Home Virginia Politics Should a Candidate be Judged by Her Contributors?

Should a Candidate be Judged by Her Contributors?


Let’s do a simple, quick, but potentially helpful thought experiment. If you learned that Candidate X was funded heavily by gay rights groups, pro-choice groups, environmental groups, labor unions, the ACLU, and the NAACP, would you assume that candidate was: a) Republican; or b) Democratic? And, if you learned that Candidate Y was funded heavily by Karl Rove’s super-PAC, the Koch brothers, Exxon Mobil, the NRA, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and “right-to-life” groups, would you assume that candidate was a) Republican; or b) Democratic?

Of course, there are exceptions to every rule, but this one’s pretty obvious: Candidate X is about 99% certain to be a Democrat, while Candidate Y is about 99% certain to be a Republican. That’s just the way it goes in today’s America, like it or not.

Now, let’s take a real-life example: a super-rich real estate developer named Preston Caruthers, who has given heavily to Republicans at the federal level – George Allen, Lisa Marie Cheney, Frank Wolf, Jim Gilmore, John Thune, Bob Goodlatte, Eric Cantor, Keith Fimian, George W. Bush, the National Republican Senatorial Committee, the Republican Party of Virginia, John McCain, Tom Davis, and Scott Rigell — over the years.

In addition, Caruthers has given $215,580 to Virginia state and local candidates over the years, of which 81% went to Republicans (Bob McDonnell, Corey Stewart, Jerry Kilgore, Jim Gilmore, Bill Bolling, Ken Cuccinelli, Barbara Comstock, Dave Albo, Jeff Frederick, etc.

Now, in fairness, Caruthers has also given to a few Democrats over the years, but not many, and just a tiny fraction of the amount he’s given to Republicans. Which makes one wonder, why would he give to Democrats at all? As always, I’d suggest that we “follow the money.” In this case, what you need to know is that Caruthers is “a prominent Northern Virginia real estate owner and developer.” So, to the extent he gives to Democrats, you’d expect it would be to people he considers as highly favorable to real estate and development issues. In fact, that does largely appear to be the case, as Caruthers gave to folks like Dick Saslaw, who has received $543,968 from “Real Estate/Construction” over the years, and who – not surprisingly – receives strong ratings from pro-business groups and mediocre-to-weak ratings from environmental groups (e.g., 58% from the Virginia LCV from 2000 to 2010).

In sum, Preston Caruthers is a die-hard Republican, who occasionally donates to pro-development, pro-real-estate-industry Democrats like Dick Saslaw. Which is why it’s raised some eyebrows that Caruthers is generously donating to Democrat Barbara Favola’s campaign for State Senate, especially since another major Arlington-area developer, John Shooshan, is actually chair of Favola’s fundraising committee!

It gets even more unseemly when you consider that the Arlington County Board, of which Favola is a member, has an internal agreement not to take money from real estate developers with business before the board. To put it mildly, John Shooshan has had business before the board over the years, and is almost 100% guaranteed to have it in the future as well. Yet Favola, who remains on the board and has not even recused herself, is taking large sums of money from Shooshan, and has even named him chair of her finance committee.

That, right there, is pretty much the definition of “appearance of impropriety.” Beyond that, it’s highly revealing that Shooshan and diehard Republican Caruthers feel they’ve found a kindred spirit – and, more to the point, a future vote in their favor if she’s elected to the State Senate – in Favola. Sure, they could be mistaken, but I’d just point out that these guys didn’t get super-rich by being idiots, or by not knowing their own  self interest. Let’s just assume, per Ockham’s Razor, that they know exactly what they’re doing, and not that they made some sort of terrible mistake from their own self-interested point of view.

In sum, Barbara Favola is a huge favorite of big real estate developers, people who usually (80% or so in the case of Caruthers) donate to Republicans. What does that mean? According to the Jaime Areizaga-Soto campaign, it’s very simple: “The same person who funded Cuccinelli, McDonnell and other Republicans who are working to roll back reproductive rights, fighting against gay rights and slashing education dollars is also funding Barbara Favola. I think that’s cause for concern.” We agree, and believe that everyone should keep this in mind as they head to the polls on August 23.

P.S. By the way, the “defense” offered by former State Senator Ed Holland – that Caruthers is cool because he also gave $100,000 to keep the David M. Brown Planetarium open – is, uh, amusing. By that reasoning, the Koch brothers are cool as well, since – in addition to their heavy donations to right-wing and anti-envirionmental causes (e.g., climate science denial), they also donate heavily to medical research, the arts, and education. So, I guess if the Koch brothers give heavily to a Democrat, that’s not a cause for concern because they’ve done a few good things in their life, in addition to all the horrible things. Brilliant!

P.P.S. Then there’s the even more laughable defense of Favola by the right-wingnut, climate-science-denying, Ken-Cuccinelli-and-George-Allen-supporting, totally-beholden-to-the-real-estate-industry Sun Gazette. Our guess is that their game, other than slavishly supporting the people who keep them (tenuously) in business, is actually to ditch Favola if she wins the nomination and strongly support Republican Caren Merrick in the general election. Meanwhile, they’ll continue to label anyone who supports non-“establishment” candidates as “far left” (you know, like everyone who supported Jim Webb vs. Harris Miller in 2006). Stay tuned…


Sign up for the Blue Virginia weekly newsletter

Previous articleVirginia News Headlines: Wednesday Morning
Next articleHow We Make Virginia the Best State in the Country to Get An Education