Eighth Congressional District candidate Darcy Burner has raised more money than her opponent, U.S. Rep. Dave Reichert. Reichert says her high percentage of out-of-district contributions prove she lacks support inside the district.

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Throughout her two campaigns for the 8th Congressional District seat held by Republican Dave Reichert, Darcy Burner has attracted attention for her ability to raise a lot of money.

This week, Burner, a Democrat, reported she’d raised $1.2 million in three months, more than double what Reichert raised in the same time period.

It’s unusual for a challenger to outpace an incumbent in fundraising — especially a well-known, two-term incumbent like Reichert. The cash guarantees a television advertising blitz in the next two weeks, and it’s brought to the forefront an accusation by Reichert’s campaign that donors outside the district are trying to buy Burner a seat in Congress.

They’re especially wary of Burner’s success raising money online. She’s making under-the-radar appeals on national blogs, said Mike Shields, Reichert’s campaign manager.

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Burner has said her median campaign contribution of $50 ensures her independence — she won’t owe anything to lobbyists or political action committees if she’s elected.

But the federal government doesn’t require reporting of donations under $250, so those small contributions are essentially anonymous. In Burner’s campaign, they add up to $938,592 — more than six times Reichert’s small-donation total of $141,455.

Reichert’s campaign manager says many of Burner’s small donations come from Democrats who live outside the district and learned about Burner online through liberal blogs that raise money for her campaign.

“In many ways, this election is a referendum on whether or not people from around the country can decide who your representative will be,” Shields said.

Burner lost narrowly to Reichert in 2006, and some recent polls show Reichert leading, while others show Burner ahead. Her strong fundraising helped her get recognized in 2006 by mainstream Democrats as a legitimate candidate, and helped her fend off a serious primary challenger for her second run against Reichert.

Now her opponent wants to use it to show she’s out of touch with voters in the 8th District, which includes parts of Eastern King and Pierce counties.

The most recent fundraising reports show that Reichert, too, raises quite a bit of money from outside the district. A little less than half of the approximately $925,000 he’s raised from individual donations has come from people who listed a ZIP code inside the 8th District.

About 40 percent of Burner’s total from individual donations has come from in-district addresses.

Burner has more donors overall — 2,742 compared to Reichert’s 1,283, according to reports filed with the Federal Election Commission. Of individual donors, about 450 of Burner’s list in-district ZIP codes; about 350 of Reichert’s do, according to the federal reports.

Burner’s campaign says her greater number of in-district contributors shows she has more support than Reichert inside the district. They point out that Reichert collects a lot more money from political-action committees and lobbyists than Burner does.

“Both candidates are receiving support from outside the state, just in different ways,” said Sandeep Kaushik, Burner’s campaign spokesman. “We’ve received small contributions from individuals through our online fundraising, and Congressman Reichert has received hundreds of thousands more from inside-the-beltway PACs.”

But Shields said PAC money is “just a matter of being an incumbent.” His voting record attracts the attention of groups that agree with him, he said.

In addition to the campaign money, outside groups are buying ads in support of both candidates.

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee bought a television ad supporting Burner, and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the National Right to Life PAC, and an independent business group are running ads in support of Reichert.

Emily Heffter: 206-464-8246 or eheffter@seattletimes.com

Seattle Times staff reporter Justin Mayo contributed to this report.

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