Billionaire Contributes to Board Candidate — “Who is Arthur Rock and why did he contribute $15,000 – a large amount by local standards – to the re-election campaign of Democratic County Board candidate Matt de Ferranti? The first question is perhaps the easier of the two to answer. Rock is a 95-year-old (to be 96 in August) billionaire who made his money over the decades in the venture-capital field and related endeavors.” [Sun Gazette]
RIP Sidney Dewberry — “Sidney Oliver ‘Sid’ Dewberry passed away peacefully in Arlington, Virginia, on July 16, 2022, surrounded by his loving family. He had a unique and purposeful life — filled with service to his community, the Commonwealth of Virginia and the nation, while being wholly dedicated to his family.” [Legacy, Dewberry, Sun Gazette]
One Arrested After Robbery — “The juvenile male victim and the three juvenile male suspects met for a prearranged sale during which the suspects assaulted the victim and stole his backpack containing a laptop. A lookout was broadcast and responding officers located Suspect One, who was carrying stolen property, and attempted to stop him. Suspect One fled on foot and following a foot pursuit, was taken into custody.” [Arlington County]
Spa Day for Rescued Beagles — “A group of rescued beagles got a special ‘spa day’ treatment after they arrived at a shelter in Arlington, Virginia. Virginia-based Homeward Trails, an organization facilitating rehabilitation and adoption for dogs and cats, is one of several groups working with the Humane Society of the United States to move about 4,000 beagles out of the Envigo facility in Cumberland County. When they arrived at Homeward Trails, the staff and volunteers there made sure the rescued pups got the full spa treatment.” [WTOP]
Yet Another I-395 Crash — From Dave Statter: “#caughtoncamera: Another 8C crash. Cars & barrels all over the place but no injuries & relatively minor damage. Plus, the driver crossing over eventually got to the exit ramp, thanks to police.” [Twitter]
ADA Celebration This Morning — “The public and media are invited to join Arlington County officials and key stakeholders… as we celebrate 32 years of the Americans with Disabilities Act [at 10 a.m. Monday] at Quincy Park (1021 N. Quincy St.). The Arlington County Board will also issue a proclamation to mark this important civil rights law.” [Arlington County]
It’s Monday — Rain and potentially strong storms in the afternoon and evening. High of 88 and low of 77. Sunrise at 6:05 am and sunset at 8:27 pm. [Weather.gov]
Photo courtesy George Brazier
(Updated at 4:20 p.m.) Arlington County Board member and now-former Metro board member Christian Dorsey cruised to easy election victories in 2019 and thus didn’t need to spend much on his campaign. He did, however, direct campaign cash to himself and his wife.
Dorsey, who is currently trying to resolve a personal bankruptcy, is not accused of wrongdoing in his campaign spending. But it does raise questions amid news that he has not yet fulfilled a promise to repay a $10,000 campaign contribution, deemed unethical by the Metro board after Dorsey failed to notify the board of the donation in a timely manner.
Dorsey has since resigned from the Metro board, the Washington Post reported Thursday afternoon.
It was just after the Nov. 2019 election that it was revealed that Dorsey had declared bankruptcy in October. He told ARLnow in December that he regretted not informing the community earlier.
The campaign was otherwise a breeze for Dorsey. He ran unopposed in the Democratic primary and easily defeated a pair of independent candidates, who sought his and fellow incumbent Board member Katie Cristol’s seats, in November.
Dorsey raised nearly $40,000 in 2019, including the aforementioned $10,000 from Amalgamated Transit Union Local 689 — Metro’s largest union — as well as $10,000 from the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, $5,000 from a carpenters union, and $1,000 from a laborers union.
As of Dec. 31, according to Dorsey’s latest campaign finance report, his campaign had $3,298 on hand. So where did most of the cash go? Just over $25,000 went to Dorsey and his wife, documents show.
Dorsey began 2019 with a balance of $17,547 on loans he had provided his campaign during the 2015 election. He repaid all but $200.99 of that to himself by the end of the year. He also paid $8,000 to his wife over the summer for campaign management graphic design work.
There has thus far been no suggestion that any of the payments were in any way illegal or improper, though a nearly $2,000 loan repayment was made after Dorsey was ordered to return the transit union donation.
The campaign’s other major expenses were $4,825 in donations and sponsorships to the Arlington County Democratic Committee and $4,399 to a local printing company for yard signs and grip cards, paid in September. Fundraising and web hosting expenses, along with other donations and food and drink purchases for events and volunteers, made up much of the remaining expenses.
Prof. Jennifer Victor, who researches campaign finance at George Mason University’s Schar School Policy and Government, said the pattern of payments amid personal financial problems and the union donation controversy at Metro at the very least “raises some ethical eyebrows,” regardless of whether or not state campaign finance laws were violated. Victor added that hiring a spouse for the campaign “looks nepotistic” and is something most candidates would avoid doing.
The Hurtt Locker is a biweekly opinion column. The views expressed are solely the author’s.
Arlington residents learned about a string of ethical and financial transgressions by Arlington County Board Chairman Christian Dorsey last week.
After waiting four months to disclose a $10,000 campaign contribution from Metro’s largest union, Dorsey – who serves as a principal director on the WMATA (Metro) Board – was removed as finance chair of the board in a special meeting last Thursday.
The WMATA Board found that Dorsey violated its code of ethics and likely voted on a number of issues for which he should have recused himself during the four-month period. Dorsey called it a careless oversight, but when independent candidate Audrey Clement raised the issue at the Committee of 100 candidate debate in early October, Dorsey said there was no conflict of interest as the Metro Board does not handle union business.
Dorsey’s rebuttal is patently false. According to Tom Webb, the VP for Labor Relations at WMATA, the WMATA Board not only votes to approve contracts negotiated with ATU 689 (the union that contributed $10,000 to Dorsey’s campaign) and other unions, it also provides direction to the WMATA General Manager in advance of those negotiations. In retrospect, Dorsey’s casual and condescending dismissal of then-candidate Clement’s line of attack reveals another layer of arrogance.
What readers may not realize is the $10,000 contribution is just the tip of the iceberg. On December 3, 2018, Dorsey received a $1,500 contribution from Volkert, which has a contract for the Dulles Silver Line extension. Nine days later, Dorsey used $1,250 of those funds to pay down a 2015 loan.
The second shoe to drop came just one day later when Arlingtonians learned about Mr. Dorsey’s Chapter 13 bankruptcy filing, which occurred on October 16. In the realm of politics, I’m hesitant to criticize anyone’s personal financial misgivings. Bankruptcy is a financial protection provided by law; however, as many readers with various levels of security clearance know, personal financial issues are a major concern when identifying (potential) employees who would be susceptible to ethical compromise.
An egregious aspect of this part of the story is that Mr. Dorsey blamed his public service for his diminished personal income, signaling to residents that he has taken a personal hit to govern over us. As readers will recall, the Arlington County Board voted to raise its salary cap in June of this year. Chairman Dorsey said, “I support increasing the salary cap because I believe it will encourage more people, from varied economic backgrounds, to think about serving on this Board.”
Given the new context, those words likely have new meaning to many readers here.
On top of all that, Chairman Dorsey championed a property tax increase in April of this year, advising Arlington taxpayers to “scrub the family budget” to cover the cost of the tax increase.
‘Lee’ Supporters Seek W-L Name Delay — “It may be a last-ditch attempt, but supporters of retaining the name of Washington-Lee High School are seeking a delay of a year to implement the change to Washington-Liberty. ‘There are multiple active legal actions working their way through various courts,’ said Dean Fleming, vice president of the Washington-Lee High School Alumni Association, in an e-mail to school leaders. ‘This is a very serious matter. It should not be taken lightly.'” [InsideNova]
Moran Donates Leftover Campaign Cash — “In the summer of 2018, congressman-turned-lobbyist Jim Moran was trying to recruit his former colleagues to put pressure on the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Moran was doing so on behalf of one of his clients, the government of Qatar. And he had a pot of money, left over from years of donations to his reelection campaigns, that he could steer to his lobbying targets.” [The Daily Beast]
Makeshift Memorial for Career Center Employee — “Candles, flowers, balloons, and thoughts shared in the Penrose Giant parking garage lower level for Haley Garcia, the Career Center employee.” [Twitter]
Fast-Growing Amazon Divisions Coming to HQ2 — “The divisions heading to Amazon.com Inc.’s second headquarters in Arlington are some of the fastest-growing in the company, according to Amazon’s latest quarterly earnings report. The company said Thursday its headcount is up 13% to 653,300 full-time and part-time employees… Amazon Web Services and Alexa — two of the three Amazon businesses that are HQ2-bound — are growing at a much faster pace.” [Washington Business Journal]
Flickr pool photo by John Sonderman
Candidates running for the Virginia State Senate this year have raised hundreds of thousands along the campaign trail — but not from Arlington’s Advanced Towing.
None of the four candidates running for Richmond accepted money from the controversial towing company, according to the most recent campaign finance filings detailing fundraising between January 1 and March 31 as shared by the Virginia Public Access Project (VPAP).
Incumbent candidate Barbara Favola was recently criticized by challenger Nicole Merlene for allegedly helping to loosen state towing regulations after accepting combined contributions of $7,250 over previous years from Advanced Towing, with an additional $2,500 coming from company owner John O’Neill.
The April finance reports indicate that the incumbent did not accept contributions from Advanced Towing or O’Neill during this fundraising period.
All of Arlington’s candidates are scheduled to release another set of campaign finance reports on June 3.
Residents will head to the polls on June 11 to cast their vote in the primaries. Because all Senate candidates announced so far are Democrats, the primary vote will likely choose the winner of the November 5 general election as well.
Virginians must register to vote at least 30 days before the primaries to vote, and can check in advance which polling location they should use.
Read below for more details about each candidate’s most recent campaign finances.
Sen. Adam Ebbin
Ebbin has worked in Richmond for the past 15 years — the last seven as a state senator and eight years before that as a state delegate. He told ARLnow that this year his biggest wins in the capitol include legislation on green energy programs and helping colleges offer technical and dual-enrollment options.
Ebbin is running for re-election unopposed in the Democratic primary and currently faces no challengers from any other party.
He started with $101,534 in campaign funds on January 1, according to VPAP’s campaign finance reports. After fundraising $26,190 and spending $12,522, Ebbin reportedly ended the first quarter with $115,201 in funds for the campaign trail.
Ebbin’s campaign accepted 70 contributions during the reported funding period, with the majority of them (37 donors) giving the campaign $100 or less.
His top donation came from Political Action Committee (PAC) Win Virginia ($5,000), which announced this year it was training and funding Democratic candidates to flip the statehouse blue.
(Updated on 04/25/19) Arlington’s representatives in the Virginia House of Delegates have made good on promises to eschew Dominion Energy money, according to recent campaign finance reports.
Arlington’s six candidates for the House of Delegates shared financial reports indicating their campaigns took in no money from the utility company this year. However, most candidates are still relying on contributions from advocacy and labor groups, political action committees, and businesses, as opposed to running campaigns based only around individual contributions.
Copies of the campaign finance reports filed in April and shared by the Virginia Public Access Project indicate longtime donors, like the Virginia Trials Lawyers Political Action Committee (PAC), continue to chip in big chunks of cash to campaigns. The PAC contributed a combined $3,500 to the four incumbent delegates between January and March this year.
So far Democrats in the House of Delegates have out-raised their Republican colleagues, as all 100 seats are up for grabs this election and the possibility of a Democratic majority in the legislature remains on the horizon.
The two candidates currently challenging Arlington’s Delegates reported fewer funds raised than the incumbents. Candidate J.D. Spain, Sr., who is challenging Alfonso Lopez, raised the most of all newcomers on the block with $18,556, largely from his own coffers.
All candidates are scheduled to file another round of finance reports on June 3, days before the June 11 primary election.
The primary will decide which of each party’s candidates for office progresses to the general election on November 5. Virginia residents must register to vote at least 30 days before the primary to be eligible to cast their vote, and can check the location of their polls here.
Below are more details from each Delegates’ April campaign finance filings.
Del. Alfonso Lopez (D)
Lopez has raised by far the most money and also holds the largest war chest of any Delegate candidate in the running. He is currently being challenged by Democratic candidate J.D. Spain, Sr.
Lopez raised $50,924 between January 1 and March 31, according to reports, and spent $12,037. This leaves his campaign with $102,280 on hand after starting with $63,394 back in January.
Lopez’s biggest donor this cycle was Charlottesville investor Michael D. Bills who pledged to counter Dominion Energy with his campaign contributions this year and gave $10,000 to the sitting Delegate’s campaign.
“I believe that swearing off Dominion donations over a year ago just helped cement to my supporters that no money will ever influence me on a single piece of legislation, vote, decision, or opinion,” said Lopez today (Monday). “I have consistently voted against every Dominion Energy bill, and plan to do so as long as they continue to refuse to make renewable energy a major focus for Virginia.”
He added that he believed he had raised the most because he had “delivered real progressive results and the people of northern Virginia.”
Other notable investments to Lopez’s campaign came from the Virginia House Democrats Caucus ($5,000), and the Clean Virginia Fund ($5,000).
Lopez also accepted money from three alcohol groups: Virginia Wine Wholesalers PAC ($3,000), Virginia Beverage Association PAC ($2,000), and the Virginia Imports Ltd. ($500).
The delegate’s campaign for re-election has been endorsed by several unions, the Virginia Education Association Fund for Children and Public Education, and the Arlington Professional Firefighters & Paramedics Association — the latter of which donated $1,000 to his campaign.
Candidate J.D. Spain, Sr. (D)
Lopez’s Democratic challenger in the primary elections is J.D. Spain, Sr., a former Marine and head of the local NAACP chapter who faced him in debate last Wednesday night.
In last week’s filings, Spain reported contributing tens of thousands of his own money into the campaign: $8,200 in loans, $12,259 in cash, and $4,134 in “in-kind” contributions, which usually refers to value of things like equipment and services donated to a campaign.
“I understand that monetary support is really important for a campaign,” Spain told ARLnow. “But being a first-time candidate it’s really tough to raise money. It’s especially hard for a military veteran because we don’t have large networks with donors.”
He added that he loaned himself money to pay staff, and is “proud” of the small donations he received from individuals. His biggest was $500 from James Younger, his neighbor and Arlington’s former Deputy Police Chief.
In total, Spain reported fundraising $18,556 since January when he kicked off his campaign with zero dollars. After spending $12,192, the candidate for Delegate reportedly has $6,364 left on hand.
Spain’s campaign does not yet have any endorsements.
Disagreements over campaign contributions and criminal justice reform during a debate last night revealed fault lines between some of the Democrats running for the party’s nomination.
Six candidates running for Commonwealth’s Attorney, state Senator and Delegate who sparred during the Wednesday night debate agreed on green energy and defeating Republicans. But their disagreements on other topics showed that even in an all-Democratic playing field there are shades of blue.
One area of disagreement was campaign contributions.
Sen. Barbara Favola was asked by a moderator why she continued to accept contributions from the controversial Advanced Towing company in light of complaints about employees allegedly towing a vehicle with the owner’s pet still inside.
The state senator called the story “extraordinary unfortunate” but said that the solution was for people “to go back to the landowner and complain about the contract” they have with a company.
Her challenger, Nicole Merlene hit back by referring to the 2017 NBC 4 report that Advanced Towing gave Favola $1,500 in campaign contributions after she voted to loosen towing regulations and allegedly convinced then-Governor Terry McAuliffe to do the same.
Favola said she voted “with the county” and that “what Governor McAuliffe had decided to do is Governor McAuliffe’s prerogative.”
Both candidates spoke in strong support of increasing affordable housing and paying interns.
A flash point Wednesday night was the issue of criminal justice reform.
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.
Photos via Friends of Don Beyer and Facebook