I’ve been perusing the year-end financial reports on VPAP, with a particular eye towards cash on hand for State Senate members, given that control of the Virginia State Senate is the most important thing on the ballot this year. In addition, the shocking news that Democratic Senate leader Dick Saslaw had “roughly $600,000 allegedly embezzled from his campaign account” piqued my interest even further in the status of Senate Democrats’ bank accounts heading into this crucial election year. What I found was not encouraging.
- As you can see from the screen capture at the right, the top Senators in terms of “cash on hand” at the end of 2014 were overwhelmingly Republicans, with the first Democrats (Chap Petersen and Jennifer Wexton) appearing way down at #9 and #10, after a slew of Republican heavy hitters.
- As for Dick Saslaw, who one would normally expect to be towards the top of this list, he’s way down there at #14, with just $144,419 cash on hand. Obviously, that’s not good news for Senate Democratic incumbents and candidates who normally look to Saslaw for large sums of money.
- So what happened to all of Saslaw’s money? We already mentioned the $600k that was embezzled into The Staylle Group, the Federal Leg. Association, and apparently someone named Lynn Miller. In addition, let’s not forget the money thrown away attempting to hold the hopelessly un-holdable Phil Puckett seat (one that went approximately 2:1 for Ken Cuccinelli in 2013).
- Saslaw also gave $50k to the Senate Democratic Caucus, which managed to end 2014 with the whopping total of $5,779 cash on hand. That compares to the Virginia Senate Republican caucus, which ended 2014 not just with control of the State Senate, but with cash on hand of $684,324 — nearly $680k more than the Senate Democratic Caucus. Ouch!
- So, you’re thinking perhaps Gov. McAuliffe might be able to bail Senate Democrats out? Perhaps, but he’ll have to raise a lot of money in 2015 to do so, as he ended 2014 with just $152,472 in his “Common Good Virginia” PAC. By way of comparison, Bob McDonnell had $1,720,672 cash on hand at the end of his first year as governor — more than ten times as much as Gov. McAuliffe has at the end of his first year.
- Also note that House Speaker Bill Howell ended 2014 with $586,331 cash on hand in his PAC. Fortunately, he faces a primary challenge from Susan Stimpson, so let’s hope Howell’s forced to waste a lot of his money fighting off Stimpson and not focusing on beating Democrats in 2015.
- Other relevant numbers: Lt. Governor Ralph Northam ended 2014 with $71,417 in his PAC, while AG Mark Herring had $31,238. For comparison purposes, Ken Cuccinelli had $263,558 cash on hand at the end of his first year as AG, while Bill Bolling had $328,265 at the end of his first year as Lt. Governor.
- It’s not much better in the House of Delegates either, with Republicans once again dominating the money contest.
Bottom line: Virginia Democrats appear to be heading into the crucial 2015 election year, with control of the State Senate hanging in the balance, at a serious financial disadvantage to Virginia Republicans. I keep thinking there MUST be a way to look at these numbers and come out with an optimistic conclusion, but damned if I’ve figured it out. Anyone else?