Dr. Don Summers, a professor in the Department of Physics and Astronomy at the University of Mississippi, was watching CNN one night when Gloria Allred, the famed women’s rights attorney, came on.
The topic was the accusations of sexual assault being levied against Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore. Allred had taken up the case of one of the accusers, Beverly Young Nelson, and host Wolf Blitzer was pressing her on some of the details. Eventually, the discussion turned to a high school yearbook that Nelson said Moore had signed for her.
Was it forged, Blitzer asked.
Allred didn’t give a straight answer, at least as Summers saw it. Only later would Nelson reveal that she’d personally written the date and location of the yearbook inscription while continuing to stress that the rest had been written by Moore.
By that point, Summers’ mind had long been made up. He wrote a $2,000 to Moore’s campaign the day the CNN interview aired.
“I like Wolf Blitzer. It was his question [that got me to donate],” he explained in a phone interview with The Daily Beast. “It is what the whole campaign hinges on. It was the only physical evidence and now it is coming apart.”
Summers is a Republican and has given to other candidates before. But the Moore check was different in part because he doesn’t actually like the candidate all that much.
“I’m not a terrible fan of Roy Moore,” he said. “I supported him because he got a raw deal.”
Summers is part of a modestly-sized universe of people who have decided, for whatever reason, to write checks for the Alabama special election Senate race during its frantic closing days. A review of campaign finance data from late November to present (campaigns must disclose all contributions of $1,000 or more within 20 days of an election) shows that the vast majority of people giving to both Moore and his Democratic opponent Doug Jones are from outside of the state. Of the $141,500 in donations that Moore has reported to the Federal Election Commission since Nov. 28, just $40,000 has come from contributors in Alabama.
The pattern is even starker for Jones. He’s received nearly $210,000 since November 28 from out-of-state donors, and just $13,700 from individuals in Alabama, FEC filings show.
It’s not uncommon for close congressional elections to become pricey affairs. What’s unique about the Alabama race is how little each side seems to be motivated by their respective candidates themselves. Jones’ candidacy drew middling attention nationally until the accusations that Moore sexually preyed on teenage girls surfaced. Since then he has been a conduit for those eager to ensure that the Republican candidate never finds his way into the Senate.
Of the 140 contributors that Jones has disclosed in periodic reports to the FEC since late November, just 12 are Alabamians. Nearly half of them are from California, New York, or Washington D.C. And one currently resides in Hong Kong. Jones received contributions from some big names in media and politics, including late night talk show host Jimmy Kimmel, who has publicly feuded with Moore, and pundit and former congressman Harold Ford Jr., who was recently fired from investment bank Morgan Stanley over allegations of sexual harassment (Ford has denied the allegations).
All of Jones’ recently disclosed donors are individuals. Moore, by contrast, has accepted $1,000 from a prohibited source, an Oregon company called I.T. Management (corporations are prohibited from donating money to political campaigns) along with donations from a handful of political action committees, including the National Right to Work Committee PAC, and a newer, more obscure group called the Asian American GOP Coalition PAC.
The National Community Pharmacists Association PAC, also gave $5,0000 to Moore’s campaign, though a spokesman for the group said that donation came at the behest of local members.
“We had sent that money because a bunch of our members in our state asked us to do that,” the spokesman explained.
The spokesman also stressed that the group wrote its check before the controversies surrounding Moore erupted. But once that dramatic turn came, Moore’s candidacy morphed into a vehicle for pushing back on a host of outside forces, from the establishment Republicans who were calling for him to exit the race, to the mainstream media that covered his scandals.
Raj Patel, the owner of New Jersey-based Smart Tax Solutions, donated $1,000 to Roy Moore’s campaign on November 30. He gave, he explained, not because of some personal affinity for Moore—“I personally don’t know Roy Moore. I never met him. I haven’t been to Alabama. I might go one day if he invites me to his Christmas Party”— but because he likes Donald Trump and feels protective of the administration’s legislative agenda.
“Everything is screwed up in this country,” Patel said.
Patel, who immigrated from India, said he was bothered neither by Moore’s hardline stance against immigration nor the accusations from his past.
“He never had sex,” he exclaimed at one point. “President Clinton had sex with them in the oval office.”
Later, Patel conceded that Moore “might have tried” to have sex with the girls who accused him of assault.