Democratic gubernatorial candidate Terry McAuliffe boasted recently that 72 percent of his campaign contributors are Virginians, a distinction that helps shed an image that his ties to the state are shallow. But campaign finance reports show nearly $4 of every $5 McAuliffe raised actually came from outside the Old Dominion.
McAuliffe raised $5.1 million between January and March, easily outpacing his Republican opponent, Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, who took in just $2.4 million because state law barred him raising money during the 46-day General Assembly session.
Nearly $4 million of McAuliffe's $5.1 million, however, came from outside the state, according to the Virginia Public Access Project, a nonpartisan campaign spending watchdog. Cuccinelli reported receiving $1.4 million from donors outside Virginia but also noted that 72 percent of his donations came from inside the state.
Much of McAuliffe's out-of-state of cash, $690,000, came from just across the Potomac River in Washington, where labor unions in particular are backing him. Another $1.2 million was raised in the Los Angeles, New York and Chicago areas.
McAuliffe's haul, aided by his friend former President Clinton, is a reminder the former Democratic National Committee chairman has access to deep pockets that could help in what is expected to be a tight and expensive governor's race. But it also revives criticisms that McAuliffe remains close to the Washington elite.
"Getting your funding, even a small part of it, much less a major part of it, from outside the state just provides ammunition for that impression that people have of him," said Craig Brians, a political science professor at Virginia Tech. "And this just amplifies that impression."
McAuliffe's campaign countered that he actually outraised Cuccinelli in Virginia and has more donors in the state as well.
"Terry McAuliffe was grateful to receive contributions from more than 3,600 Virginians, far more than supported Ken Cuccinelli's campaign during the same period," said McAuliffe spokesman Josh Schwerin. "This is a testament to the excitement behind McAuliffe's campaign and his message of finding mainstream ideas to make Virginia a better place for business and not focusing on a divisive ideological agenda."
Cuccinelli, too, is looking outside Virginia's borders for financial help. He received $1 million from the Republican Governors Association and another $400,000, one-third of his cash, from out of state. The anti-abortion Susan B. Anthony List, which has vowed to spend $1.5 million in the race, ran the first radio ads of the campaign on Tuesday attacking McAuliffe.
Where McAuliffe got his money was a major source of criticism during his failed 2009 bid for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination. A one-time opponent, former state Democratic Party Chairman Brian Moran, said it was "natural for Terry to go back to his donor base he developed while chair of the DNC," but added, "He's done a substantially better job fundraising inside Virginia than in 2009."
University of Mary Washington political scientist Stephen Farnsworth said a flood of out-of-state money should be expected since Virginia is just one of two states electing governors this year.
"I don't think there are going to be a lot of voters in the state that are going to care whether the money comes from Maryland or Pennsylvania or not," Farnsworth said. "I'm sure the campaigns will try to emphasize the role of out-of-state money and minimize their own reliance on out-of-state funds."