Rich donors and special-interest groups are pouring millions of dollars into Virginia's hotly contested gubernatorial race, using it as a political laboratory to test new campaign methods in anticipation of the 2016 presidential contest.
The Washington Post reports
that the unprecedented amount of cash from outside interests has far eclipsed that of in-state donors for the Nov. 5 election between Republican Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli and former Democratic National Committee Chairman Terry McAuliffe.
McAuliffe has raked in $17.5 million, only a quarter of which came from Virginia donors. By comparison, 31 percent of the $10.8 million raised by Cuccinelli was from in-state contributors during the same period, ending Aug. 31, the Post reported.
Mega donors to McAuliffe include $900,000 from NextGen Climate Action Committee, funded by San Francisco billionaire environmentalist Tom Steyer, which is using the money to recruit 50 military veterans to test new canvassing methods in the Norfolk region and more creative campaigning that includes flying banners over a NASCAR race and college football games.
"We think the emphasis and focus on media spending is probably a little out of date," Steyer told the Post. He described Virginia as "a very important state from a strategic point because it's a swing state."
On the Republican side, the conservative Americans for Prosperity, funded by the Koch brothers, "is using the Virginia race to refine its field program, hoping to improve on its performance in 2012," the Post reported.
The spending frenzy is completely legal thanks to the 2010 Supreme Court ruling brought by Citizens United, that allowed more independent spending by outside groups through the creation of so-called super PACs.
Citizens United has spent $600,000 on behalf of Cuccinelli. It includes production of a documentary called "Fast Terry" — that focuses on the former party leader's business dealings — as well as television ads.
Meanwhile, Politico reports
, McAuliffe has received $3.4 million from the Democratic Governors Association, his largest lump-sum contribution, and Cuccinelli has gotten nearly $7 million from the Republican Governors Association.
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