by Steve Haner
Dominion Energy Virginia’s knowing participation in an effort to suppress the November 2 vote, aimed mainly at Western Virginia Republicans, is a truly despicable act. It should enrage all Virginians, without regard to party. This is a state-created and regulated monopoly and the $200,000 it spent on this underhanded activity was provided by captive customers.
I further assert that in previous election cycles, as heavily as Dominion funded various candidates, this type of expense would not have been approved by the management, including the late Thomas Farrell. But Farrell is dead and the political deciders at the top now are both long-time partisan Democrats who fully understood they were paying for voter suppression.
I would be expressing no anger whatsoever if Dominion had merely donated $200,000 directly and openly to Democratic candidate Terry McAuliffe. It would have been a logical move to support a former governor who strongly backed its failed natural gas pipeline project, and now has pledged to deeply enrich the company by accelerating the transition to unreliable renewable generation instead.
McAuliffe is nothing if not flexible. I used another word to describe his subservience to Dominion on Twitter yesterday and got blocked for 12 hours.
On the other hand, Republican candidate Glenn Youngkin has expressed dismay with the 2020 Virginia Clean Economy Act (VCEA) and is willing to consider major amendments or even its repeal, as part of his overall campaign theme of lowering future consumer costs. Dominion has great financial incentive to prevent Youngkin’s election.
When the digital ads paid for by something called Accountability Virginia PAC began to appear, seeking to dissuade Virginians who consider gun rights a key issue from supporting Youngkin, the red flags went up immediately. It was fairly easy for media outlets to prove it was a false flag operation undertaken by a group of Democrats seeking to weaken Youngkin’s rural turnout. Axios, for one, reported the deception on September 28 under the headline “Dem’s Sneaky Sabotage.”
Then recent financial reports revealed Dominion’s $200,000 in donations to Accountability Virginia PAC, which it happily confirmed. Just how much the group has really raised and spent, and from whom else, won’t be known until after the votes are counted. This is just one more example of Virginia’s pathetic disclosure and ethics rules, protected by incumbents of both parties.
Think about it: An electric utility funding campaign messages that seek to prevent any regulation of guns, that criticize a Republican for being insufficiently committed to a purist interpretation of the Second Amendment. An electric utility taking a dollar from a ratepayer and using it to persuade that same ratepayer to not vote. Only in Virginia….
The claim will be made that Dominion was spending “shareholder dollars” rather than “ratepayer dollars.” It funds political contributions out of its profits. This, too, is a convenient deception. Those profit dollars were initially provided by the customers and represent the portion of revenue the corporation is allowed to keep. This is one more sign that Dominion’s authorized return on equity, protected by a General Assembly corrupted by Dominion money in their own campaigns, is way too high.
The excessive profits, one of the highest margins around for a regulated utility, also fund things like the hiring of former legislators at nearly $100,000 for one legislative session of lobbying, regular annual large payments to a Democratic-connected “journalist” writing editorials on Virginia political subjects, and millions and millions of strategic donations to charities and political caucuses.
That’s how Attorney General Mark Herring can claim he refuses their contributions yet benefits greatly as money flows from Dominion to the Democratic Attorney Generals Association, which then gives money to him in his primary and general campaigns. He is charged by law with protecting consumers but takes money from those he would protect us from. At least Democratic lieutenant governor nominee Hala Ayala took the Dominion dollars openly and directly, trashing her own promise not to.
Adding to the irony, in general Virginia’s Democrats have been more likely to actually decline Dominion support or at least pretend to do so. Many Republican legislators are happy to line up for the dollars and then deliver the votes when needed. Yet here they see the company rewarding their loyalty.
In a similar vein, the various progressive groups that love to rail against Dominion will totally ignore this situation and remain steadfast McAuliffe voters. The contention is an act. Their interests totally align now with the company’s intentions to build a vast offshore wind complex, blanket Virginia’s rural countryside with solar panels, and drive up consumer bills to force conservation. The company for its part will love a world where all the cars, furnaces and lawn mowers are electric.
The end justifies the means is not a new attitude in Virginia politics. It is just a shame it has reached the state’s most important C Suite.