RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — Clay Aiken isn’t happy that millions of dollars in outside money is pouring into his Democratic primary race for Congress.

“We’re the party that opposes dark money, and we’re the party that is swimming in it right now,” Aiken said earlier this week.

But one leading political scientist questions whether the object of Aiken’s criticism even qualifies as dark money in the first place.

“Is it dark money? Is it light money? I don’t know,” Western Carolina political science professor Chris Cooper said. “So the very least, kind of a charcoal-gray kind of money.”

What isn’t being debated: That there are massive amounts of outside cash flooding the Democratic primary in the state’s 4th Congressional District, where the highest-profile candidates include Aiken, the former American Idol runner-up; state senator Valerie Foushee and Durham County Commissioner Nida Allam.

The overwhelming majority of it has gone to Foushee, the biggest beneficiary of spending from PACs tied to a 30-year-old cryptocurrency billionaire and a lobbying group that advocates for pro-Israel policies.

As of Friday, about $3.3 million in outside money has been spent in support of Foushee.

“This is big money in a general election. This would be big money in a U.S. Senate race,” Cooper said. “In a congressional primary? I’ve just never seen anything like this. I don’t think anybody in the state of North Carolina has.”

But it’s not entirely dark money if we know who’s donating it.

More than $2 million came from the United Democracy Project, the super PAC for AIPAC — a pro-Israel lobbying group. Another $1 million was from the Protect our Future PAC — which was founded by 30-year-old cryptocurrency billionaire Sam Bankman-Fried.

“We know roughly where it’s coming from,” Cooper said. “But as far as the specifics of exactly who’s giving the money, and more importantly, why — that, we really don’t know.”

A spokesman for Protect our Future said the PAC supports candidates who “will be champions for pandemic prevention in Congress” and praised Foushee for her “strong leadership in unprecedented times” as a state senator during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“COVID-19 has devastated people from all corners of our nation,” PAC spokesman Mike Levine said in a statement. “Despite that, there has been little federal action targeted at actually preventing future pandemics. Protect Our Future is supporting a slate of lawmakers who we believe will be vocal advocates for pandemic prevention in Congress.”

What does Foushee make of the outside support she has received?

Campaign spokeswoman Anna Nunn said in a statement that AIPAC backs her along with several other members of Congress “because of her unequivocal support for a two-state solution in the Middle East and her belief that Israel is a critically important strategic ally — and the only democracy — in the region.

“The Jewish community in particular has long been a friend to the African-American community, marching arm-in-arm with Dr. King and other Black leaders during the civil rights movement,” Nunn said.

But why dump so much money in this particular primary race in this district — which has leaned reliably Democratic?

Perhaps no one has a clearer view of that than Asher Hildebrand, who before becoming a professor at Duke University was the chief of staff for the retiring Congressman the candidates are attempting to replace — David Price.

“I just think you see these outside groups thinking they can have much greater impact spending in contested primaries than they can have in the general election, where the battle lines are kind of already drawn and the voters are a lot harder to persuade,” Hildebrand said.