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Challenge from Unger boosts donations to Capito's re-election campaign

February 15, 2008|By MATTHEW UMSTEAD

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. -- Donations to Rep. Shelley Moore Capito's war chest for the 2008 election skyrocketed after state Sen. John Unger announced his intention to run for her seat in Congress in May 2007, according to her campaign finance reports filed with Federal Election Commission.

Of the 144 contributions -- totaling nearly $240,000 -- the incumbent Republican congresswoman received between April 1 and June 30, 2007, less than 20 came before Unger's May 31 announcement, reports show.

In that same three-month period, Unger received about $26,000 in contributions, his first donation coming on June 13, according to his campaign committee reports. Capito reported having $309,967 in cash on hand at the end of June. She would slightly more than double that figure by the end of 2007, according to her year-end report.

By year's end, Unger had raised about $220,000, according to the Berkeley County Democrat's FEC filings. The final figure by the time he ended his campaign last month was $268,175.

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"It was tough, but we were able to fund-raise," Unger said in a recent interview.

As contributions to Capito's campaign committee continued to stream in during July, August and September, the four-term congresswoman doled out several $500 campaign contributions to at least eight other congressional campaign committees for candidates in Nevada, Florida, Colorado, Connecticut and Illinois, among others.

"Congresswoman Capito has a full-time campaign office in Charleston," said Kent Gates, a campaign consultant with the Pittsburgh-based Brabender Cox in a recent interview.

In nonelection years, Gates said Capito's deputy treasurer, Mary Payne, acts as a coordinator for the office.

"I think she's running about $10,000 a month (in overhead)," Gates said. "Starting now, that will go up a little."

In his first two months, Unger, who since has put his aspirations for Congress on hold, didn't report any expenditures until the October quarterly report, when he paid newly hired campaign secretary Cara Spaziani $5,250 and spent about $5,000 for administrative assistance from Orion Strategies based in Charleston, W.Va., and other less substantial expenses.

Unger's payments to Spaziani jumped in his year-end report to $1,500 per month, then she was paid $9,000 for a quarterly salary.

"She wore three different hats," Unger said of her additional roles as a fundraiser and "advancer" for events and meetings.

That same quarter, Unger's brother, Ryan, and his campaign treasurer, Kimberly Sencindiver, also joined the payroll with $9,000 quarterly salary payments, according to the report. Martinsburg attorney David Hammer was paid $6,000 for legal consulting.

Unger said his brother contributed Web site expertise, marketing and field outreach work.

In her disbursement filings, Capito reported that she paid Payne $1,997 per month, or nearly $6,000, and in the year-end report, indicated she paid Public Opinion Strategies of Alexandria, Va., $12,000 for polling and Washington D.C.-based Political Solutions $10,988 for a fundraising letter.

Even with more than $10,000 spent on consulting in the last quarter, Capito still had $643,865 cash on hand, according to her year-end report.

Of the total of $712,737 in contributions she received by the end of 2007, $301,604 came from political committees, such as the National Air Traffic Controllers political action committee, and $411,133 was donated by individuals.

Unger's year-end totals could not immediately be clarified, but his October report indicated he received $63,925 from political committees and $86,387 from individuals.

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