Nearly half of N.C. senator's campaign funding from PACs

WASHINGTON — Political action committees representing a variety of business interests contributed nearly half of North Carolina U.S. Sen. Richard Burr's $700,000 campaign take in the first three months of this year.

Burr's Senate campaign received money from drug companies, health care companies, tobacco companies and energy companies. Telecommunications firms, financial services groups and defense manufacturers also sent money his way.

That leaves Burr, a Winston-Salem, N.C., Republican, with about $1.6 million in the bank toward his re-election bid next year, according to the federal campaign finance report he filed this week.Jennifer Duffy, senior editor of the Cook Political Report in Washington, said Burr's fund-raising was "perfectly acceptable." They might not fend off Democratic opposition, though.

"Were the numbers enough to scare the likes of a Roy Cooper out of the race? No," Duffy said.

Cooper, the North Carolina attorney general, is thought to be considering a run for Burr's seat, though he has not announced a candidacy.

Burr models himself as a pro-business Republican, and records show that about $333,615 came from political action committees. Most were associated with companies, though Burr received money from idealogical groups as well.

Among his contributors were political action committees representing Abbott Laboratories, Bayer Cooperation, Aetna, Altria Group, Boeing, Northrup Grumman, ExxonMobil and Florida Power & Light.

Another $367,000 came from individuals.

Burr's fund-raising calendar has begun filling up lately. In Washington alone, at least seven fund raisers have been held for him this year since January at various clubs and restaurants, according to the Sunlight Foundation.

Burr has at least two more coming up, including a fund-raiser at a private home in Washington and a golf tournament at the Greenbriar resort in West Virginia.

Burr is seeking his second term and doesn't yet have a Democratic challenger, though Duffy said he might be able to keep little-known candidates out of the race.

"Given the economy, given that (the Republicans) are in the minority party, it's a pretty good take," Duffy said. "To have $1.6 million in the bank, it's a pretty good start."

Burr's seat is considered vulnerable, and Democrats have pledged to fight for it.

A recent survey by Democratic firm Public Policy Polling showed Cooper leading Burr 41 percent to 37 percent.

That followed a poll by the conservative Civitas Institute that showed Cooper ahead 41-38.

Cooper's last state campaign finance report in January, for his attorney general campaign committee, showed he had $367,000 cash on hand.

North Carolina's last U.S. Senate race indicates any candidate will need millions to win.

Former Republican Sen. Elizabeth Dole spent $19.6 million trying to defend her seat, but lost.

Her challenger, former state Sen. Kay Hagan, won with $8.5 million in her coffers — but Hagan also was helped by another $13 million in support from the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee.