So it was Dominion Energy paying for campaign ads opposing gun regulation! Here is why.

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.

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33 responses to “Dominion and Despicable Voter Suppression”

  1. I agree, Dominion jumped the shark. It’s one thing, as all special interests do, to donate money directly to candidates with full disclosure regarding who’s doing the donating and who’s doing the accepting. It’s quite another to funnel money through back channels to a partisan group trying to suppress the other side’s vote. This creates the impression that Dominion is taking partisan sides in the election as opposed to merely advancing its corporate interests.

    Of course, as you suggest, perhaps Dominion does see its corporate interests aligned with the Democrats. Democrats want to decarbonize the economy. That means electrifying the economy. That means steady growth in demand for Dominion. Republicans, traditionally very Dominion friendly, are not on board with this agenda. It could be an ugly divorce.

    1. Stephen Haner Avatar
      Stephen Haner

      UPDATE: Dom is now denying it knew how the money would be spent. I’m sorry, this is not credible. The stories about the mysterious ads appeared like three weeks ago. If Dom had a problem it should have disavowed them then. Now they are just ashamed (or feeling the heat.)

      1. LarrytheG Avatar

        geeze, who woulda thought Dom was a bunch of leftists?

        what the heck…

        1. Stephen Haner Avatar
          Stephen Haner

          Anybody who knows Prez Bob Blue and Vice Prez Bill Murray, both I first met as they worked for D governors…..might go with “liberals” more than “leftists.” They are capitalists, after all.

          1. DJRippert Avatar

            “They are capitalists, after all.”

            Crony capitalists maybe. Real capitalists take risks in a competitive market. Nobody sets prices. Nobody guarantees a rate of return. In fact, neither Bob Blue nor Bill Murray ought to get paid any more than the governor of Virginia, which is $175,000 as I recall.

            As the President and Chief Executive Officer of Dominion Inc, the total compensation of Robert Blue at Dominion Inc is $4,293,210.

            That’s a damn good payday for an executive that doesn’t really take any risks, at least for the regulated business.

  2. LarrytheG Avatar

    Ahhh, the infamous leftist RTD exposed this outrage. They won’t let me read the article. How did they find out? Is this something a lot of other PACs can do without people really knowing?

    Remember, this is Citizens United.

    and this is an example of just how illicit “disclosure” really is…

    1. Stephen Haner Avatar
      Stephen Haner

      Well, I do pay for a subscription to the RTD. Didn’t it also run in the FLS yet?….And I’m not sure, but the first I saw of this was in an email from a GOP state senator, Roanoke’s David Suetterlein, who has excellent credentials on opposing some of the more blatant corrupt practices around campaign financing. RTD story appeared a couple of hours later. David is also no fan of Dominion.

      Nothing, nothing in Citizens United prevents states from setting donation limits or requiring stringent disclosure, with real enforcement. The loopholes in disclosure are not accidents.

      1. LarrytheG Avatar

        didn’t see it in FLS. Only a few select articles from RTD run in FLS despite the fact one company owns both and will not sell a bundle subscription.

        1. Stephen Haner Avatar
          Stephen Haner

          Now the company brass is heading for the tall weeds. The story now has national legs. Maybe even WaPo will cover it!! Virginia Mercury even (which ignored it so far.)

  3. Eric the half a troll Avatar
    Eric the half a troll

    What?! Dark money you say… The “grassroots” parent school board uprising in Virginia is supported by Koch dark money groups and is integrated into Youngkin’s campaign.

      1. DJRippert Avatar

        From your linked article …

        “But I have always known, as a Black woman, that the Koch brothers’ brand of radical capitalism relies on maintaining a system of white supremacy.”

        The website should be called the Journal of CRT or the Kendi Report instead of The Nation.

        You take this tripe seriously?

    1. DJRippert Avatar

      That was one of the most flimsy articles I’ve ever read. One man who spoke on Fox News (and publicly claims to be a Democrat) is part of the PDE while another member of the PDE took Koch money for a different group with whom she’s associated. Really? That’s the “dark money” in the Youngkin campaign?

      1. Matt Adams Avatar
        Matt Adams

        Considering the source was was a former thinkprogress editor, would you expect anything different.

  4. Kathleen Smith Avatar
    Kathleen Smith

    That is it! I am going to vote. I have said right along that TM wants to make money of windmill farming. I, on the other hand, want to save on my gas bill. NYT has a podcast on why the Virginia race is so important. Not very nice to TM.

  5. William O'Keefe Avatar
    William O’Keefe

    This should not come as a surprise to anyone. It is a profit making undertaking. If McAuliffe wins and Ds continue to control the GA, the progressive leanings of this mob will mandate even more nutty carbon emission schemes. The more that Dominion has to spend, the more profit it makes. This continues to be a classic example of the Bootlegger and Baptist theory of public choice.
    The irony is that Ds claim to be for the less well off and yet their solution to climate change punishes the less well off more than the well off and more than alternative policies.

    1. LarrytheG Avatar

      I think DOm is agnostic – they just cater to whoever is in charge and work in their own best interests.

      If the GOP takes over, I don’t expect much different.

      In terms of carbon and less well off people, the Dems have demonstrated that they will take actions to help the less well off with moratoriums on cut off and subsidized rates, no?

  6. LarrytheG Avatar

    Anyone truly concerned about disclosure should be aware of this:

    ” Donors Trust is an American non-profit donor-advised fund. It was founded in 1999 with the goal of “safeguarding the intent of libertarian and conservative donors”.[4] As a donor advised fund, Donors Trust is not legally required to disclose the identity of its donors, and most of its donors remain anonymous.[5][6] It distributes funds to various conservative and libertarian organizations, and has been characterized as the “dark money ATM” of the right.[5][7][8]: 1 

    It is affiliated with Donors CapitalFund, another donor-advised fund. In September 2015, Lawson Bader was announced as the new president of both Donors Trust and Donors Capital Fund. Bader was formerly president of the Competitive Enterprise Institute and Vice President at the Mercatus Center.[2]”

    so the idea that Citizens United is “free speech” and everything is just fine as long as there is “disclosure” – well , not so much.

    1. Stephen Haner Avatar
      Stephen Haner

      You just proved my point. It is the laws passed by the politicians that allow the secret slush funds, not the courts. Those laws can be easily changed if and when the elected desire. They do not desire. Both sides love the darkness.

      1. LarrytheG Avatar

        It’s ying and yang. The courts DID rule that money is free speech then the theory was, that’s okay because we have “disclosure”.

        Which we KNOW is a JOKE and even more of a joke when it is ALSO LEGAL to not disclose where the money comes from either!

        Don’t blame DOM! They are obeying the law they probably had a hand in crafting!


        But Donor’s Trust pretty much proves that the laws don’t require disclosure, either.

        If Dom had given Donor’s Trust that money (with instructions), you would have NEVER KNOWN!

        the disclosure laws are for chumps and charlatans.

        1. Stephen Haner Avatar
          Stephen Haner

          For every conservative group like Donor’s Trust there is a liberal group taking advantage of the same loopholes. See: Virginia Mercury! Who funds it? Compare that opacity to the openness of a VPAP.

          1. LarrytheG Avatar

            And do we agree that all of it should be fully disclosed no matter what party?

            And you want Donor’s Trust to have to disclose their donors?

          2. Stephen Haner Avatar
            Stephen Haner

            I would support such an effort as long as it applied across the board. Perhaps some modest amount could be given without disclosure.

          3. LarrytheG Avatar

            no loopholes to be “misinterpreted”.

            that’s the problem.

  7. Paul Sweet Avatar
    Paul Sweet

    I started buying VEPCO stock when they offered their customer stock purchase plan in the 1970s. I’m upset that they are using money that could go to dividends to do something sneaky like this.

    I saw the map in the “Dem’s Sneaky Sabotage” link a few days ago that showed most of the ads being in Southwest Virginia, which is APCO territory. I couldn’t understand why Dominion was paying for advertising there, but now it makes sense.

  8. Steve Gillispie Avatar
    Steve Gillispie

    Good post, Steve. Really slimy behavior.

    So much so, this Dominion gaffe made national news.
    Any advice on what Virginia consumers who don’t like this behavior from a company supported by their tax dollars can do which would be effective?

    1. William O'Keefe Avatar
      William O’Keefe

      And now Dominion is saying that it was a mistake and it wants its money back. Slick but reflects the political reality that when they feel the heat, they see the light!

    2. Stephen Haner Avatar
      Stephen Haner

      Vote for Youngkin. How nice to have a governor actually mad at Dominion and starting off highly suspicious of them! I really want him to win, now.

      1. LarrytheG Avatar

        Really? You think Youngkin AND the rest of the Va GOP will be “mad” at Dom AND take actions to bring Dom to Heel? ha ha ha…. when horses mroph into unicorns!

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