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WKYT Investigates | Ky. campaign cash

A lot of out-of-state money has poured into Kentucky candidates' campaigns.
Published: Oct. 29, 2020 at 4:30 PM EDT
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LEXINGTON, Ky. (WKYT) - “Follow the money” is a common refrain in politics, and right now there is plenty of it to track.

Tens of millions of dollars have poured into Kentucky’s political campaigns this election cycle, particularly in the high-profile race for U.S. Senate. A WKYT Investigates analysis found that much of that money is coming from outside Kentucky.

[WATCH: Mitch McConnell and Amy McGrath face off in The Kentucky Debate]

Campaign donation data is publicly available through the Federal Election Commission, which administers and enforces federal campaign finance law, and the Center for Responsive Politics, a non-partisan non-profit watchdog that runs the website OpenSecrets.org.

So WKYT’s Garrett Wymer sorted through stacks of campaign finance reports and dove into the data to answer the question: Where exactly did all that campaign money come from?

Note: You can find an interactive graphic and a full list of resources to do your own digging into the candidates' fundraising at the bottom of this page.

U.S. Senate: McConnell vs. McGrath

The dollar amounts themselves are staggering. Piles of cash are flowing into campaign coffers - and out the airwaves - as Democrat Amy McGrath tries to unseat Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.

“I think it speaks to a sentiment among voters, perhaps in the Democratic party, that are feeling very active or very mobilized in this election cycle,” Dr. Anne Cizmar, a professor in the government department at Eastern Kentucky University, said of the influx of donations to the two Senate campaigns.

The totals are enormous, but many of the donations come in smaller chunks. Here’s a breakdown of what those contributions look like, according to a Center for Responsive Politics analysis of earlier FEC filings:

  • McConnell:
    • Small individual contributions: $17.6 million (34%)
    • Large individual contributions: $24.6 million (47%)
    • PAC contributions: $4.6 million (9%)
    • Other: $5.2 million (10%)
  • McGrath:
    • Small individual contributions: $48.8 million (59%)
    • Large individual contributions: $33.3 million (40%)
    • PAC contributions: $297,000 (<1%)

Note: “Small individual contributions” refers to contributions that are less than or equal to $200.

In a race that has gotten national attention, it should come as no surprise that a large chunk of money in this expensive race is coming from outside Kentucky. According to the Center for Responsive Politics, which broke down previous FEC filings:

  • McConnell:
    • In-state contributions: $3.1 million (10%)
    • Out-of-state contributions: $29.3 million (90%)
  • McGrath:
    • In-state contributions: $1.8 million (3%)
    • Out-of-state contributions: $54.9 million (97%)

OpenSecrets.org lists the top contributors to McConnell as individuals affiliated with the following organizations:

  1. NorPAC: $168,075
  2. Votesane PAC: $126,800
  3. United Parcel Service: $97,135
  4. Apollo Global Management: $92,359
  5. KKR & Co.: $85,543

OpenSecrets.org lists the top contributors to McGrath as individuals affiliated with the following organizations:

  1. Alphabet Inc.: $220,075
  2. University of California: $212,561
  3. Microsoft Corp.: $128,663
  4. Apple Inc.: $99,407
  5. U.S. Government: $95,633

Note: Contributions are from the organizations' PACS, individual members, employees or owners, and their immediate families - not from the organizations themselves. Organization totals include subsidiaries and affiliates.

View the full list of top contributors here.

But will all that money matter in the Senate race? Polls show McConnell - who has already been re-elected five times by Kentucky voters - with a commanding lead, and political observers do not expect a McGrath win, either.

“I think it’s seen as a very big goal for Democrats,” Dr. Cizmar said of McConnell’s Senate seat, “but I’m not sure how realistically attainable that will be given the state of Kentucky politics.”

[WATCH: WKYT Investigates | Kentucky voting trends]

Scroll down to find an interactive graphic and a full list of resources to do your own digging into the candidates' fundraising.

U.S. House - Ky. 6th District: Barr vs. Hicks

It may be overshadowed by the presidential campaign and the Senate race in Kentucky, but U.S. House members are also up for re-election this year. In our region that means the sixth district congressional race between incumbent Republican Rep. Andy Barr and Democratic challenger Josh Hicks.

  • Rep. Barr has raised $4.2 million through October 14, according to his pre-election report filed with the FEC.
  • Hicks raised $2.6 million in that same time period, his report shows.

Here’s a breakdown of what those contributions look like, according to a Center for Responsive Politics analysis of earlier FEC filings:

  • Barr:
    • Small individual contributions: $165,000 (4%)
    • Large individual contributions: $1.6 million (40%)
    • PAC contributions: $1.8 million (46%)
    • Other: $358,000 (9%)
  • Hicks:
    • Small individual contributions: $405,000 (17%)
    • Large individual contributions: $1.8 million (75%)
    • PAC contributions: $165,000 (7%)
    • Other: $23,000 (1%)

Note: “Small individual contributions” refers to contributions that are less than or equal to $200.

The congressional candidates have received a considerably higher percentage of in-state contributions than the Senate candidates. According to the Center for Responsive Politics, which broke down previous FEC filings:

  • Barr:
    • In-state contributions: $941,000 (51%)
    • Out-of-state contributions: $898,000 (49%)
  • Hicks:
    • In-state contributions: $640,000 (35%)
    • Out-of-state contributions: $1.2 million (65%)

In-district contributions:

  • Barr: 35%
  • Hicks: 24%

Out-of-district contributions:

  • Barr: 65%
  • Hicks: 75%

OpenSecrets.org lists the top contributors to Barr as individuals affiliated with the following organizations:

  1. Alliance Resource Partners: $29,200
  2. Rock Holdings: $23,400
  3. Mt. Brilliant Farm: $22,400
  4. Prudential Financial: $21,500
  5. Charles Schwab Corp.: $21,200

OpenSecrets.org lists the top contributors to Hicks as individuals affiliated with the following organizations:

  1. Bain Capital: $16,800
  2. University of Kentucky: $13,681
  3. End Citizens United: $13,100
  4. Hart Group: $11,200
  5. International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers: $10,150

Note: Contributions are from the organizations' PACS, individual members, employees or owners, and their immediate families - not from the organizations themselves. Organization totals include subsidiaries and affiliates.

View the full list of top contributors here.

Resources

  • Browse campaign finance reports - and even search the data for particular contributors to political campaigns - here on the Federal Election Commission website.
  • Find financial summaries and more for Amy McGrath here, Mitch McConnell here, Andy Barr here and Josh Hicks here.
  • View further breakdowns (by industries, sectors, political action committees and more) of political contributions made in the Senate race here, and the 6th District congressional race here, via the Center for Responsive Politics.

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