Rep. Greg Pence, R-Indiana, has a large fundraising edge over Democrat Cinde Wirth in the race for Indiana’s 6th congressional district – with more than 32 times the cash in hand as the two candidates head into the final stretches of the campaign.
Pence, who is seeking a third term in Congress representing parts of Bartholomew County and the surrounding area, reported that his campaign committee, Greg Pence for Congress, had $496,526 in cash on hand at the end of last month, according to disclosures with the Federal Election Commission.
In addition, Pence’s joint fundraising committee, Greg Pence Victory, reported $5,165 in cash on hand as of Sept. 30, and Pence’s leadership PAC, called Mustang PAC, reported $34,574 in cash on hand as of the end of August.
Wirth reported a total of around $15,464 in cash on hand as of the end of September.
Wirth, who described her bid for Congress as a “true grassroots campaign,” has not taken contributions from corporate political action committees or industry groups. Instead, she said her focus has been on “hitting the streets every single day, talking to people every single day.”
“I strongly believe that, as a representative of voters, your funding should come from voters and not big corporations, big donors, people who have some agenda to promote besides representing the people who are voting,” Wirth said. “…When you have a campaign that takes lots of large donations from PACs and wealthy donors, they’re pushing personal agendas, and that takes away the voice of our everyday hardworking voters.”
Pence’s campaign has not shied away from large corporate PACs or other groups with deep pockets, raising $412,072 from 171 corporate or industry PACs during the current election cycle, according to campaign finance disclosures. Since launching his first campaign for Congress, Pence has received about $1.29 million in contributions from just more than 300 political action committees.
And as the second-term congressman heads into the final weeks of the race, Pence has signaled that his campaign is not hurting for cash, announcing the day before early in-person voting started last week that he had given away more than $550,000 in campaign funds to other Republicans running for federal, state and local offices across the country.
The candidates included, among others, Sen. Todd Young, R-Indiana, and Diego Morales, the GOP nominee for Indiana Secretary of State, who, according to The Associated Press, has called 2020 presidential election a “scam.”
Pence did not respond to multiple requests for more information about the contributions to other candidates or to questions about how he has used campaign funds.
The most recent campaign finance disclosures, which were due this past Saturday, come less than a month before the Nov. 8 midterm election and offer insight into the two campaigns as voters start heading to the polls to cast their ballots early.
The reports show two vastly different fundraising efforts and some eye-popping disparities in cash.
For instance, Wirth reported a total of $29,874 in contributions and loaned her campaign $11,175 from Jan. 1 to Sept. 30, according to federal records. By comparison, Greg Pence for Congress reported $71,323 in contributions in just a single day on June 30 — including $44,313 from Greg Pence Victory, $22,000 from 14 corporate PACs and $5,000 from Save America, a leadership PAC formed by President Donald Trump that a federal grand jury is probing related to its fundraising activities and spending.
Over the course of the current election cycle, Greg Pence for Congress has reported $2.14 million in receipts and $2.15 million in disbursements, while Greg Pence Victory has reported $426,527 in receipts and $458,509 in disbursements. Mustang PAC has reported $46,796 in receipts and $30,206 in disbursements.
During this election cycle, the health care, automotive, agricultural, telecommunications and oil and gas sectors accounted for a large portion of the contributions that Pence received from corporate and industry PACs, federal records show.
Greg Pence for Congress has received around $50,000 contributions from a range of PACs with ties to the health care sector, including Roche Diagnostics, LabCorp and Abbott Laboratories, which recalled several major brands of powdered baby formula and shut down a factory due to contamination, contributing to a nationwide shortage in baby formula earlier this year.
In addition, Pence received around $30,000 in contributions from PACs associated with the oil and gas sector, including ExxonMobil, Marathon Petroleum Corp. and Chevron; $19,000 from the insurance industry, including Blue Cross and Blue Shield, UnitedHealth Group and Cigna; and $14,000 from pharmaceutical giants, including Pfizer, Merck & Co. and Eli Lilly.
Pence also has received contributions from the Cummins Inc. Political Action Committee; PACs associated with tobacco giants Altria Group Inc., parent company of Phillip Morris USA, and Reynolds American Inc.; as well as Alticor Inc., a holding company run by the family of Besty DeVos, who served as education secretary during the Trump administration.
Wirth reported receiving $1,000 from the Bartholomew County Democratic Committee and $500 from the Wayne County Democrat Central Committee. Most of the rest of the contributions to her campaign are $50 or less and listed as “anonymous.”
Pence’s campaign has reported spending $895,143 on expenses related to direct mail during the current election cycle, as well as $87,202 for fundraising consulting and expenses, $52,750 for political consulting, $49,750 for political strategy consulting, $32,943 for a fundraising consultant, among other things.
Over the course of his three congressional campaigns, Pence has spent more than $45,000 in campaign funds at Trump-owned properties, while paying Trump’s pollster more than $137,000 during his 2018 race even though he was heavily favored to win his brother’s former seat in a district that includes their hometown, The Associated Press reported.
In addition, Pence and his family have collected money from his campaign coffers, including $27,758 in rent paid to a company that his wife operates, and $35,000 to his daughter who advised his 2018 campaign. He also has collected about $59,900 in reimbursements for travel, meals and other items — more than any other member of Indiana’s congressional delegation.
Pence did not respond to questions about the reimbursements.
Wirth has reported spending campaign money on T-shirts, buttons, banners, bumper stickers, door hangers and a billboard, among other things. She also has reimbursed herself for money she loaned her campaign.
“This is money that people have entrusted to me to do the best I can with it to be able to be elected to represent them, and I take that seriously,” Wirth said.
This story is by Andy East, of The (Columbus) Republic, a sister newspaper to the Daily Journal.