We obtained and published a huge trove of documents that detailed the assets and connections of mountain-area legislators and their challengers in November’s election.

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Congressional Republicans from Western North Carolina have a significant fundraising advantage over their Democratic Party opponents around two months ahead of November’s general election.

The three House incumbents representing the region — Virginia Foxx, Mark Meadows and Patrick McHenry — received large-scale contributions from both political action committees and individuals, while their Democratic opponents are primarily receiving support from individual contributors.

Those districts have long been safe havens for Republicans. Republicans have held McHenry’s district since 1953, except for a six-year stretch in the mid-60s. The GOP has held Foxx’s seat for 27 of the last 47 years and Meadows’ seat for 23 of the last 35 years.

Foxx has raised 100 times more money than her opponent, Josh Brannon. Meadows raised more than $450,000 from January 2015 to June, with his opponent, Rick Bryson, raising less than $10,000.

McHenry leads the way

McHenry brought in the most cash, according to Federal Election Commission filings, raising more than $2.2 million from January 2015 through June 2016. His opponent, Tryon Democrat Andy Millard, raised less than $200,000 during that period. However, Millard’s total is still far ahead of any other Democrat running for a House seat in WNC.

McHenry is the highest profile member of the delegation, serving as the chief deputy whip in the House and as vice chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, which oversees the banking, securities and housing industries. The bulk of McHenry’s support has come from political action committees and individuals in those industries. Filings show he raised $1.36 million from political action committees and a little more than $900,000 from individuals.

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According to the Center for Responsive Politics, a Washington, D.C. think tank that tracks money in politics, McHenry received almost $900,000 from individuals or political action committees associated with the insurance, securities and commercial banking industries. Employees of Signature Bank, a Wall Street firm, contributed nearly $50,000 to McHenry during the year. Prudential Financial employees gave more than $30,000. The Votesane political action committee funneled $35,000 in individual donations to McHenry’s campaign. Employees of Fidelity Investments, JP Morgan Chase and Metlife contributed more than $20,000 each. The Koch Industries political action committee contributed $20,500.

McHenry’s leadership fund raised nearly $600,000, with $406,000 in contributions coming from individuals. That fund spent a little more than $500,000, with $290,000 transferred to McHenry’s campaign fund and the remainder spent with the More Conservatives PAC and the National Republican Congressional Committee.

Millard has been critical of McHenry for both the way he spends and raises money.

“There were at least 16 airline tickets and four train tickets purchased by his campaign in the first six months of the year,” Millard said. “On those trips, (there are) more donors, more lobbyists … Their interests usually aren’t aligned with the interests of the people of the 10th District.”

McHenry issued a statement to CPP on Thursday in response to questions about his fundraising, emphasizing his party’s role in opposing the policies of Democrats in the executive and legislative branches of government.

“I am honored by and deeply appreciative of the financial support my campaign has received,” McHenry said. “(Contributors’) support allows me to inform voters in Western North Carolina why I am the best person to serve as their voice in Washington as we fight for our shared limited government principles and against the the liberal agenda of President Obama, Secretary Clinton and their progressive allies.

“Furthermore, these contributions provide me the ability to support like-minded conservatives running for Congress throughout the country. Electing fellow Republicans across North Carolina as well as across America, will prevent Nancy Pelosi from regaining the Speaker’s gavel.”

Millard received no money from political action committees and received the maximum contribution of $2,700 nine times. The vast majority of that support was from donors in Polk County, Millard’s home.

“One of the most common (strategies) is candidate call time, where you get on the phone and call people,” Millard said. “Most candidates abhor that, for me I kind of enjoy it. It gives me the opportunity to meet people and talk to them, to introduce myself. I learn something each call. Some of (our) greatest supporters … have come from candidate call time.”

Millard spent around $170,000 during the reporting period, most of which went to operating expenditures such as salaries, campaign supplies and other staff needs. Millard spent $23,000 with Sustainable Impact, a Wilmington-based political consulting firm that focuses on fundraising. He spent $12,500 with Campaign Finance Group, Inc., a Washington, D.C. fundraising consulting firm, and $7,000 with Demsign for yard signs and other campaign promotion items.

McHenry spent more than $1 million on operating expenditures and gave $45,000 to “authorized committees” and spent $478,000 on in-kind fundraising and other transfers.

His campaign’s largest single expenditure was $46,508 with The Stewart Group, a political consulting firm in Raleigh. He spent more than $100,000 with that organization in total. The Oorbeek Group, a Washington, D.C. political consulting firm, received more than $275,000 from McHenry’s campaign. Almost $90,000 was spent on travel, with trips to Jackson Hole, Wyoming; New York, Los Angeles, Israel, Rhode Island and San Francisco.

Meadows, Bryson trail behind

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Meadows, a Republican from Cashiers, raised $455,000 during the most recent reporting cycle, with $270,000 coming from individuals and the remaining $185,000 contributed by committees. Political action committees for anesthesiologists, insurance and financial advisors and Federal Aviation Administration managers contributed at least $5,000 each to Meadows’ campaign.

Bryson received less than $10,000, with $9,430 in support coming from individuals and $350 from two county Democratic Party groups. The bulk of his campaign cash was spent on advertising and his campaign website. Bryson also paid nearly $2,000 to Asheville political activist David Roat for consulting fees.

Foxx spends big on consulting

Foxx’s biggest expense from January 2015 through June was for consulting and political strategy with Jacksonville, Florida-based Majority Strategies, a firm that specializes in Republican candidates. Foxx’s campaign spent more than $185,000 with the group for strategy consulting, advertising and printing. Stampede Consulting received Foxx’s second largest single payout, at $35,121, also for strategy consulting. In all, Foxx spent nearly $300,000 on items labeled “political strategy consulting.”

Josh Brannon, Foxx’s opponent, raised $11,581, with more than $10,000 coming from individuals. His campaign primarily spent money on online advertising through Facebook.

Editor’s note: This story was updated on Friday, Sept. 9, 2016, to include a statement issued by Rep. Patrick McHenry after the initial story had been published.

Michael Gebelein

Michael Gebelein was an investigative reporter with Carolina Public Press. To contact Carolina Public Press, email info@carolinapublicpress.org or call 828-774-5290.

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