campaign finance reports. McCrory’s reports were more complete: Only 189 contributions came from sources whose jobs are unknown. Campaigns often work to provide that information after filing the reports.

Not from here

Celebrities, CEOs and others who have made a mark for themselves have been inspired to send money to McCrory or Cooper, even though they live out of state.

A quick look at out-of-state contributions of $4,000 or more for Cooper includes:

▪ Fashion designer Ralph Lauren.

▪ Author John Grisham, who has lived part-time in Chapel Hill, and whose daughter taught elementary school in Raleigh.

▪ George Soros, a liberal billionaire philanthropist who lives in New York City.

▪ Carmen Hooker Odom, appointed head of the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services by Gov. Mike Easley. She is now adviser to the president of a New York-based health policy foundation and lives in New York.

Those sending big money to McCrory include:

▪ C. Boyden Gray, a prominent Washington attorney from Winston-Salem. Gray has an accomplished resume in politics and diplomacy. He graduated from UNC-CH law school and worked for George H.W. Bush when Bush was president and vice president.

▪ Mike Curb, a musician, record company executive, racing car team owner and former lieutenant governor of California. He lives in Nashville.

▪ Six members of the Bellissimo family in Florida and another Florida couple contributed $27,500 and a $5,000 in-kind contribution. Mark Bellissimo and Roger Smith are investors in an equestrian center in Polk County, on the border with South Carolina in the southwestern part of the state, that has major plans to expand into a resort. Sharon Decker, McCrory’s former commerce secretary, in September became vice president of strategic initiatives there. McCrory attended an event at the center in October and hailed its economic benefits to both states.

▪ Jonathan and Sherry Hage each gave $5,100 — the maximum individual contribution. He is president and CEO and she is chief academic officer of Fort Lauderdale, Fla.-based CharterSchools USA, which manages 70 schools in seven states, including this one.

The underfunded underdogs

When it comes to counting money, there’s not much to say about the three other candidates for governor.

These candidates have not received money from political action or party committees and are largely self-funded.

Ken Spaulding, running in the Democratic primary, has crisscrossed the state for several years leading up to this contest. He has collected $188,000 from individuals and spent most of it, having about $12,000 left over.

Charles Moss, a Republican, reports raising $1,600 and spending every penny of it.

Robert Brawley, also Republican, did not file the latest report. The state Board of Elections notified him he should have. Previously, he reported having at the end of last year $35,000 cash on hand.

Staff writer Craig Jarvis and news researcher David Raynor

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