Amazon has now chipped in campaign cash to every one of Arlington’s representatives in Richmond, kicking in the relatively small total of $3,500 to the seven state lawmakers representing the future home of one of its new headquarters.
The tech company spread out the contributions over the course of last November and December, according to new campaign finance reports released yesterday (Tuesday), starting to wade into Virginia politics in the immediate aftermath of its big announcement that it would soon bring 25,000 workers to offices in Pentagon City and Crystal City.
All but one of Amazon’s donations to Arlington’s legislative delegation were either $250 or $500 in size, generally a pretty small sum in even the largely sleepy world of statehouse elections. For instance, none of the contributions were anything close to the largest sums county lawmakers received in the six-month period measured in the new reports, running from July through December 2018.
But the contributions do signal that the tech company is ready to start stepping up its involvement in state politics as it prepares to massively expand its presence in Virginia, particularly as the General Assembly gears up to approve an incentive package for Amazon that could send the company as much as $750 million in grants over the next two decades. Jeff Bezos’ firm has generally not chipped much money for state lawmakers in the past, but did start to ramp up some of its political giving early last year.
The tech firm was considerably more generous to Virginia’s statewide leaders. Amazon chipped in $4,000 for Gov. Ralph Northam’s political action committee last month, and sent $1,000 to Attorney General Mark Herring, who’s announced a bid for governor in 2021. The company also sent $4,000 to a PAC supporting Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax, who is broadly rumored to be mulling his own bid for governor, and another $1,000 to House Speaker Kirk Cox’s PAC.
The cash from the company also comes as Democrats are increasingly viewing corporate donations with intense skepticism. Northam and other Democrats in the legislature are currently backing a ban on corporate cash in state elections, and Del. Alfonso Lopez (D-49th District) went so far as to return the $1,000 check Amazon sent to his campaign to avoid any appearance of political favoritism.
That check was the largest one the company sent to any local lawmaker — Lopez represents a collection of South Arlington neighborhoods immediately surrounding Amazon’s planned “National Landing” offices.
The company sent $500 checks to state Sens. Adam Ebbin (D-30th District), Barbara Favola (D-31st District) and Janet Howell (D-32nd District), and one to Del. Rip Sullivan (D-48th District). Dels. Patrick Hope (D-47th District) and Mark Levine (D-45th District) each received $250 contributions from the company. Notably, Amazon does not appear to have given any money to any of Arlington’s five County Board members last year.
While Amazon may attract the most attention these days, it was political action committees, generally controlled by corporations, that sent Arlington’s lawmakers the most cash in the second half of 2018.
Ebbin raised the most cash of any county legislator for the six-month period, pulling nearly $119,000 in all and assembling a campaign war chest of about $101,000. Of that haul, $8,500 came courtesy of PACs.
Arlington’s other senators pulled in quite a bit more from those committees. Howell, who placed second in the cash race among county lawmakers, raised about $76,000 over the last six months and now has nearly $267,000 socked away in her campaign account.
She scored about $29,000 of that amount from PACs, including $2,000 from Dominion Energy’s political giving arm — many Democrats, including the bulk of Arlington’s delegation, have pledged to refuse money from the utility company, arguing it would be inappropriate to accept cash from one of the state’s few regulated monopolies.
Favola finished third for the cycle, raising about $58,000 and racking up a war chest of about $185,000. She accepted about $22,650 in PAC money, including $1,000 from Dominion. Advanced Towing, the company made infamous for its run-in with TV personality Britt McHenry back in 2015, also sent her a $1,000 check.
Favola is one of just two Arlington lawmakers facing a primary challenge so far this year, with local activist Nicole Merlene challenging her for the Democratic nomination. Merlene has yet to report any fundraising activity, as she declared her candidacy just a few weeks ago.
The same goes for Julius “J.D.” Spain, the head of Arlington’s chapter of the NAACP, who is challenging Lopez.
As for Lopez himself, he reported raising about $50,100 for the cycle, and has about $63,300 in the bank. He took about $9,750 in PAC money, but his biggest contributors were generally environmental groups, as he’s also refused Dominion cash.
Michael Bills, a Charlottesville investor focused on environmental issues, sent him $10,000. The group he founded dedicated to fighting Dominion’s influence in Richmond, Clean Virginia, added another $5,000.
The group also sent $2,500 to Levine, as part of his nearly $29,700 haul. He has about $13,400 in the bank, and reported accepting just $4,250 in PAC money.
Hope also earned $2,500 from the environmental advocates, adding to his total of more than $32,000. He reported having about $29,300 in his campaign account, and took about $5,900 in PAC cash.
Finally, Sullivan reported raising about $37,200 for the cycle, and now has more than $55,600 in the bank. He accepted $6,750 in PAC money.
In the county’s local races, the Democratic primary pitting Commonwealth’s Attorney Theo Stamos against former public defender Parisa Tafti is shaping up to be competitive on the cash front.
Tafti reported pulling in more than $30,500 since launching her campaign against the county’s top prosecutor, while Stamos managed just over $5,900 over the last six months. Tafti now has about $18,000 in her campaign account, compared to Stamos’ $24,300.
Neither of the two incumbent County Board members up for re-election this year — Katie Cristol and Chair Christian Dorsey — have formally announced campaigns thus far, but both did take in some campaign cash in the back of 2018.
Cristol reported raising just over $5,400, and has more than $14,000 saved up should she run for a second term. Dorsey managed to pull in just $1,600, and has only $542 left in his campaign account.
School Board Chair Reid Goldstein, the lone member of that body running for re-election this year, reported raising just $15 to support his bid for the cycle. But he still has $4,400 left in the bank.
A June 11 primary will decide the Democratic nominations in the primary races, while all 140 state lawmakers and many county officeholders will face voters this November.
As Amazon moves into Arlington, it seems the company is ready to start spreading some of the wealth around to local lawmakers — but, so far, one has already turned down the tech giant’s cash.
Del. Alfonso Lopez (D-49th District) told ARLnow that Amazon sent him $1,000 in late October to back his re-election effort this year, just before announcing that it plans to set up a new headquarters in Pentagon City and Crystal City. In fact, Lopez’s South Arlington district covers some of the locations that the tech firm eventually plans to call home.
Yet Lopez says he quickly returned the contribution once Amazon formally selected Arlington, in order to avoid any implication that the company will influence his decision making in Richmond, no matter how small.
“While I would never allow a campaign contribution to affect my judgement as an elected official, trust in the government is essential,” Lopez wrote in a newsletter to constituents today (Monday) announcing his decision. “Constituents should have no doubts about the independence of my judgement, or think there are any motivations beyond doing what is right for the community. This is the right thing to do. Fostering trust in government is more important now than ever.”
Lawmakers are currently gearing up to vote on an incentive package that could someday send anywhere between $550 million and $750 million in state grant money to Amazon, so long as the company comes through on its promise to bring at least 25,000 jobs to the area. Legislators will also be charged with signing off on hundreds of millions more in transportation and education spending designed to lure the company to Arlington, likely to be included as part of a bill adjusting the state’s biennial budget.
Though the company has attracted plenty of criticism locally, the General Assembly is broadly expected to approve the incentives (negotiated primarily by Gov. Ralph Northam’s staff) by a wide margin. Yet Lopez’s move comes as Democratic politicians all over Virginia wrestle with the influence of corporations on the state’s politics.
A growing number of Democrats, Lopez included, have pledged to refuse money from state-regulated monopolies like Dominion Energy, long the biggest political donor in the state. Northam has also backed a ban on corporate donations of any kind in state elections, and Lopez has recently drawn a primary challenger pledging not to accept any cash from corporations.
In a separate bit of controversy, activists have targeted Lopez for scorn after he reported earning thousands of dollars from a company that runs an ICE detention center in Central Virginia.
In general, however, Amazon has yet to chip in much money for Virginia lawmakers, even though the company has long operated a variety of offices and data centers around the state.
But the tech firm did send Lopez $250 back in October 2017, and donated $5,000 to Northam’s inaugural committee last January. Amazon has also contributed $11,000 to the influential Northern Virginia Technology Council, and currently retains the services of nine lobbyists registered in Richmond, according to state records.
As for how much money the tech company has since donated to other state lawmakers, that won’t become clear until legislators submit final campaign finance reports covering the second half of 2018 tomorrow (Tuesday). All 140 lawmakers will be on the ballot this fall, and will soon begin reporting campaign contributions on a more regular basis.
Del. Patrick Hope (D-47th District) is swearing off campaign contributions from Dominion Energy and calling on his fellow Democrats to do the same, becoming the latest in a line of state lawmakers to reject money from one of Virginia’s only regulated monopolies.
Hope announced at his annual pancake breakfast Saturday (Jan. 5) that he’ll now stop accepting campaign cash from the electric utility, according to a video posted by the Democratic blog Blue Virginia. Hope has accepted $9,500 from Dominion since he was first elected back in 2009, but decided to stop doing so as he gears up to run for a sixth term in office this fall.
“I’ve heard from a lot of my constituents that the perception that you’re taking money is influencing your vote, whether it’s true or not,” Hope told attendees. “I can’t give enough speeches to convince my constituents that I’m voting not because they gave me a check, but because it’s the right thing to do. And I’m tired of making that speech over and over.”
Hope added that “every single Democrat that’s running for office should make that commitment” to refuse Dominion dollars, and many around the state already have.
Dominion has long been one of the top political donors in the whole state, yet politicians of both parties have increasingly argued that members of the General Assembly shouldn’t accept money from a company they’re charged with regulating — just last year, lawmakers oversaw an extensive rewrite of the state’s regulatory authority over electric utilities like Dominion.
The activist group Activate Virginia brought a focus to the issue during the last round of state elections in 2017, eliciting a pledge from dozens of Democrats running for the House of Delegates to refuse the company’s money.
Some of Arlington’s legislative delegation also followed suit, including Dels. Mark Levine (D-45th District), Alfonso Lopez (D-49th District) and Rip Sullivan (D-48th District). Lopez, like Hope, did previously accept Dominion contributions in the past, taking in about $4,500 since he was first elected in 2012.
The county’s three state senators, however, all still take thousands from Dominion. Sen. Janet Howell (D-32nd District) has accepted $50,000 from the company over the course of her long career, while Sen. Barbara Favola (D-31st District) has taken in $9,500 and Sen. Adam Ebbin (D-30th District) has pulled in $12,500. Local Democratic activist Nicole Merlene even recently launched a primary challenge against Favola, calling for a ban on contributions from state-regulated utilities as part of her campaign.
But Hope sees a sea change coming in Virginia politics on the issue. Attorney General Mark Herring became one of the most senior Democrats in the state to refuse Dominion cash when he announced he wouldn’t accept any of the company’s money as he ramps up a campaign for governor for the 2021 cycle, and Hope “wholeheartedly” endorsed the former Loudoun state senator’s nascent bid to succeed Gov. Ralph Northam.
“I’m going to take the same commitment he made because I don’t want him to be the only one there making it,” Hope said, with Herring in attendance.
PREDICTION: there will never be another statewide Democratic candidate for office that accepts money from Dominion. https://t.co/kjjgYfJoAL
— Patrick Hope (@HopeforVirginia) January 5, 2019
Northam himself rolled out a series of campaign finance reform proposals today (Monday), officially announcing his support for a ban on all corporate campaign contributions. Unlike 2017 primary rival Tom Perriello, Northam accepted nearly $73,000 in contributions from Dominion over the course of the gubernatorial campaign, but he pledged to push a ban on corporate cash once he was elected.
However, unless Democrats win an uphill battle in convincing the Republicans controlling both chambers of the General Assembly to embrace such a change, Northam plans to continue accepting such donations for his political action committee.
“Until we’re able to do that, I will continue to operate in the existing landscape,” Northam told reporters.
Don Beyer and Lavern Chatman are the early leaders in fundraising in the June 10 Democratic primary to replace retiring Rep. Jim Moran (D).
Beyer, the former Virginia lieutenant governor, has a sizable lead over the rest of the field. Beyer has raised $668,497 in contributions so far, spending $218,617 and holding onto $449,636 cash on hand, according to Federal Election Commission filing records. Separately, Beyer said he plans to follow fellow Democratic candidate Del. Patrick Hope’s lead in releasing his most recent tax return, on May 15.
Chatman, the former director of the Northern Virginia Urban League, has raised $278,197 in contributions — thanks in part to a fundraiser with talk show mogul Oprah Winfrey — and spent $84,729, leaving her with $213,467 cash on hand. Another Alexandria-based candidate, Mayor Bill Euille, is in third place in fundraising, with $214,571 in contributions, $41,062 spent and $173,509 cash on hand.
The Arlington-based candidates are led by Sen. Adam Ebbin, whose district includes parts of Arlington and Alexandria, with $178,591 in donations and $62,943 in expenditures. He has $114,878 on hand.
“The funds we have raised will enable us to wage the kind of grassroots, neighbor-to-neighbor campaign that has won Adam multi-candidate Democratic primaries before,” said Michael Beckendorf, Ebbin’s campaign manager, in a statement.
Hope is fifth in fundraising, having raised $176,534, spent $47,800, and has $138,733 on hand.
Among the other five candidates — Charniele Herring, Mark Levine, Derek Hyra, Bruce Shuttleworth and Satish Korpe — only Levine and Shuttleworth have more than $100,000 cash on hand, thanks to loans of $250,000 and $275,000 respectively.
“This is a people powered campaign,” Levine, a liberal talk radio host, said in a press release. “People from across the district and across the country are excited about my candidacy. Voters want an aggressive progressive voice that will stand up for progressive principles in the House.”
Korpe, the last Democrat to enter the race, has not filed any campaign finance reports with the FEC.
The two leading candidates for the vacant seat on the Arlington County Board are essentially even in fundraising with less than a week before the April 8 special election.
Democrat Alan Howze raised $84,984 in the first quarter of 2014, which ended March 28, according to the Virginia Public Access Project, which tracks campaign financing in the state. Republican- and Green-endorsed independent candidate John Vihstadt raised $84,154. However, if the candidates want to go on a spending spree in the final week, Vihstadt has $20,379 in cash on hand, compared to Howze’s $5,170.
Howze’s top donor since his campaign began — shortly after Election Day 2013 when longtime Board Member Chris Zimmerman announced his plans to retire — has been real estate broker Bob Adamson, who has given $2,944, more than the $2,000 Howze’s campaign has gotten from Jay Fisette’s 2012 campaign fund, attorney Christopher Shiplett, and the Baltimore Washington Construction & Public Employees Laborers PAC, which gave its $2,000 yesterday.
Vihstadt’s biggest contribution has been from his wife, Mary, for $5,666. He has also received $5,360 from attorney Stephen Huntoon and, on Monday, Arlington Firefighters donated $2,500 to Vihstadt’s campaign. Vihstadt has also received $1,000 from Democrat Board member Libby Garvey’s campaign funds.
Independent candidate Stephen Holbrook — who suggested that those who vote for Howze and Vihstadt will “go to hell” — has not filed any campaign finance records, while Independent Green candidate Janet Murphy has not disclosed any donations.
Two fellow Democrats are taking state Senate candidate Jaime Areizaga-Soto to task for campaign mailers sharply critical of his opponent, County Board member Barbara Favola.
The latest mailer shows Favola between Gov. Bob McDonnell and Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli with the headline “These politicians have a lot in common” — a reference to the fact that all three have accepted donations from local real estate developer, philanthropist and Republican political donor Preston Caruthers. (Favolva accepted a $5,000 donation from Caruthers.)
“I’m disappointed that my friend Jaime Areizaga-Soto has been persuaded that victory in the primary can be achieved through slick negative campaign mailings,” Del. Bob Brink said in a statement said in a statement last night.
Brink, who intended to stay neutral in the race, said he’s now endorsing Favola because of Areizaga-Soto’s negative mailers.
“Voters in our region have shown repeatedly that they want their public officials to talk about the issues that touch their daily lives, and that they have little tolerance for Karl Rove-style mudslinging,” he said. “Any candidate who doesn’t understand that is unqualified to represent us.”
Technology consultant and Not Larry Sabato blogger Ben Tribbett, who was once considering a run in the 31st District state Senate race, took particular exception with Areizaga-Soto’s accusation that Favola “sold her vote” to developers.
“We have so many voters in Arlington who are national political people, they’re too savvy to be misled like that,” Tribbett said. “I agree with Jaime, I don’t think that Barbara should be accepting donations from developers. It creates the appearance of impropriety. But she’s not doing anything illegal and she certainly has not sold her vote. If she sold her vote she would be in prison… Making an accusation like that really crosses the line.”
“I think a hard-nosed primary campaign on legitimate issues would be welcome,” Tribbett added. “That being said, I think the mailings are way too negative, they’re not factually accurate… and I think that Jaime loses a lot of credibility when he overstates his case.”
Favola has been fighting back against the Areizaga-Soto campaign’s allegations.
“My opponent has decided that the only way he can win is to peddle untruths, distort the facts and use personal attacks,” Favola said last month. “I have always been transparent on where I stand on the issues and I have always been loyal to my values. I have never sold my vote to anyone, ever.”
The comparison to McDonnell and Cuccinelli, meanwhile, is a serious allegation in a Democratic primary. In a debate at Wednesday’s Arlington County Democratic Committee meeting, Areizaga-Soto repeatedly referenced the two Republicans, calling their agenda “the biggest threat for the well-being and for the future of our Commonwealth.”
“I will fight back against the extremism that is holding our state back,” he said, citing Republican efforts to curb abortion rights and gay rights in Virginia. “I will go to Richmond and fight for our Democratic values.”
While the debate contained plenty of invective against McDonnell and Cuccinelli — Favola said “the McDonnell/Cuccinelli agenda is hateful, divisive and extreme” — it did not contain the fireworks that one might expect. Areizaga-Soto did not once bring up the Favola’s fundraising. Instead, the two candidates spent most of the evening agreeing with one another on issues like abortion, gay marriage, the environment, education and an increase in the gas tax to fund transportation infrastructure in Northern Virginia.
The biggest difference, if there was one, was on the issue of compromise. While Areizaga-Soto repeatedly pledged to be a “strong voice” for “progressive values,” Favola said she would work with Republicans to accomplish local goals.
“I know how to work both side of the aisle,” she said.
Areizaga-Soto told the Blue Virginia web site that it is “not ethical” for Favola to accept tens of thousands of dollars from developers who have recently had business before the county. She “should resign from the board or return the money immediately,” Areizaga-Soto said.
Earlier this year, Favola told ARLnow.com that her vote “can’t be bought.”
“People are contributing to me because they respect me and have confidence in me,” she said. “Everything here is reported, there is nothing illegal about what I have received.”
Favola and Areizaga-Soto are running for the 31st District state Senate seat, which is being vacated by the retiring Sen. Mary Margaret Whipple. The primary is scheduled for Aug. 23.
Krupicka’s biggest donor is businessman Robert Henry Duggar, who contributed $5,000 to his campaign. Ebbin’s biggest donor is the pro-immigrant-rights Laborers’ International Union of North America, which also contributed $5,000. Garvey’s biggest donor is the campaign fund of Sen. Patsy Ticer, who is retiring after 16 years of representing the 30th District. Ticer for Virginia Senate has contributed $10,000 to Garvey’s campaign.
On the Republican side, Alexandria businessman Michael Maibach
appears to be gearing up for a run (see below). Maibach told us he was thinking about entering the race, but so far hasn’t formally announced his candidacy. Nonetheless, “Mike Maibach for Senate” has $10,000 cash on hand after floating a large campaign loan. Meanwhile, a web site — mikemaibach.com — is currently under construction.
The 30th District currently includes much of South Arlington, as well as most of Alexandria and a portion of Fairfax County, although state legislators are still in the process of drawing new district boundaries. See the fundraising totals for local House of Delegates races on the Blue Virginia blog.
Update at 3:50 p.m. — Maibach says he is no longer planning on running, but notes that he has not made a final decision on the matter.
“As of right now my intention is not to be a candidate,” he told ARLnow.com. “I’m hoping the party will find somebody else.”
The list of donors to Arlington County Board member Barbara Favola’s state Senate campaign is raising a few eyebrows among local political watchers.
More than half of the nearly $60,000 raised by Favola has come from local developers, including a whopping $25,000 from John G. Shooshan, chairman of the Arlington-based Shooshan Company. Shooshan has had business before the board recently, related to the company’s massive Founders Square project in Ballston.
Other big contributors to Favola’s campaign include Preston Caruthers, who donated $5,000, Mark Silverwood, who donated $2,000, and Thomas Shooltz, who donated $1,000.
Caruthers, a developer, is supporting Favola, a Democrat, despite the fact that he’s a big contributor to Republican causes. Caruthers is a noted philanthropist and recently gave $100,000 to the Arlington planetarium.
Silverwood is the president of the Silverwood Companies, a Northern Virginia development and property management firm. The company manages several properties in Arlington County, including the Quebec Apartments on Columbia Pike. Shooltz is a part-owner of Ironwood Realty Partners, whose developments include the currently under-construction Garfield Park at Clarendon Village project.
Public records show that Favola received just shy of 100 individual campaign contributions from Jan. 1 to March 31.
County Board members have avoided taking contributions from developers for their board campaigns, to avoid the appearance of impropriety. Favola said that practice does not extend to campaigns for higher office.
“Traditionally County Board members have not asked for contributions [from developers] for their County Board races. I am not running for the County Board, I am running for the state Senate,” she said. “So they’re actually contributing to get me off the County Board.”
“Everything here is reported, there is nothing illegal about what I have received,” Favola continued. “My vote can’t be bought in the state Senate. People are contributing to me because they respect me and have confidence in me. They also have valued my contributions on the County Board.”
Favola is currently the only candidate to formally announce for the 31st District state Senate seat, which is being vacated by the retiring Sen. Mary Margaret Whipple.