Is Dominion CEO Thomas Farrell Skirting Lobbying Rules?

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    Photo from Blue Ridge Leader

    Dominion CEO Thomas Farrell isn’t influencing legislation, he’s just sitting next to his childhood friend while he signs a bill at Dominion headquarters.

    At least, that’s what they’d have us believe.

    The recent revelations of the Virginia Tobacco Commission giving Dominion millions of dollars in corporate welfare beyond what the mega-corporation even asked for, in order to build a pipeline through Virginia land, lead to some embarrassing and potentially illegal details.

    It looks like McDonnell’s childhood friend and shadow governor hasn’t registered as a lobbyist for FIVE AND A HALF years, since April 2009:  

    Despite this, VPAP lists Farrell giving McDonnell lavish meals in summer and fall 2009: $303 for “Catering” in May 2009 and $166 for “Meeting Expenses” in October 2009 – and a whopping $60,000 in direct donations. Then, he was a chair of McDonnell’s transition team, responsible for handing out patronage appointments.

    Are we expected to believe that lobbying activity ceased at this point when, it seems, no one in Virginia was a more potent lobbyist than Thomas Farrell?

    If he had registered as a lobbyist in 2008-9, then certainly he would have ample reason to re-register. But McDonnell’s lawyers never met a gift they didn’t lie about.

    The lobbying rules for Virginia are very strict – people must register if they try to affect any of the following:  

    “1. Preparation, research, drafting, introduction, consideration, modification, amendment, approval, passage, enactment, tabling, postponement, defeat, or rejection of a bill, resolution, amendment, motion, report, nomination, appointment, or other matter by the General Assembly or a legislative official;

    2. Action by the Governor in approving, vetoing, or recommending amendments for a bill passed by the General Assembly; or

    3. Action by the General Assembly in overriding or sustaining a veto by the Governor, considering amendments recommended by the Governor, or considering, confirming, or rejecting an appointment of the Governor.”

    Interestingly, Thomas’ own son, 20-something multimillionaire Peter Farrell, was gifted a seat in the General Assembly by a county committee decision of four people in 2011. From 2010 to the present, VPAP indicates that Thomas has outstanding loans to his son of more than $50,000. Meanwhile, they made a Civil War movie flop together – with $1 million in Virginia tax incentives and goodies. We are somehow meant to believe he never discusses legislation with his lawmaker son.

    The fine for failing to register as a lobbyist is a civil penalty of $50 per day, a rounding error to a man who taxes our power bills an extra $11 million per year just for his own personal compensation. (I guess we see why that $30 million gift from Virginia taxpayers was necessary.)

    Why did Thomas Farrell stop registering as a lobbyist in April 2009, seven months before his close friend was elected Governor and two years before his son got in office?

    Maybe there’s a loophole big enough to drive a pipeline through.