North Carolina’s Sen. Kay Hagan is deeply disappointed by the tens of millions of outside campaign dollars flowing into the Tar Heel State. At least, that’s what she told PBS anchor Gwen Ifill in a wide-ranging interview broadcast on Thursday.
But even Ifill refused to allow Hagan to get away with heaping scorn on conservative groups and her opponent, state House Speaker Thom Tillis, for benefiting from outside spending when her campaign is also enjoying the fruits of a huge influx of out-of-state money.
Here is a transcript of the exchange via Real Clear Politics:
SEN. KAY HAGAN (D-NC): North Carolina is this purple state, but I feel very good about where we are. I do think that this out of state money is something that I’m very disappointed in. But it is because of the Supreme Court —
GWEN IFILL, PBS: But you’ve benefited from it as well?
HAGAN: You know, I think no matter who gives money it should be disclosed and I think it should be transparent. I’ve got legislation in the Senate that would do just that. Thom Tillis doesn’t support that. We’ve got to let the American public know who is putting this money forward. If you think about it, you’ve got a handful of the wealthiest people in this country that are dictating what 350 million hear and see on TV and that’s wrong. To me, that’s not democracy.
IFILL: But as long as that money is coming from people who support you it’s okay?
HAGAN: You know, I certainly wish that we could have disclosed where people — where no matter who gives money the public knows and follows that. That’s why I support this bill.
Hagan failed to elaborate on her proposal to limit the amount of money an individual can donate to political candidates or causes. Her proposal would require amending the Constitution and rewriting the First Amendment, which the Supreme Court determined protects free expression that can be construed as contributing money to political causes. Ifill chose not to press that little issue either.
The fact is that Democrats, from Kay Hagan to Bill Clinton, have sought to hypocritically denounce the amount of political spending this midterm season when their candidates have been at least equal beneficiaries of that spending.
Via the independent campaign finance monitoring group Open Secrets, the spending of conservative groups was just recently surpassed by liberal groups:
One wonders how Open Secrets got this information when, as Hagan insists, there is such a lax disclosure regime governing political spending. According to the Charlotte Observer, $103 million is expected to be spent on the race for Senate in North Carolina with more than $72 million of that sum coming from outside groups. Only $22 million of it, however, comes from so-called “dark money” groups which are protected from having to disclose their donors.
What’s more, local media reports, Hagan is not doing so bad on the fundraising front.
Spending continues to rise as polls show the race tightening. As an incumbent, Hagan has long enjoyed a significant fundraising advantage. Reports filed last week with the Federal Election Commission show she raised $21.6 million through September to Tillis’ $8.2 million.
Hagan’s campaign has spent $19.6 million, more than half in the past quarter. Outside groups have pumped in nearly $35 million.
Her biggest supporter – and the biggest player in the race – is the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee. It’s putting up at least $17 million.
Only a portion of her outside money – $2.3 million – has come from dark money groups. But a lot has come from groups funded by some of the nation’s wealthiest donors.
The Senate Majority PAC, for example, has spent more than $10 million on TV ads for Hagan. Tied to Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada – whose leadership job is on the line if Democrats lose the Senate – it appears to have spent almost a third of all its resources in North Carolina.
At least three of the groups Hagan denounces for not having to disclose their donors are contributing to her campaign. As a candidate of principle, perhaps she would like to return those tainted funds.
Good for Ifill for refusing to allow Hagan to get away with such blatant hypocrisy on spending, but she could have gone far further than she did. If North Carolina voters knew the extent of Hagan’s duplicity on fundraising issues, or that her proposed fix for this purported problem is to amend the Bill of Rights, a few might rethink their support for the incumbent.