House GOP Leaders Open Checkbooks in Nasty N.C. Runoff

Posted June 11, 2010 at 1:27pm

Former sportscaster Harold Johnson is getting insider assistance — contributions from House GOP leaders and Members who don’t want businessman Tim D’Annunzio to win a June 22 runoff in North Carolina’s 8th district.

Johnson’s latest campaign finance report showed that he last month received a $5,000 donation from the leadership political action committee of Minority Whip Eric Cantor (Va.) and a $2,000 contribution from the leadership PAC of California Rep. Kevin McCarthy, who heads up candidate recruitment efforts for the National Republican Congressional Committee.

And in just the past few days, Johnson received contributions from the House Conservatives Fund and committees linked to NRCC Chairman Pete Sessions (Texas), Deputy NRCC Chairman Greg Walden (Ore.) and Rep. Howard Coble of North Carolina’s 6th district, as well as the campaign committee of Rep. Walter Jones of North Carolina’s 3rd district.

Johnson also is spending his own money on the race and put in $50,000 on June 3, bringing his total personal campaign loans to $290,000.

GOP leaders see D’Annunzio, who has admitted to prior drug use and went through a messy divorce, as too flawed a candidate to freshman Rep. Larry Kissell (D) in November.

A GOP runoff was needed after D’Annunzio led Johnson 37 percent to 33 percent in the May 4 primary. Kissell won 63 percent in the Democratic primary, an outright win.

The runoff has been contentious, with D’Annunzio filing a lawsuit this week that accuses Johnson of defaming his character after a Johnson ad said D’Annunzio has led “a life of drugs” and “a life of crime.”

D’Annunzio, a millionaire who is primarily self-financing his campaign, raised $312,000 between April 15 and June 2, of which $275,000 came in the form of a loan he made to his campaign.

After spending $430,000 during the reporting period, D’Annunzio had less than $18,000 left in the bank. So he turned to his best source of funding: himself.

D’Annunzio put in another $100,000 of personal money on June 10, bringing his total personal investment in the race to more than $1.3 million.

Kissell is slightly favored to hold the Charlotte-area seat regardless of who wins the Republican runoff.