Democrats Fight Back as Boss Bills Cracks Whip

Michael Bills

by Steve Haner

Two Virginia Democrats who have been loyal soldiers in the army to turn Virginia green as well as blue are under attack in the June 8 primary for the sin of accepting campaign donations from Dominion Energy. It doesn’t matter to the attacker – our old friend Clean Virginia — that Dominion is moving in lockstep with the Democrats to undermine Virginia’s reliable generation mix and replace it with expensive and unreliable renewable power.

The House Democratic Caucus is responding by attacking the “dark money billionaires” who are going after their colleagues. Who? By that they would have to mean that same Clean Virginia, funded mainly by the personal fortune of hedge fund mogul Michael Bills and his wife. The same two people who did more than anybody to give Democrats that majority in the first place.

More proof, in case you needed it, that it is not your enemies you need to watch in politics but your friends. The Democrats started to lose their grip on this state 20-30 years ago because in their lust for power they fell out among themselves, and here we go again. Bring popcorn.

The basics: Delegates Steve Heretick, D-Portsmouth and Candi Mundon King, D-Prince William, face primary challengers. The primary challengers have received major funding from something new called Commonwealth Forward PAC. But as The Virginia Star reported this morning, its money actually comes from Bills and Clean Virginia. 

The House Democrat mail piece attacking one of the primary challengers, Pam Montgomery, for taking Clean Virginia money.

As Virginia Mercury further reported yesterday, the House Democratic Caucus, with mailings over its disclaimer, is defending the pair against attacks by unnamed “right-wing dark money billionaires.” Graham Moomaw seems perturbed at the implication that the money behind the PAC, which also may be paying part of his salary, is “right-wing.”

The mailers are a significant escalation in an internal Democratic feud over the roles of Clean Virginia, backed by deep-pocketed Charlottesville investor Michael Bills, and Dominion, one of the top corporate donors in state politics. Dozens of sitting House Democrats have also accepted money from Clean Virginia without facing accusations they’re in league with Republican extremists. But party leaders appear to be increasingly upset Clean Virginia is now supporting challengers trying to oust Democratic incumbents.

More evidence its Bills and Clean Virginia being attacked?  The reference to support for Republican state Senator Amanda Chase, only of only a couple of Republicans to receive Clean Virginia funding.

Ignoring Napoleon’s excellent advice to leave your enemy alone when he is making a mistake, House Republicans have jumped in with their own news release seeking to exploit that rift, asking: “Do they stand with Speaker Eileen Filler-Corn and Majority Leader Charniele Herring against “dark money billionaires,” or do they stand with Michael Bills and Clean Virginia?”

Virginia Mercury, Clean Virginia, Dominion Power and the current Democratic majority are in lockstep agreement in their support for the utopian vision of Virginia’s central planning energy future mapped out by the Virginia Clean Economy Act of 2020. But Heretick was among a small group of Democrats this year who opposed some ratemaking bills also opposed by Dominion. He and Mundon King also voted for a failed bill giving Dominion the ability to build a fleet of high cost electric buses with ratepayer money, against environmentalist wishes.

The corrupt intentions of Bills and Clean Virginia is an old theme with me and frankly boring now. He believes legislators are all simpleton puppets manipulated by campaign cash, not without evidence, and cynically plays the game the same as the other wannabee big dogs who roam the Capitol. Any deviation from his desires is cause for punishment. He doesn’t disapprove of Dominion’s behavior but instead seeks to emulate it.

Given that he is basically a tool of that party, Richmond Times-Dispatch columnist Jeff Schapiro’s piece last month on Bills was another element of this campaign to fence in the rogue billionaire’s power and ambitions. “Daddy Greenbucks,” he called him:

….But Bills bristles when asked whether his strings-attached largess — he guarantees donations to candidates who refuse Dominion’s — is akin to the bullying of which he says Dominion is guilty. Equating a regulated monopoly with what Bills calls his “public-interest group” — a largely unregulated one, at that — is, he said, “profoundly wrong and misses the issue.”

No it doesn’t miss the point. The lust for power is what it is. And Schapiro certainly implied Bills will also get richer as the tens of billions pour into rebuilding the energy industry, as his hedge fund is opaque.

When Schapiro speaks, the fun question is always who fed him the line. Bills through Clean Virginia is supporting somebody other than former Governor Terry McAuliffe in the primary for Governor. There you go! McAuliffe, of course, has taken plenty of utility money and done heavy lifting for gas pipelines. Bills’ behavior in attacking these two House Democrats who only vote with him 90% of the time, and who have sinned by supping at his enemy’s table, puts him squarely in the long ling of political bullies Virginia has had to endure.  Dominion being another one.