Every day, our journalism dismantles barriers and shines a light on the critical overlooked and under-reported issues important to all North Carolinians.
Roy Cooper and Pat McCrory have collectively raised more than $20 million in their race for the governorship of North Carolina, according to campaign finance reports filed this summer.
Final reports won’t be filed until just before Election Day in November.
Cooper, North Carolina’s attorney general, has the fundraising edge in his quest to unseat McCrory, the sitting Republican governor.
Cooper raised more than $5 million in the second quarter of 2016, from March 1 through June 30. McCrory raised $3.1 million during that same reporting period.
Both candidates appear to have kept their spending during the second quarter relatively low, opting to maintain a significant war chest headed into the final months before the election. Cooper had $9.4 million available at the end of the reporting period, McCrory almost $6.3 million.
The candidates might have been holding tight to their purse strings, but outside groups certainly aren’t.
The Center for Public Integrity reported in July that multiple activist organizations had spent almost $4 million on TV advertising related to the governor race, despite minimal spending by the candidates.
WRAL has reported that the candidates spent $5 million on advertising during the first three weeks of September. Groups like the Republican Governors Association and Americans for Prosperity weighed in on the race, in McCrory’s favor, early in the election cycle with TV advertising.
Cooper reported almost 7,000 donations of $50 or less, which aren’t subject to the normal disclosure requirements like the donor’s name, address or occupation. McCrory had more than 5,500 small donations.
Major donors to the McCrory campaign include well-known figures in the state Republican Party. Art Pope, a wealthy business owner, former legislator and state budget director, donated $10,000. Real estate developer and philanthropist Max Joyner Sr. donated more than $11,000. Georgia investment manager Brian Reynolds and Greensboro-based Environmental Air CEO James Bullock, Jr. each donated more than $10,000.
McCrory also received significant support from some public employees. Department of Public Safety Secretary Frank L. Perry gave $10,200. Asheboro Clerk of Court Pamela Hill also gave $10,000. Susan Kluttz, secretary of the Department of Natural and Cultural Resources, gave $7,000.
McCrory campaign spokesman Ricky Diaz did not respond to questions about McCrory’s campaign finance filings, but did offer a statement:
“We aren’t going to comment on fundraising except to say that it is the worst-kept secret in North Carolina politics that Roy Cooper is bought and paid for by out-of-state, liberal special interest groups who have also been spending millions in third-party contributions to attack Gov. McCrory since the day he took office,” Diaz said.
But McCrory also received several large out-of-state donations. Mountaire Farms Corporation chairman Ronald Cameron and his wife, Nina Cameron, based in Little Rock, Arkansas, gave $20,000 combined. Arizona resident Marshall Larsen, a member of the board of directors of multinational defense contractor United Technologies Corporation, gave $10,000.
Several members of the Bellissimo family, which founded the $100-million Tryon Equestrian Center in Polk County, donated $10,000 to McCrory, including Nicole Bellissimo, who lists her occupation as student at Harvard College.
The largest donor listed on Cooper’s second quarter filings was Chapel Hill insurance executive Kevin Trapani, at $10,200. Fayetteville attorney Anthony Rand gave $7,700. Nancy Andrews, dean of the Duke University School of Medicine, gave $5,000.
Former United States ambassador to Luxembourg and LGBT activist James Hormel gave $5,000. Peter Karamos, owner of the Carolina Hurricanes hockey team, and his wife, Danialla Karamos, each gave $5,100.
Cooper also received $5,100 from fashion designer Ralph Lauren and $5,100 each from liberal activist and philanthropist George Soros and his son, Alexander Soros. Former NBA commissioner David Stern gave $5,100. Lorne Michaels, the longtime producer of Saturday Night Live, gave $1,000.
Tim Sullivan, president and CEO of Ancestry.com, and his wife, Jane Sullivan, of Park City, Utah, each gave $5,100.
Cooper’s support was also more far-reaching than McCrory’s. He received donations from 48 states. McCrory received money from 26 states.
The Cooper campaign did not respond to a request for comment.
The majority of Cooper’s spending went toward mail, strategy consulting and research. He spent more than $360,000 with Raleigh-based Nexus Strategies, a political consulting firm.
He also spent more than $340,000 with Anzalone Liszt Grove Research, a Montgomery, Alabama-based “public opinion research firm specializing in message development and strategic consulting.” He spent more than $115,000 with Jennifer Swanson Consulting, a Washington, D.C. firm.
McCrory’s largest expense was almost $480,000 spent with Targeted Victory, an Alexandria, Virginia-based campaign consulting firm. He also spent $270,000 on consulting with Midlothian, Virginia-based Advancing Strategies.
Alex Kotch, a research analyst at the Institute for Southern Studies, said Cooper’s fundraising advantage might be surprising, given his status as a challenger, but that outside spending might give McCrory the edge.
“It’s actually a little surprising that Cooper is getting that broad, national support,” he said. “Many times, the Republican governors are getting a lot of outside money spent in their races. Outside groups (are) coming to bat for both of them.”
The Center for Responsive Politics estimates that, since the 2012 election cycle, political action committees have given Republican candidates nationwide $176.2 million more than their Democrat challengers.