By MIKE BAKER
WILMINGTON (AP) — It didn't take long for North Carolina's candidates for U.S. Senate to lead voters away from the truth.
In their first joint appearance of the election season over the weekend, Republican Sen. Richard Burr and Democratic challenger Elaine Marshall tried out some of the early rhetoric they'll use to win support from voters in November. To start, they portrayed themselves as champions of the average voter, with Burr touting his fundraising numbers and Marshall trumpeting her work on fundraising laws.
Their comments at the Wilmington event, however, were deceiving. Here's a look at their statements and how they match up with the facts:
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BURR: "I'm proud of the fact that we've been very successful. And the majority, over 75 percent of my money, has come from individuals."
THE FACTS: Burr has a massive fundraising lead over Marshall, having saved up some $5 million for his re-election bid. But the GOP lawmaker's claim that more than 75 percent came from individuals is misleading, if not false.
Just 62 percent of the money Burr has officially reported so far in this election cycle has come from individual donors. More than $2 million of his money has come from the political action committees of interest groups and businesses, such as insurer Blue Cross Blue Shield, drug company Pfizer and maligned oil company BP.
Burr's fundraising also relies more on money from interest groups than many of his counterparts in Congress. The 24 senators running for re-election average about 72 percent from individuals, according to numbers compiled by the Center for Responsive Politics.
Burr's campaign said Monday that the lawmaker was referring to the 75 percent he has raised from individuals in the current fundraising quarter — money which hasn't yet been reported to the Federal Election Commission. Campaign spokeswoman Samantha Smith said 77 percent of the $1.69 million raised so far in this quarter has come from individuals.
Adding those numbers to Burr's campaign total would bring the share from individuals to 64 percent.
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MARSHALL: "When I took on lobbying reform, it was to challenge the special interests and to try and take the influence of money out of the political process. We've done a very good job of restricting things in North Carolina."
THE FACTS: Marshall was a major player in creating laws that prohibited lobbyists from donating to some campaigns in the state. If Marshall were running for re-election as secretary of state, for example, lobbyist contributions to her campaign would be illegal.
But as a candidate for federal office, Marshall has been unapologetic about taking money from the same lobbyists that she still regulates as secretary of state. At least five lobbyists have contributed a total of $2,500 to her campaign — a small fraction of Marshall's total donations but a test to her anti-lobbyist rhetoric nonetheless.
Marshall has argued that the donations came from lobbyists who are longtime friends — a defense that seems to contradict a message Marshall pushed on Saturday in which she argued that oil spill regulators have been too cozy with the people they oversee.