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Big money in play for North Carolina U.S. Senate race

Big money at play in North Carolina Senate race
Republican incumbent Thom Tillis and Democratic challenger Cal Cunningham have spent a combined total of more than $233 million on advertising. (Photo credit: WLOS staff)

North Carolina is well on its way to claiming a record for the most expensive U.S. Senate race in American history.

Republican incumbent Thom Tillis and Democratic challenger Cal Cunningham have spent a combined total of more than $233 million on advertising. Some of their contributions came from outside the campaign, funds that are called dark money.

Tillis made a stop in Henderson County on Friday to rally about 30 volunteers, who heard about his recovery from a bout with COVID-19 and what he’ll do if he’s re-elected.

This is the grassroots approach to winning votes. Then there’s the big money game funded by political action committees.

In this race, outside donors have added a total of $141 million to what the candidates had already spent.

"I actually feel like we should figure out a better way to have campaigns supported and get rid of a lot of the dark money," Senator Tillis said.

"They call it dark money for a reason. It’s harder to follow, it’s harder to track," Western Carolina University Political Science and Public Affairs Department head Chris Cooper said.

Professor Cooper says Congressional races always lead to a great deal of fundraising by both parties, but that 2020 is different by a long-shot.

"It’s like going up a small hill then all of the sudden you’re going up the side of Mount Mitchell. The increase this year has just been astronomical," Cooper said. But Cooper said it’s not necessarily all about who raises the most money. "If that were true, we’d be talking right now about President Hillary Clinton," he said.As far as dark money, Cooper doesn’t see it getting better anytime soon."No candidate is going to be the first one to say, 'Hey, I’m not going to take as much money as they can.' So, it is a hard system to figure out how to reform," Cooper said. "I think we all agree it’s a problem."
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