One of the biggest raps on Terry McAuliffe is that he's a Virginia outsider and a Washington insider.
Big money from out-of-state donors to the Democratic nominee for governor -- $8.6 million out of $11.6 million overall -- isn't helping appearances. That means 74 percent of the money received by the former chairman of the Democratic National Committee came from outside Virginia, compared with 53 percent for the Republican nominee, Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, according to the nonpartisan Virginia Public Access Project.
In a state with no limits on individual campaign donations, McAuliffe's six-figure benefactors include Robert L. Johnson of Monroe, Conn., the founder of Black Entertainment Television; Peter Angelos of Baltimore, owner of the Baltimore Orioles baseball team; Haim Saban of Beverly Hills, Calif., chairman of the Univision television network; and William Adams of Los Angeles, otherwise known as the musician will.i.am. McAuliffe also got $100,000 from former President Clinton, who listed his Chappaqua, N.Y., address.
"The money does reinforce the perception of the close ties that he has to people outside of Virginia," said Craig Brians, associate professor of political science at Virginia Tech University, recalling that McAuliffe's debut television ad cast him as a family man rooted in Virginia for more than 20 years. "He's obviously concerned about that perception. The question is: Does the carpetbagger criticism resonate with people in Virginia?"
McAuliffe's campaign says such criticism is unfounded, pointing out that he and Cuccinelli are running even in donations from Virginia, $2.96 million to $3.04 million. Most of McAuliffe's donors, 73 percent, live in Virginia, according to the campaign.
"The thousands of Virginians who have contributed to Terry's campaign are a testament to the excitement and momentum for his candidacy," spokesman Josh Schwerin said.
McAuliffe, who grew up in Syracuse and never held elected office in Virginia, has tried to soften his image as a Democratic money man by downplaying his party leadership and pitching himself as a moderate businessman. But the failure of two of his business ventures to get off the ground in Virginia is complicating the McAuliffe makeover. Republican attacks portray him as a political opportunist who sold access to the White House.
"It shouldn't surprise Virginians that Terry McAuliffe, who thought about running for governor in New York and Florida before Virginia, is being bankrolled by out-of-state donors and union bosses," Cuccinelli spokesman Richard Cullen said. "He's the consummate Washington political insider."
McAuliffe is relying on out-of-state donations even more than he did in his 2009 campaign, when 65 percent of his money came from outside Virginia, according to VPAP.
One reason the Virginia governor's race is attracting so much money from out of state is that it's an off-year election with only two gubernatorial races nationwide (The other one is New Jersey, where Gov. Chris Christie is a clear favorite.) So for major political donors who want to help lay the groundwork for the 2014 midterms, the Virginia governor's race is the marquee race of 2013.
McAuliffe raised more than $1.9 million in June and has about $6 million in the bank. Cuccinelli raised $1.1 million and has nearly $2.7 million. One obvious sign of McAuliffe's fatter campaign account: a more aggressive television campaign.
His latest ad accuses the attorney general of helping two out-of-state energy companies battling with landowners in Southwest Virginia over royalties from methane gas extracted from their property. One of the companies, Pennsylvania-based Consol Energy, has donated $100,000 to Cuccinelli's campaign.
Two other anti-Cuccinelli ads have been sponsored by the Virginia Democratic Party, which has received $800,000 from McAuliffe. The campaign declined to answer questions about whether it was funneling money to the party so it did not have to sponsor the attacks.
Neither McAuliffe nor the state party have yet put money behind a brewing scandal involving an ally of Cuccinelli and Gov. Bob McDonnell. Jonnie Williams, who heads nutritional supplement manufacturer Star Scientific, has given $145,000 to the governor and his wife, including expensive clothing, a Rolex watch, and checks to defray the costs of their daughters' weddings, according to The Washington Post. Cuccinelli has tried to distance himself from the matter but he also has close ties to Williams, accepting vacations at his home and airplane flights and investing more than $10,000 in stock in his company.