Democrat Natalie Tennant Received Thousands from Liberal Megadonors

Portrays opponent as beholden to Wall Street donors

West Virginia Secretary of State Natalie Tennant / AP
May 20, 2014

West Virginia Democratic Senate candidate Natalie Tennant has received thousands of dollars from groups backed by liberal megadonors such as George Soros despite decrying outside spending by special interest groups, according to campaign finance records.

Tennant, currently West Virginia’s secretary of state, is running to fill the seat long held by retiring Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D., W.Va.). Her campaign website says "lobbyists and special interest insiders have too much power in Washington," and she has portrayed her opponent, Rep. Shelley Moore Capito (R., W.Va.), as a candidate beholden to Wall Street donors.

However, Tennant has not mentioned the financial support she has received from outside groups.

Tennant’s top campaign contributor so far this cycle is EMILY’s List, a national political action committee that works to elect pro-abortion female Democrats and is financially supported by the Open Society Foundation, which is funded by George Soros. EMILY’s List and the group Progressive Women Silicon Valley will host a fundraiser for Tennant next month in California.

Additionally, Tennant was one of four victorious secretary of state candidates backed in the 2008 elections by the Secretary of State Project (SOSP), a liberal 527 group that spent almost $280,000 that cycle to elect progressive secretary of state candidates, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

SOSP, which included Soros among its donors, said it aimed to "[wrest] control of the country from the Republican Party" by "removing their political operatives from deciding who can vote and whose votes will count." The group accused GOP secretaries of state in Florida and Ohio of manipulating election results in favor of George W. Bush in the 2000 and 2004 presidential elections, charges both denied.

SOSP has not donated any money this cycle and its website is now offline after several of its official candidates lost in the 2010 elections.

Members of the Democracy Alliance—a shadowy network of liberal megadonors and organizations also backed by Soros—donated substantial sums to the group, according to the Center for Public Integrity.

Brian Savilla, a former West Virginia state lawmaker who unsuccessfully ran against Tennant for secretary of state in 2012, said in an interview that Tennant appears hypocritical for criticizing outside spending while accepting it herself.

"It’s the pot calling the kettle black," he said.

Savilla said Tennant pushed policies advocated by SOSP as secretary of state, including online voting. West Virginia used an online voting pilot project for military service members and other citizens overseas in the 2010 elections, a practice that has raised concerns among some prominent Internet security experts.

Tennant also attracted scrutiny after a company owned by one of the vendors involved in the pilot program, Scytl-USA, failed to properly update the state’s campaign finance website ahead of the May primaries. She said last month that the Florida-based company, SOE Software, was "being held accountable" in light of its $210,000 contract with the state.

"It’s no surprise Natalie Tennant’s campaign is being propped up by the same special interest groups that she loves to condemn," said Conrad Lucas, chairman of the West Virginia GOP, in an email. "She’s already made the rounds to New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Seattle, and soon Silicon Valley, to gin up support from the far-left donors who want another Obama clone in the Senate."

"This level of hypocrisy and dishonesty is simply dumbfounding and an insult to the intelligence of West Virginia voters," he added.

A Tennant spokesperson did not respond to a request for comment.

Tennant’s campaign has been plagued so far by accusations that she mismanaged several routine election procedures as secretary of state, including delayed voter registration information and ballot errors that cost state taxpayers more than $200,000 to fix.

Capito is leading Tennant by double digits in several recent polls, prompting national Republicans to eye the seat as a potential pickup in the midterm elections this fall. The GOP needs six net seats to obtain a majority in the Senate.