In October, Bacon’s Rebellion contributor Steve Haner outlined a “despicable act” perpetrated by Dominion Energy on Glenn Youngkin, by sending $200,000 to a mystery PAC created to suppress turnout for the Republican gubernatorial candidate.
But now, with further public disclosures, we see the devious actions by Dominion CEO (and former Democrat operative) Bob Blue and other top executives were more “despicable” than first thought.
The severity was greater partly because Dominion actually sent $250,000 to Accountability Virginia PAC, which posed as a right-leaning group in order to raise doubts about Youngkin’s 2nd Amendment credentials with rural voters. The political strategy was to diminish enthusiasm – and therefore turnout – for the now-governor.
But the degree of deceit has even more to do with the timeline of the contributions rather than the aggregate amount.
Axios first broke the story on Sept. 28 with the headline, “Dems’ Sneaky Sabotage.” At that time Dominion’s PAC had donated only $125,000 to Accountability Virginia PAC. Blue and fellow Dominion executives then knew that media and political watchdogs were on to their activities.
But that didn’t deter the utility and its CEO. Three days later, on Oct. 1, another $75,000 was sent from Dominion’s PAC to Accountability Virginia PAC. Two weeks after that, on Oct. 15, an additional $50,000 was transferred from Dominion to the Virginia PAC.
Personal donations from Dominion executives flowed to the PAC as well. Blue sent $5,000 on Sept. 9 and then another $5,000 on Oct. 18 – again, well after the media latched on to the connection between the utility, Accountability Virginia PAC, and its deceitful ads. Fellow Dominion officials William Murray, Carlos Brown, and Edward Baine also kicked in $5,000 each of their own money, $12,500 of which came on Oct. 12 or later.
Dominion’s were the sole committee contributions to Accountability Virginia PAC. The only other corporation to donate to the cause was Armor Correctional Health Services, which provided care to inmates at roughly half the state’s prisons. At the time of its $50,000 gift, on July 9, Armor was desperately trying to prevent the cancellation of its contract with the Virginia Department of Corrections for failing to provide adequate health care for inmates.
Altogether, Armor’s and Dominion’s combined contributions accounted for more than half of Accountability Virginia PAC’s $578,706 take.
The PAC’s life, by the way, was snuffed in the crib. Started in early July by Democrat consulting firm Mele Brengarth and Associates, the project lasted just long enough to dole out final expenses after Election Day ended. According to Federal Elections Commission filings, the PAC was terminated on Dec. 21.
Expenditures over the five months for Accountability Virginia PAC matched what it took in. Among the payouts were $12,579 to Democrat law firm Perkins Coie – through Oct. 15 – and then $5,254 to the Elias Law Firm after that date. The latter practice is headed by Democrat superlawyer Marc Elias, who is among the conspirators behind the Russian dossier hoax against former President Trump. Elias left Perkins Coie in late August to start his firm. Remittances paid by Accountability Virginia PAC to the respective law practices align with Elias’s transition – Perkins/Elias provided “legal services” first, then Elias’s personal firm apparently took over those responsibilities.
Also, $40,000 was paid over four months to Saratoga Strategies, which appears to consist of an employee of one: Democrat operative Josh Schwerin. He is a veteran of both the Hillary Clinton and Joe Biden presidential campaigns, serving in top roles, and he was Terry McAuliffe’s 2013 campaign press secretary and then served in his gubernatorial administration after his victory. On his website Schwerin boasts both McAuliffe’s 2021 campaign and the Democratic Governors Association as his political clients.
And finally, $486,533 was paid to D.C.-based digital advertising firm Gambit Strategies for production and “ad buys,” according to FEC filings.
Days before Accountability Virginia PAC’s December shutdown, the remaining funds were distributed to the campaign’s top schemers. Mele Brengarth got a final $1,250 payout on Dec. 8. On Dec. 16, Elias’s law firm was paid $2,500, and Schwerin’s Saratoga consultancy extracted the remaining $1,307.96 the same day.
Finally, there’s the matter of Blue’s duplicity. After the Axios article and a Richmond Times-Dispatch report about the PAC and its ads, Blue sent a memo on Oct. 18 to Dominion employees that on its face looked like a mea culpa about the utility’s support.
“Based on our own disclosures, two news stories highlighted activities of the Accountability Virginia PAC that we would not approve or knowingly support,” the CEO wrote, according to the Times-Dispatch. “Although familiar with the Accountability Virginia PAC sponsors, we failed to vet sufficiently the scope of their intended activities. In as much, we have asked that our contributions be returned… We will not be giving to organizations of this nature in the future.”
That sentiment might have been believable, but on the same day – Oct. 18 – Blue and Baine each sent Accountability Virginia PAC $5,000 personal contributions, and Murray donated $2,500. The alleged distaste of Dominion’s association for the PAC did not extend to the CEO and his lieutenants.
And as for Dominion getting its corporate donations returned? It’s not happening – the money’s all gone, and Accountability Virginia PAC is closed for business.
Paul Chesser is director of the Corporate Integrity Project for the National Legal and Policy Center.