A clarification has been added to the end of this article.
Setup. Barbara Favola is the Democratic State Senator from Virginia’s 31st district. That district is centered in Arlington but includes areas of Fairfax and Loudoun Counties as well. Favola is a politician-for-life having served on the Arlington County Board from 1997 through 2012 and in the Virginia State Senate since then. She is seeking to extend her 22 consecutive years in politics to 26 in the upcoming General Assembly election. However, Sen Favola’s well laid plans hit a snag. She will face a challenger named Nicole Merlene in the June 11 Democratic primary. Ms. Merlene has astutely called Sen Favola’s ethics and independence into question based on Favola’s non-legislative position as the head of a lobbying organization representing clients in Richmond. An article in ggwash summarized a debate between Favola and Merlene:
“In her opening statement, Merlene referred to a December 2016 proposal to build a 325-foot tall tower on Virginia Department of Transportation land in Rosslyn. Favola, the sitting state senator for the district, was an advisor for the project.
Merlene said this type of behavior was pervasive, citing her opponent’s relationship with Marymount University and Virginia Hospital Center, which are both clients of a lobbying organization that Favola leads when she is not working in Richmond.“This is an issue where our representative was using public office for private benefit,” she said.”
Favola responded by employing what has become known as “the Saslaw – Norment defense” which holds that no amount of money from any source could ever be corrupting based on the genetic honesty of long time Virginia politicians.The “D” word. Challenger Nicole Merlene brought the issue of political contributions from Dominion into the contest. She has pledged to foreswear campaign contributions from Dominion. This is another politically astute move in Northern Virginia where voters are seeing freedom from the Virginia Axis of Evil – Dominion, Altria and Omega Protein – as positives for candidates. Favola is tainted by Dominion money in the eyes of many voters.
The empire strikes back. Favola has sought to distance herself from Dominion. She has expanded the “Saslaw – Norment defense” with the “too little to matter” corollary …
“In the eight years I’ve been in the Senate, I’ve raised $1.4 million. Dominion’s given me about 9,500 or 9,700. I’ll do the math for you. It’s slightly more than half of one percent. But, you know, it wouldn’t matter how much it was. I’ve never looked at my donor sheet when I make a vote.”
Favola’s response is dishonest, evasive and condescending. It is dishonest in that she has taken far more in Dominion money than $9,500 or $9,700 in direct contributions from Dominion. She has taken money from funds partly supported by Dominion and then repackaged under different names. More on that later. It is evasive in that she makes a silly statement about looking at donor sheets while voting rather than citing specific votes she has made contrary to Dominion’s preferences or interests. It is condescending in that she assumes her beleaguered constituents won’t be able to see through her flimsy smokescreen.
Follow the money. A quick look at Favola’s vpap,org statistics from 2011 through 2019 shows where she’s getting her money … sort of. There’s $10,500 directly from Dominion but lots of other contributions from other entities, PACs and Democratic politicians as well.
But where do these groups and people get their money? Her largest contributor over the time in question is “the Democratic Party of Virginia”. Over the years in question Dominion Energy has donated $261,081 to the Democratic Party of Virginia. Favola’s third largest donor was “Whipple for Senate – Mary”. This donor received contributions from Dominion. Her fifth largest donor was the Virginia Senate Democratic Caucus. Dominion was a donor to this group too. Next up on Favola’s donor list – Howell for Senate – Janet. Yep, Howell took money from Dominion. Favola’s ninth biggest donor … the infamous Saslaw for Senate – Richard. Dominion was the largest contributor to Saslaw’s campaigns between 2011 and 2019. Not only did Saslaw partly use Dominion money to directly fund Favola’s campaigns he also donated $113,403 to the Democratic Party of Virginia which, in turn, donated money to Favola. In this case Saslaw took money from Dominion, used some of it to fund a bundle and then the bundle contributed to Favola. And so it goes in the Kleptocracy of Virginia. Dominion insinuates itself into every nook and cranny of Virginia state politics. Then the money is packaged, re-packaged, legally laundered and distributed in a process that would make the Gambino family proud. At the end of all this politicians like Barbara Favola make knowingly absurd comments about how little of her campaign money comes from Dominion.
Favola’s contention that she only received one half of one percent of her campaign funds from Dominion is disingenuous at best and an outright lie at worst.
The VPAP mirage. Virginia is one of only four US states with no limits on campaign contributions. Some pundits will claim that this is acceptable since VPAP (the Virginia Public Access Project) provides all the transparency needed to track who is contributing to whom. This is drivel. VPAP fails to track the donated money in a meaningful way and opens the door to false claims like the one made by Barbara Favola. Until VPAP starts allocating the origins of the money from sources like Dominion through the bundles like the Democratic Party of Virginia to ultimate recipients like Barbara Favola it provides only a false sense of transparency. Yet VPAP seems to have little interest in this level of useful insight. Instead, it seems more focused on being a left-leaning news aggregator with its slanted selection of articles (most behind paywalls) in its VaNews section.
Clarification. The donations Sen Favola accepted from the Democratic Party of Virginia ($49,549) exactly equal the donations made by the Favola campaign to the Democratic Party of Virginia. This is because the Democratic Party of Virginia (fund), in this case, operates as a clearing house for political operations such as mailings. By aggregating the demand for such shared services the fund is able to provide those services on a less expensive basis than the individual politicians could achieve on their own. Favola’s donations from this fund were for in-kind services, not cash. However, Dominion has made contributions to this fund ($261,081 over the years in question). It is hard to understand why Dominion would contribute to an operational clearinghouse. If the Democratic Party of Virginia fund has multiple functions and the funds are well segregated then Favola’s activities may not have included Dominion money. However, if the Dominion money is used to subsidize the clearinghouse then any use of the clearinghouse would benefit from Dominion. Either way, it would be far more transparent for the Democratic Party of Virginia to operate a clearinghouse as a standalone entity without commingling funds or accepting outside donations for clearinghouse operations.
— Don RippertThere are currently no comments highlighted.