Tom Perriello — the Radical Chic Candidate

George Soros

After Virginia gubernatorial candidates filed their campaign finance updates yesterday, all eyes turned to Democratic Party candidate Tom Perriello. The progressive populist, who decries the role of big money in politics, was himself the largest beneficiary of big money of the six announced candidates.

The Perriello campaign pocketed $385,000 from hedge fund billionaire George Soros and two sons, as well as $230,000 from Avaaz, a global activist organization that Perriello co-founded.

Perhaps of greater interest is the large stash raised from Charlottesville, Perriello’s hometown. Never in all my years as an observer of Virginia politics have I seen such large contributions bubble forth from the People’s Republic. Whether this gusher of campaign contributions portends an inflection point in Virginia politics, I don’t know. But it is remarkable.

Here is a list of Perriello’s top donors, with details added from a couple of hour’s worth of Googling:

Sonjia Smith — $500,000. A University of Virginia graduate and Charlottesville resident, Smith is married to hedge fund manager Michael D. Bills, founder of Bluestem Asset Management. In a Roanoke Times column explaining why she supports Perriello, she described herself as a “single-issue voter” on the issue of women’s reproductive rights. According to the Virginia Public Access Project, she had donated $968,000 to Democratic candidates in Virginia through 2016 before stroking the big check to Perriello.

George Soros — $250,000. New Yorker, hedge fund manager, chairman of the Open Society Foundations, and prolific funder of progressive causes.

Avaaz –$230,000. Global, not-for-profit activist group.

Alexander Soros — $125,000. Alexander Soros, son of multibillionaire George Soros, is a New York philanthropist who promotes social justice and human rights causes.

Courtney C. Smith — $75,000. ???

Stephen Silberstein — $50,000. Northern Virginia semiconductor executive.

Christopher Weitz — $25,000. There is a Christopher Weitz who is a New York-born film producer and screen writer. I’m not certain he is one and the same as the donor to Perriello’s campaign.

John Grisham — $25,000. Best-selling author and supporter of progressive causes who lives in the Charlottesville area.

Margaret Gupta — $25,000. Gupta is married to Shashikant Gupta, CEO of Apex CoVantage, a Herndon technology firm. Co-founder of the Gupta Family Foundation, she says that Apex should be “an agent of positive social change.”

Timothy Chapman — $25,000. Chapman heads Reston-based Chapman Development LLC, a developer of affordable housing projects.

Dario O Marquez — $20,000. A former member of the Secret Service, Marquez is co-founder of MNM Inc., an Ashburn-based private security contractor.

Lilly Bechtel — $10,000. Charlottesville yoga instructor, writer and musician.

Kay Leigh Ferguson — $10,000. Ferguson is director of Charlottesville’s Madwoman Project, which produces avant garde theater performances.

Roberta B. Williamson — $10,000. Charlottesville resident. Major donor to Democratic Party candidates.

Stanislav Reisky de Dubnic — $10,000. Reisky de Dubnic is a principal in Charlottesville-based Apex Clean Energy.

Peter Devine — $10,000. ???

David J. Matthews — $10,000. Famed Charlottesville musician.

Jonathan T. Allan Soros — $10,000. Son of George Soros, CEO of New York-based JS Capital Management, and prominent donor to progressive causes.

Laura DeBonis — $10,000. ???

The picture that emerges here is a candidate whose financial support comes overwhelmingly from progressive communities in New York, Northern Virginia and above all Charlottesville. Among big-check donors, he appears to have zero support outside those areas. From his advocacy of a $15 minimum wage and free community college to his support of renewable energy and attacks on electric utilities, he is all on board with the green/social justice agenda. Virginia has never seen a serious statewide candidate like this before.

As Richmond Times-Dispatch reporter Jeff Schapiro observes, “Perriello’s candidacy, much like McAuliffe’s losing bid in 2009, is top-down. It is a lot of drama, magnified by millennial-specific social media and cable news breathlessness, intended to capture the votes of Virginians not necessarily active in Democratic politics but absolutely agitated by Donald Trump.”

Hypocrisy alert. Perriello has staked out a position as a pro-green, anti-Dominion candidate opposed to interstate pipelines transporting fracked gas through Virginia. Yet he has accepted $250,000 from George Soros, whose Soros Fund Management in 2016 had holdings in 11 oil and gas companies. Should he return Soros’ money? Should he insist that Soros divest himself of his oil and gas assets? Are his support of renewables and attacks on power companies sincere or opportunistic?

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8 responses to “Tom Perriello — the Radical Chic Candidate


    The right wing nuts are after Periello for Soros. But it perfectly OK for Gillespie to rake in tons of conservative funding from the usual sources. and He was head and chief bagman for the RNC.

    Why not bring that up?

    And, BTW, why not bring up news that some 50 Virginia politicians are o longer taking money from your sponsor, Dominion?

    • Peter, if Gillespie had taken money from the Koch Brothers, you would have had a coronary! But you suggest there’s something wrong with my mentioning Soros?

      As for Dominion, I may write something. But there’s only so much time in a day. I can’t get to everything.

  2. We have an interesting Gov election coming up, don’t we?
    Fasten your seat belts.

  3. this is so pedestrian. both sides get money from their supporters and the deal with the Koch folks is they essentially “launder” money through PACs and dark money methods.

    Here I thought Bacon was a wonk and not a “partisan”.. the man is changing I tell you.. and not necessarily for the better in my own biased view!

  4. This reminds me of the 1982 Democratic candidate for Governor of Iowa Roxanne Colin. She campaigned on a platform including state income tax increases (an anti-Reaganite). But then it was reveled the Ms. Conlin and her husband had not paid any state income tax in several years. When asked to square her view that Iowans should pay higher income taxes with not paying any herself, she replied state law needed to protect the public against people like her. Lt. Governor Terry Branstad (R) won the election.

    Walk the talk – if you’re against big money, you ought not take any.

    Larry – PACs are legal and are used by both Parties and their supporters.

  5. The right wing is as terrified today as it was in 1973 when Howell ran for Governor…..except this time, the money people reside in NoVa and Charlottesville. Big Richmond $ bailed out Godwin in 73 by the slimmest of margins. But that’s not likely to happen this time as Cville and NoVa $ can counteract it.

    As TBill says, this is going to be interesting…..Dominion’s hold on the state may finally come to an end.

    • Most of my Democratic friends are strongly behind Ralph Northam. And Hillary Clinton kicked Bernie Sanders’ butt in the 2016 Democratic Primary. I would expect most of those voters to go with the Lt. Governor, who should also have the support of Governor McAuliffe.

  6. PACs might be legal but they are essentially money laundering operations that hide the identity of the donor… and more than a few so-called “think tanks” are also funded that way these days.

    The only reason you KNOW that Soros money was involved is that he voluntarily CHOSE to donate it such that his identity WAS known. He could have chosen other methods to conceal his identity as others do.

    I don’t care for money in politics to start with – but to have that money and not have the donors identified is a recipe for disaster given the recognition that other countries are now apparently involved in our elections.

    no matter if you support the Dems or the GOP -you should be opposed to secret money in our elections –

    you might be happy with it as long as your guys win but you may well change your tune if the guys you oppose get secret money and win.

    Both parties are more responsive to – and fear their own respective parties than the voters – the money is now often controlled by the PACs.

    Both parties threaten to “primary” their own candidates if they don’t do what their own parties say…

    so yeah.. it’s “legal”.. but that don’t mean it’s right nor that any of us should support it..

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