While the ethics scandals that have multiplied around top fundraisers and earmark recipients of Rep. John Murtha, D-Pa., have yet to involve him directly, he now faces a challenge from a different direction: A well-financed opponent.
William Russell, the Republican aiming to do battle with Murtha in the general election, trounced the longtime legislator with an astonishing $2 million in campaign contributions raised–more than House leaders John Boehner and Nancy Pelosi, more than double that of the next-highest grossing challenger, and nearly three times that of Murtha’s haul of $712,000, the most recent campaign finance disclosures filed with the Federal Election Commission show.
While almost 40 percent of Murtha’s take came from political action committees, Russell’s haul came almost entirely from individuals–and without help from the National Republican Congressional Committee. The contributions are largely from out-of-state, indicating that the support may be more about displacing Murtha.
The fundraising total is an indicator that Murtha faces a serious challenge this November, but Russell is doing more than stockpiling a dangerous warchest: With more than a year from the election, he has mounted an active campaign and spent nearly as much as he’s raised.
Murtha, chairman of the House Defense Appropriations Subcommittee, has taken heat for his ties to defense companies, whose PACs provide him with more support than those from any other sector, and for the earmarks he’s steered to contributors. One of his top contributors over his career, the lobbying firm PMA Group–which specialized in getting defense earmarks and contracts for its clients–disbanded after the FBI raided its offices; it remains under investigation.
To get more campaign data all in one place, quicker than anyone else, here’s Sunlight’s easy-to-use spreadsheet of House campaign finance info as of noon today.