McKinley cuts into Mooney’s campaign funding lead down the stretch of primary showdown

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The campaign for U.S. Rep. Alex Mooney still has more cash on hand than that of fellow incumbent Republican David McKinley entering the final stretch of a primary race to represent the new 2nd Congressional District.

But McKinley outraised Mooney in the first three months of 2022, according to quarterly campaign finance reports filed Friday.

The election pits the two incumbents against each other for the new district formed after West Virginia lost one of its House seats following the 2020 census. There also are three challengers on the ballot — Susan Buchser-Lochocki of Morgantown, Rhonda Hercules of Wheeling and Mike Seckman of West Union.

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Mooney, 50, of Charles Town, the subject of two inquiries from federal ethics investigators in recent months, ended the first quarter of 2022 with $1,409,661 on hand for his campaign committee.

The campaign committee for McKinley, 75, of Wheeling, trailed with $1,005,008 on hand after collecting $478,904 in net contributions from January through March 2022.

Mooney’s committee, Mooney for Congress 2022, hauled in $426,659 during the same period.

Mooney has been the subject of two referrals from the independent, nonpartisan Office of Congressional Ethics to the House Ethics Committee in the past nine months. In October, the bipartisan committee released an Office of Congressional Ethics report highlighting evidence suggesting that Mooney used campaign money for personal expenses.

That would be a violation of federal law.

The committee announced that it was continuing its review of Mooney on that matter, which prompted the first referral.

Then, in February, the committee made public a review of Mooney regarding another matter sent by the Office of Congressional Ethics in December. The committee has not specified the issue and said it would announce a course of action on the matter by May 23.

The Office of Congressional Ethics investigates allegations of misconduct regarding House members and then makes referrals to the Ethics Committee if it determines allegations merit further scrutiny.

Mooney got permission from the Ethics Committee in December to set up a legal expense fund under House rules that allow members to recoup legal expenses incurred in their candidacy, official duties or criminal prosecution.

Mooney’s campaign spent $72,406 on legal services from January through March, $66,979 of which went to Washington-based law firm Wiley Rein LLP in February.

More than a fourth of all spending that Mooney for Congress 2022 reported for the final three months of 2021, or $106,362, was paid to Wiley Rein in October for legal services.

Mooney’s campaign has not responded to requests for comment on the nature of legal services rendered.

The Mooney campaign also paid $5,427 to Georgia-based law firm Chalmers and Adams LLC for legal services.

Supporters of the Mooney campaign in the first three months of 2022 included political action committees for the National Rifle Association ($1,000), the Procter & Gamble Good Government Fund ($3,500), Experian North America Inc. ($1,000) and the Indiana-based National Association of Mutual Insurance Companies ($3,000).

McKinley campaign supporters in the latest quarter included West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice and first lady Cathy Justice ($2,900 each), Justice chief-of-staff Brian Abraham ($250), former Justice adviser Bray Cary Jr. ($1,000), Home Depot co-founder, billionaire and frequent Republican donor Kenneth G. Langone and his wife, Elaine ($5,800 each), HD Media founder and managing partner Doug Reynolds ($1,000) and West Virginia Manufacturers Association President Rebecca R. McPhail ($250).

The McKinley campaign drew significant contributions from chemical and gas industry political action committees, including those for the American Chemistry Council ($5,000), the Chemours Co. ($1,000), Covestro ($1,000), Dow Inc. ($1,000), the American Gas Association ($5,000), the Interstate Natural Gas Association of America ($2,500), the National Fuel Gas Company ($1,000) and Occidental Petroleum Corp. ($5,000).

Running for his sixth term, McKinley also attracted wide support from political action committees for medical professional associations, including the American Association of Nurse Anesthetists ($2,500), the American Academy of Physician Assistants ($1,000), the American Occupational Therapy Association ($3,000) and the American Academy of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery ($1,000).

Also supporting the McKinley campaign was the political action committee for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce ($2,500).

Mooney’s campaign spent $1,427,517 in the first quarter of 2022 — more than three times how much it spent in the final three months of 2021.

Mooney campaign expenses from January through March 2022 included $56,468 to Pittsburgh-based consulting firm ColdSpark Media Inc., for digital consulting and research services, $40,802 to Virginia-based Fulfillment Solutions Inc., for direct marketing, and $1,777 to the Capitol Hill Club, for event catering.

Previous Mooney campaign finance reports show a “clear pattern” of day-to-day individual meals not properly chargeable to the campaign, an Office of Congressional Ethics report released in October observed, noting frequent small-dollar meal expenditures at Chick-fil-A, Panera Bread, Taco Bell and pizza vendors near Mooney’s home and office.

Mooney’s campaign failed to disclose underlying transactions for at least $40,115 of campaign spending since 2017, according to last year’s report, which noted evidence giving “reason to believe” that failure concealed thousands of dollars in personal use.

The office said it found other local, small-dollar meal expenses obscured by deficient campaign finance reporting. The office cited 45 un-itemized lump-sum reimbursements totaling $22,865 from the campaign to Mooney from January 2017 to December 2020.

Recent Mooney campaign finance reports, including the latest filing, have not listed small-dollar meal expenditures near his home.

McKinley’s campaign committee, McKinley for Congress, paid $915,437 to Ohio-based Strategic Media Placement Inc., for media buys, and $25,500 to Tennessee-based Acquire Digital, for digital consulting in the first three months of 2022.

McKinley’s campaign has $815,000 in debt and owed obligations after McKinley lent $500,000 to the campaign in December.

Buchser-Lochocki’s campaign raised and spent $3,935 in the first three months of 2022, operating self-funded and ending the reporting period with no cash on hand.

Buchser-Lochocki’s campaign finance report lists her occupation as mother, Dadaist and peace promoter.

The Federal Election Commission reports did not show filings for the latest reporting period for the campaigns for Hercules, operations secretary for Ohio County Schools, or Seckman, a heating, ventilation and air-conditioning technician.

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