Facing a tough re-election season, U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan is relying on some vital home-state interests to fuel her campaign for a second term, according to federal fundraising reports.
The pharmaceutical and securities and investment industries are among the top contributors to the North Carolina Democrat, widely viewed as one of the more vulnerable incumbents in this year’s midterm elections.
The pharmaceutical business is a major contributor to the state’s economy, and traditionally a big spender on campaigns.
Employees and political actions committees associated with the industry have contributed more than $400,000 to Hagan since her Senate career began in 2009, including more than $60,000 in the last three months of 2013, federal campaign finance reports show.
Hagan, who filed her re-election papers Monday in Raleigh, has long been one of the industry’s leading recipients of money, ranking second among her Senate colleagues to Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., the minority leader, according to an analysis by the Center for Responsive Politics, a nonpartisan campaign financial watchdog group.
Pharmaceutical money has been her third-largest source of campaign funds, behind retirees and lawyers, since 2009, a center analysis shows.
Known nationally as a strong fundraiser, the Greensboro Democrat has also been the beneficiary of campaign support from other influential interests in the Tar Heel state.
Among the top 20 contributors to Hagan from 2009 through most of last year, nearly half were banks and security and investment firms, according to the center.
The securities and investment industry alone, through employees and PACs, has directed more than $440,000 so far to her campaign, including at least $147,000 in the final quarter of last year, according to data compiled by both McClatchy Newspapers and the center.
Law firm employees contributed at least $192,000 in the fourth quarter, on top of nearly $390,000 from lawyers and law firms over the past five years. The real estate and property development business gave more than $250,000 since then, with about $76,000 in the last three months of 2013.
Educators contributed more than $65,000 in the latest quarter, compared to $87,000 throughout her career.
The pharmaceutical industry has a stake in how the health care law works out, and industries with those kinds of big issues tend to give money to incumbents, said Craig Holman, a campaign finance expert at Public Citizen, a nonprofit public policy advocacy group.
Months before the election, sitting lawmakers will continue to vote on issues that will affect businesses, and they also tend to have an edge in tossup races such as North Carolina’s, Holman said.
All estimates of 2013 fourth-quarter contributions are based on McClatchy’s and the News & Observer’s own survey of the nearly 1,200 pages of contribution reports filed last month with the Federal Election Commission.
FEC reports show that overall, Hagan has pulled in $9.9 million in campaign contributions since 2009. Her campaign says that 86 percent of her donors last year gave less than $200.
Outside money more important
But fundraising by individual candidates may prove less important this year because outside groups that aren’t required to disclose their donors are expected to spend the bulk of the money in the race.
Those groups already have spent millions on TV ads, and spending is expected to go much higher as the November election draws closer. With the Hagan seat likely to play a pivotal role in the battle for Senate control, predictions are that North Carolina could host one of the most expensive contests in the country.
“The outside groups are really going to be the story here,” said Viveca Novak, a spokeswoman for the Center for Responsive Politics.
She said Hagan ranks fifth among senators for total contributions to her campaign so far this election cycle, “but she still could be outspent given the way they seem to be coming after her.”
At a press conference after filing her candidacy papers, Hagan lashed out at special interests spending money to defeat her, even though she didn’t acknowledge outside interests were also boosting her own campaign.
“Our state is not for sale,” she said as she answered questions.
Americans for Prosperity, a conservative group that has spent $8.3 million so far on ads in the state, has attacked Hagan for her support of the Affordable Care Act.
By law, ads by these groups cannot explicitly support a candidate. But Democrats say the AFP ads are meant to reward state House Speaker Thom Tillis, her leading Republican challenger, for supporting tax cuts for the wealthy and other state policies.
AFP is funded by billionaires Charles and David Koch, who control Koch industries, a multinational corporation involved in energy and other industries, and who also finance a variety of right-wing political causes.
Independent expenditure groups also support Hagan and other Democrats. Patriot Majority USA recently spent $500,000 on an ad attacking Tillis for wanting to repeal the health care law.
The Senate Majority PAC, which also supports Democrats and also doesn’t have to disclose donors, has run $1.3 million in ads on Hagan’s behalf, according to media tracking.
Democrats say Hagan’s fundraising is a sign of strong support for re-election.
“As we get closer to the election, she will have the resources she needs not only to reintroduce her record of fighting for North Carolina to voters, but also to draw stark contrasts between her values and Republicans’,” said Matt Canter, a spokesman for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee.
Hagan’s campaign received $2.1 million in the fourth quarter of 2013, nearly three times the $714,000 that Tillis raised in the same period. (Tillis has said he wants to raise $12 million.) Greg Brannon, who had the next highest totals, collected $251,000.
Hagan also has more cash on hand – $6.8 million, compared with $1.3 million for Tillis and $142,000 for Brannon.
But that’s not necessarily a sign of strength, Republicans say, pointing out that in 2008, Hagan spent $8.5 million and defeated Republican Sen. Elizabeth Dole, who spent more than twice as much – $19.6 million.
“No amount of Kay Hagan’s money and resources from (Senate Majority Leader) Harry Reid will make North Carolinians forget that Hagan has supported President Obama’s liberal agenda an eye-popping 96 percent of the time, putting her at odds with workers, families and seniors in North Carolina,” said National Republican Senatorial Committee press secretary Brook Hougesen.
Disclosure bill stalled
Holman with Public Citizen said he expects spending by both sides to “grow considerably higher as the race starts picking up steam.” And if Republicans choose a far-right candidate in their primary, even more money will pour into the race, from liberals and conservatives, Holman said. “Extreme positions are phenomenal fundraisers.”
The center said in a report on its website that the pharmaceutical industry would have fared less well under a government-run, single-payer health care system because the government would have had negotiating power to bring down drug prices. The law that President Barack Obama signed in 2010, however, continues to rely on private insurance companies.
Like other Senate candidates from both parties, Hagan also has received help from fellow senators through their leadership PACs, vehicles lawmakers use to help colleagues. Hagan took in at least $62,400 from these PACs in the fourth quarter of 2013.
Democrats say the most important part of their strategy will be their 4,000-person, $60 million national field campaign to get out the vote.
“North Carolina will be at the top of the list,” said Canter, the DSCC spokesman.
The effort is called the Bannock Street Project, named after the street in Denver where Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet’s campaign headquarters was based in 2010. Bennet won that year after putting money into a strategy of voter registration and persuasion that Democrats now will try to duplicate in key races. Bennet is chair of the DSCC during this election cycle.
Meanwhile, outside groups are expected to pour even more money into the race, without any way to trace its sources.
A bill Hagan supports that would require disclosure of large contributions from these groups is stalled in the Senate.