In a campaign attracting big money, 4th District congressional candidate Democratic Christie Vilsack is getting help from some well-known out-of-state donors in her bid to oust Republican incumbent Steve King.
Former President Bill Clinton and President Barack Obama’s adviser David Axelrod each have given Vilsack $2,500. Billionaire investor Warren Buffett and his wife Susan, from nearby Omaha and supporting numerous Democratic candidates, have given $3,500.
Other nationally known donors giving to Vilsack include Steven Bochco, the producer of television shows like “Hill Street Blues,” “LA Law” and “NYPD Blue,” former Clinton advisers Doug Band and Paul Begala, and former New Jersey Gov. Jon Corzine.
If fact, although none will vote in November, several donors in urban, largely Democratic areas have poured money into Vilsack’s campaign, according to an IowaWatch review of Federal Election Commission data covering expenditures through June 30.
The review showed $164,635 of her $1.34 million in direct individual donations coming from New York. Another $94,039 was from California, $87,296 was from neighboring Illinois and $81,795 came from the District of Columbia.
South Dakota was King’s largest out-of-state source of direct individual donations with just $49,650 through June 30.
The funding sources show a stark contrast between the two candidates in this heated race between the Tea Party-backed congressman and the wife of a former Iowa governor and current secretary of agriculture, Tom Vilsack.
King, 64, had received 70 percent of his individual itemized donations, or $768,550, from Iowans, with business owners and farmers showing up frequently on the list. He had collected $327,434 from out-of-state residents.
Vilsack, 62, had received 61 percent of her individual itemized donations, or $818,125, from out-of-state donors. People living in Iowa donated $525,224 directly to her campaign.
These figures do not include Political Action Committee spending. PAC donations to the candidates ran close to even, with King receiving $356,850 and Vilsack $334,626 as of June 30, and most of it from out of state.
Tim Hagle, University of Iowa associate professor of political science, said that while Clinton’s support could help Vilsack, any charges made by either campaign about the other’s financing speak more to their bases than to independent voters.
“The difference between 60 and 70 percent probably isn’t enough to make that much of a difference to voters, but as King has the higher percentage, it’s not surprising he’d mention it,” Hagle said, referring to in-state donations.
Both King communications director Jimmy Centers and Iowa Republican Party communications director Megan Stiles see Vilsack’s out-of-state donations as a sign that Vilsack is out of touch with Iowans and would be little more than a rubber stamp for the policies of Obama and former Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif.
“Christie Vilsack moved across the state (from Mount Pleasant to Ames) to run a campaign funded by out-of-state, tax-and-spend liberals whose policies have failed,” Centers said.
Vilsack communications director Sam Roecker argued that Vilsack has plenty of in-state support, receiving 6,000 donations from Iowans.
“We really don’t have any control of what other Democratic groups do. We’re focused on our campaign and presenting Christie’s ideas for creating layers of economic opportunity across the 4th District,” Roecker said.
Kyle Kondik, of the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics, said, “I don’t think voters care about where money comes from unless it’s crooked, which doesn’t seem to be the case here. Endorsements make headlines, but don’t sway a lot of voters.”
Kondik predicts a highly contested, nasty race.
“King is one of the more outspoken conservatives in the country, which delights some and enrages others. Vilsack, the former Iowa first lady, has some built-in name recognition of her own, and she also can more easily attract support, especially from national donors, because many liberals would love to see King defeated,” he said.
Other campaign data from the most recent Federal Election Commission totals show:
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