The House GOP PAC also received $25,000 from James Laurita, an executive with Morgantown-based coal operator MEPCO. Laurita has been a director of the West Virginia Family Policy Council, a leading opponent of same-sex marriage in the state. But Laurita also contributed to Democratic legislative candidates this year, campaign finance filings show.
House GOP PAC treasurer Dan Greear, a former Republican legislator, did not respond to requests for comment Friday.
The pro-Republican independent ads came as well from the Washington, D.C.-based GOPAC West Virginia, which spent around $54,000, and the West Virginia Republican Legislative Council, which spent around $41,000.
These groups and the House GOP PAC all hired a Pennsylvania firm, Red Maverick Media, for at least some of their campaigns. So did the Eastern Panhandle Freedom Fund, which similarly attacked Democratic legislative candidates in the election's closing weeks, and at least four of the Republican House nominees.
Democratic-affiliated PACs, meanwhile, spent less than $29,000 on independent ads. Those were mostly focused on aiding several unsuccessful Senate candidates, including defeated incumbent Sen. Mark Wills of Mercer County. Democratic candidates instead received ad support from labor union PACs, which spent at least $130,000 on direct mail targeting roughly the same array of House seats as the Republican-aligned PACs.
"I think it's something that we're going to have to look at as a party, or that our friends are going to have to look it," Van Horn said of the independent expenditure campaigns.
"From my perspective, we didn't have the money to compete with the Republican Party, and the money they received from out-of-state."
Van Horn's group, formed to protect the party's majority in both chambers, receives dues from Democratic legislators. In return, it offers to help them develop talking points and design ads, among other campaign services. The DLC was to some degree involved in all 11 House seats the Democrats lost, Van Horn said.
The Republican who defeated Wills, auto dealer Bill Cole, spent the most of any legislative candidate this year with more than $282,000. Cole loaned his campaign $190,000 of that. With nine of the 17 Senate seats up this year uncontested, the median spending by candidates for that body was $37,000.
Another Republican, John McCuskey, spent the most among House candidates, nearly $100,000 for his successful bid to join a redrawn four-seat district representing Kanawha County. Median spending among all House candidates topped $15,500. Both figures include spending on the May primary. McCuskey also led the chamber's hopefuls for spending during the general election, at over $71,300, while the median spending for that phase was $8,900.