Edwards's Campaign Builds Steam as She Outraises Wynn

U.S. Rep. Albert R. Wynn's campaign has been funded mainly by PACs, including many that represent big companies and industry groups.
U.S. Rep. Albert R. Wynn's campaign has been funded mainly by PACs, including many that represent big companies and industry groups. (Melina Mara/twp - Twp)
  Enlarge Photo     Buy Photo
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, February 3, 2008; Page C07

Prince George's County lawyer Donna F. Edwards has raised more in campaign money over the past four months than U.S. Rep. Albert R. Wynn, a sign that what was once an upstart effort to oust the eight-term incumbent has turned into a serious challenge.

Edwards has also spent more slowly than Wynn (D-Md.), meaning she enters the final days before the Democratic primary Feb. 12 with more cash on hand than Wynn to relay her message to voters in Maryland's 4th Congressional District, which includes most of Prince George's and part of Montgomery County.

After raising more than $441,000 in the four-month reporting period, she has $204,000 on hand. Wynn has about $146,500 after raising $416,860 in that time.

The financial reports, filed late Thursday with the Federal Election Commission, confirm the candidates' contentions about each other's fundraising tactics.

Edwards's latest filings reflect previous reports. She received the bulk of her money, 95 percent, from individual donors, most of whom, about 85 percent, do not live in Maryland.

Wynn has been largely funded by political action committees, including many that represent large companies and industry groups. Seventy-one percent of money raised in the latest period came from PACs, but he has more from individual donors from Maryland than Edwards.

Independent groups, including the Service Employees International Union and the League of Conservation Voters, have been pouring money into the district in independent efforts to oust Wynn. They say that he has catered to corporate interests and allied himself too often with Republicans.

Two SEIU committees have spent more than $895,000 on mailings and other media targeting Wynn, including $470,060 spent Friday on TV ads. The liberal group moveon.org recently bought more than $150,000 in TV ads, and the League of Conservation Voters has spent more than $120,000 since December. All told, more than $1.2 million in independent expenditures have been logged against Wynn.

But last week, the political action committee of the National Association of Realtors reported that it is spending more than $300,000 on an independent effort to support Wynn.

Michael Cain, director of the Center for the Study of Democracy at St. Mary's College of Maryland, said that for Edwards, the combination of the immense independent effort to support her and her cash reserves might give her an edge.

"In a close race, anything can matter," he said. "It should be a race to watch."

Edwards, the executive director of a nonprofit foundation, said the numbers prove that her message is getting out and that supporters are getting on board.

"We will have a presence in the media, in people's homes and at their doors and at polling places on Election Day," she said.

She said she is proud of her Maryland support and rejected the suggestion that she is any less connected to the district than Wynn, who she said has taken money from groups in telecommunications, energy and banking as well as Wal-Mart.

"He is more tied to corporate interests than to people, and his reports shows that," she said.

Wynn campaign manager Lori Sherwood said that the congressman has raised more than $1 million for his reelection effort and that he will have plenty to fund the remainder. She said he has accepted money from union groups and the campaign committees of other members of Congress, including Rep. Elijah E. Cummings (D-Md.).

Sherwood said Edwards's candidacy is a "negative, nasty" effort by those who do not live in the district.

"You look at her reports, and you see this out-of-state network of individuals who are funneling money into her campaign in an attempt to buy this election," she said.

On Tuesday, Wynn's campaign filed a 134-page complaint with the FEC, charging that Edwards is illegally coordinating her campaign efforts with groups that are supposed to be operating independently in support of her.

A lawyer at the nonpartisan Campaign Legal Center who reviewed the complaint said it shows ties between Edwards and some of those involved with independent activities but little evidence that she was illegally involved with expenditures by those groups.

"The existence of a relationship doesn't in and of itself demonstrate coordination under federal election law," said the lawyer, Paul S. Ryan. "The complaint was, in my view, light on facts that substantiate the claim that the law had been broken."

Sherwood dismissed Ryan's assessment, saying that a Campaign Legal Center board member donated to Edwards's 2006 campaign against Wynn.

The FEC will probably not act on the complaint until after the election.

© 2008 The Washington Post Company