Home 2019 Elections Final 2019 Data Show Enormous Amounts of $$$ Poured In to Virginia...

Final 2019 Data Show Enormous Amounts of $$$ Poured In to Virginia General Assembly Races

Dominion was a big player, but in 2019 was countered by anti-Dominion forces for a change

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According to data compiled by VPAP, there was a ton of money raised and spent during 2019 for Virginia State Senate and House of Delegates elections. See below for the top donors to the Senate and House, as well as a few things that jumped out at me from the numbers. First…the top donors to State Senate races.

  • First of all, as you can see below, Virginia Democrats poured money into their effort to take back control of the State Senate, with $4.9 million from the Virginia Senate Democratic Caucus and $2.1 million from the Democratic Party of Virginia. This compares to just $1.7 million from the Virginia Senate Republican Caucus and just $975k from the Republican Party of Virginia.
  • In part due to the Democrats’ big spending advantage, they took back control of the State Senate. On the other hand, despite the Republican disadvantage in terms of money, Senate Democrats were only able to pick up two seats and get to a very narrow, 21-19 majority. Unfortunately, this is likely to have repercussions during the 2020 and 2021 General Assembly sessions, as it’s quite possible that we’ll see progressive and environmental legislation passed by the House that doesn’t get through the Senate. We’ll see, but bottom line: Democrats really needed to pick up another seat or two for a comfortable margin in the Senate, particularly with a wildcard like Joe Morrissey as one of the Democrats’ 21 seats…
  • Also pouring money in, as usual, was the theoretically “regulated” monopoly utility Dominion Energy, which in fact uses its money to, de facto, regulate the regulators. In 2019, Dominion donated $580k to State Senate races, including $303k to Dems and $277k to Republicans. Now obviously,  Dominion does *not* donate all this money out of altruism, but instead out of pure self interest. So…who was Dominion interested in last year? Among others, two of the top recipients of Dominion’s largesse last year were Senate Majority Leader Dick Saslaw and Senate President Pro Tempore Louise Lucas, both of whom will play important roles in deciding what energy legislation passes – or is killed – in the State Senate this year. Do you think Dominion Energy might just have a wee bit or interest in that, and also that Tom Farrell and Company might try to influence the outcome? Yep, that’s the “Virginia Way,” where the theoretically “regulated” effectively do the regulating.
  • Fortunately, there are forces out there taking on Dominion Energy’s corrupt and corrupting power in Virginia. The main 2019 State Senate donors in that regards were Michael Bills ($520k), his wife Sonja Smith ($318k) and their group “Clean Virginia” ($77k), which has worked to wean legislators off Dominion $$$. We’ll see how effective they are, but so far, it seems like Dominion maintains a strong position as we proceed with the 2020 Virginia General Assembly session, with the likelihood that bills not to Dominion’s liking won’t pass or will be watered down to pass Dominion’s muster.
  • Other progressive groups pouring money in to Virginia State Senate races last year included Michael Bloomberg’s Everytown for Gun Safety ($554k), the Virginia League of Conservation Voters ($509k), Planned Parenthood ($404k), Win Virginia ($343k), Priorities USA Action ($326k), etc. Hopefully, their help in winning back the State Senate will pay off in terms of strong, progressive legislation on a wide variety of fronts – including the particular areas they are focused on – in 2020.
  • On the Republican side, big donors included the Virginia Senate Republican Caucus ($1.7 million), Senate GOP Leader Tommy Norment ($1.0 million), the Republican State Leadership Committee ($988k), the Republican Party of Virginia ($974k), Sen. Ryan McDougle ($367k), Dominion Energy ($277k), etc.
  • Also note the torrent of money pouring in from business, including gambling interests, healthcare industry interests, realtors, auto dealers, etc. Again, keep in mind that none of these folks give money out of altruism, so just ask yourself what they might want in return…

  • On the House of Delegates side, again Democrats raised and spent a huge amount of money, including $4.2 million by the House Democratic Caucus and $3.6 million by the Democratic Party of Virginia. All this money certainly didn’t hurt, as Democrats not only took back control of the House, but did so by a significant margin (55-45). Now, we’ll see how much they can accomplish, keeping in mind that the State Senate is only 21-19 Democratic.
  • On the Republican side, the biggest donors were the Republican Party of Virginia ($3.4 million), Kirk Cox’s Colonial Leadership Trust PAC ($1.8 million), the Republican State Leadership Committee ($1.8 million), the House Republican Campaign Committee ($635k) and right-wing donor Richard Uihlein ($516k). Fortunately for Virginia, this spending didn’t work…although without it, House Republicans almost certainly would have lost even more seats.
  • Dominion Energy ($428k; $235k to Dems, $194k to Republicans) was a big player on the House of Delegates side too. The top recipients of that money? First was then-Speaker Kirk Cox (R), followed by Del. Luke Torian (D), Del. Charniele Herring (D) and Del. Terry Kilgore (R). Looking at the top 20 or so recipients of Dominion money, they all appear to be friendly – or at least not *unfriendly* – to Dominion. Interesting how that works…
  • Countering Dominion were groups and individuals like the League of Conservation Voters ($644k), Michael Bills ($657k), Beyond Carbon Action Fund ($613k), Sonja Smith ($412k) and Clean Virginia ($164k).
  • Big progressive and/or environmental donors on the House of Delegates side in 2019 included Emily’s List ($1.0 million), Win Virginia ($714k), League of Conservation Voters ($644k), Michael Bloomberg’s Beyond Carbon Action Fund ($613k), Michael Bloomberg’s Everytown for Gun Safety ($456k), and Planned Parenthood ($382k).
  • As with the State Senate, there were also a litany of corporate/business interest donations last year, including from the gambling industry, realtors, auto dealers, the beer and wine industry.
  • And finally, worth noting are the donations to Democrats from labor groups, including the Mid-Atlantic Laborers, Carpenters and the Northern Virginia Area Labor Federation.