After the Federal Election Commission released its latest finance reports recently, the campaign to elect Republican Chris Wakim to West Virginia's First Congressional District quickly pointed out that it had about $72,000 more cash on hand than Democratic incumbent Rep. Alan Mollohan.
Wakim has had a clear fundraising disadvantage. While Mollohan has raised about $1,173,000 so far, Wakim has raised about $585,000. Yet Mollohan has only about $248,000 ready-to-use cash compared with Wakim's $321,000 in the bank, according to the latest FEC filings.
"We are in a great position to carry our message to every part of the district," says Wakim, while pointing out that last week that the campaign received $75,000 from the Republican National Committee.
It seems from these reports that Mollohan is spending more money than Wakim. But the numbers can be deceiving because they don't reflect the funds being spent by so-called 527 outside advocacy groups, says the Mollohan campaign. Named after the section of the tax code that allows them, these political groups are allowed to raise and spend an unlimited amount of money but may not support a candidate by name or coordinate campaign activities with a candidate or a party committee.
The Economic Freedom Fund, a California-based 527 group funded by Texas developer Bob Perry, who funded many of the swift boat ads against John Kerry in 2004, has been calling voters, running television advertisements, and sending out mailings attacking Mollohan's ethics record. The group "has carried much of the load for Wakim with a heavy barrage of mailings and television ads," says Gerry Griffith, Mollohan's campaign manager. It "gave Wakim a free ride for five or six weeks, so he's just now begun to spend his money."
A Democratic 527 group, meanwhile, has been going to bat for Mollohan. West Virginia Values is running an attack ad that shows military veterans blasting Wakim for how he represented his military service. Wakim has called himself a veteran of the Gulf War, but he was stationed at a Massachusetts base during the conflict.