House of Delegates Election Tally: $66.4 Million

Source: Virginia Public Access Project

The final money tally is in, and it looks like more money was spent on House of Delegates elections in 2019 than any election in Virginia history. That was a nearly 42% increase over 2017, which itself was a record, according to data published by the Virginia Public Access Project. Democrats raised $38.2 million in the current election cycle, and Republicans raised $28.6.

Clearly, more money is better than less money when you’re running an election campaign. But having more money is no guarantee of victory. Del. Tim Hugo, D-Centreville, led the pack with $2.1 million, but he lost the election in a blue tide that swept over Northern Virginia.

Judging from anecdotal evidence, I suspect that a lot of the money was wasted. There is only so much spending that a media market can productively absorb. In my senatorial district, a showdown between Siobhan Dunnavant, R-Henrico, and Debra Rodman, D-Henrico, In the final days, we were deluged with direct mail pieces. I read the first few, but after a while, the mailers went straight into the trash.

A logical question to ask: Is campaign spending out of control? Should we restrict campaign donations?

Here’s a list of top donors to House candidates:

House Democratic Caucus — $4,218,708
Democratic Party of Virginia — $3,498,080
Republican Party of Virginia — $3,425,441
Colonial Leadership Trust PAC — $1,835,255
Republican State Leadership Committee — $1,822,982
Emily’s List — $1,001,500
The Way Ahead — $759,863
Win Virginia — $701,998
Michael D. Bills — $657,000
Virginia League of Conservation Voters — $644,420
House Republican Campaign Committee — $634,850
Beyond Carbon Action Fund — $613,200
Richard E. Uihlein — $516,000
Everytown for Gun Safety — $446,081
Democracy PAC — $445,000
Future Now — $437,871
S. Sonjia Smith — $411,414
Dominion Energy — $404,938
Planned Parenthood Va — $382,387
Paul Milde — $350,481

Of the top 20 donors, only one, Dominion Energy, was a traditional “special interest” of the corporate variety. The rest were wealthy individuals, advocacy groups, or arms of the political parties.

Yes, it sucks that politics is dominated by special interests. From my perspective, it sucks even more now that Democrats totally dominate the big money contributions. Undoubtedly Dems  will use their enhanced power in state politics to augment their money dominance. But what do you do about it? Is capping campaign contributions the answer?

Money will always find a way. If Environmentalists and gun control zealots want to push for renewable energy and restrictions on gun purchases, they’re going to find a way to advance those causes. If they can’t contribute to favored candidates, they will funnel their money into nonprofit “educational” groups or issue advertising or the underwriting of media organizations. At least when they donate to candidates, the money is visible and we can see who is pulling the puppet strings.

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14 responses to “House of Delegates Election Tally: $66.4 Million”

  1. LarrytheG Avatar

    If you really want to stop/restrict then you put limited on what they spend and for what – so that it don’t matter how much money they got or from where… they can only spend to some limit and after that they need to find other methods that don’t cost money.

    And with the advent of Social Media – spending great gobs of money is wasteful anyhow.

    Look at this guy – who WON as a write-in candidate!

    ” Del. Nick Freitas, R-Culpeper, declared victory over Democratic challenger Ann Ridgeway Tuesday night, despite having to wage a write-in campaign for re-election.

    The voting pattern in the 30th House District looked clear, but wasn’t certain, at the Star-Exponent’s press time. State Board of Elections workers must count every write-in ballot by hand, which will take a day or two.

    Tuesday night, election officials tallied that 15,116 write-in votes were cast, or 57.9 percent of the total cast, compared with 10,996 votes—or 42.1 percent of the total—cast for Ridgeway of Madison.”

  2. Anonymous3444 Avatar

    “Clearly, more money is worse than less money when you’re running an election campaign.”

    Yup. I try to start broke, if I can. I once started a campaign bankrupt and won even before the election.


    1. Oh, brother, I meant “more money is BETTER than less money.” I’ve corrected the mistake.

      1. Anonymous3444 Avatar

        I know, but I couldn’t resist in light of the fact that plenty of folks (myself included) would argue that less money actually _is_ better for everyone. (Not better for those who are more concerned about the election than the Commonwealth.)

  3. Jane Twitmyer Avatar
    Jane Twitmyer

    Not sure what the answer is … Citizens United allowing corporations to contribute as if a person is one problem, and limits make some sense to most states although a few are pretty high …
    “In the 2017-2018 election cycle, 11 states permitted unlimited contributions from individuals to state-level political candidates.” state_comparison_of_campaign_finance_requirements

    I’m curious where the party affiliated monies come from … are they transparent in VA?

    1. TooManyTaxes Avatar

      Jane – Citizens United does not deal with campaign contributions. Corporations are still barred from making federal contributions. Citizens United stands for the preposition that a company could not be prohibited by federal regulation from paying for the creation and distribution of a film about Hillary Clinton. Why should any entity be prohibited from airing its views on a subject? And since entities like the Wapo were kissing her butt, why shouldn’t other entities be able to kick it? In an electronic world, there is no reason to distinguish between the media and any other entity. Any corporation should have the same rights to publish its views as a newspaper, magazine, radio or TV station or cable channel.

      Substitute Donald Trump and see how the left would find a reason to oppose and support Citizens United at the same time.

      Real campaign finance reform would prohibit any interstate campaign contributions. Ever better campaign finance reform would prohibit any contributions from beyond the boundary of the district for which the candidates were running.

  4. Jane Twitmyer Avatar
    Jane Twitmyer

    TMT, I reread the conclusion …and yes it was not about ‘contributions’. That prohibition is still in place, however, the ruling had a major impact on campaign finance, allowing unlimited election spending by corporations and labor unions and fueling the rise of Super PACs.

    It was about political advertising. The question was about a campaign finance law that prohibited a corporation from making ‘electioneering communication’ within 30 days of a primary and 60 days of an election.

    The decision ruled that First Amendment rights extend to associations of individuals as well as individuals, saying that the ability to make large political large expenditures, with their ability to corrupt, didn’t apply.

    The dissent raised the issue of large funding buying elections. Legal entities, Justice Stevens wrote, are not “We the People”. I agree and think this ruling pushed a lot of monies, and obligations to corporate wants, into our elections. Corporate power has enormous, and out-sized, influence in our legislation and our government.

  5. LarrytheG Avatar

    Citizens United is ALSO about organizations that claim to be tax-deductible charities than then engage in partisan activities – as super PACs.

    For all the fire and fury about folks like George Soros involvement in campaigns, there is a like number of Kochs and other involved also in the same activities to include anonymous donors.

    And the trouble with “free speech” is basically lying and conspiracy theories that too many people do believe – witness right now.

    This is not new, it started way back when the Cigarette companies were under scrutiny and they were found to be engaging in a propaganda campaign to impugn science and spread misinformation.

    Since then, the techniques for spreading misinformation and disinformation have gotten more sophisticated and the money to generate these messages flows heavily today and, in fact, has propagated into Twitter and Facebook where you’ll find no shortage of folks who believe and spread further the disinformation.

    And it works. People are lazy and often pre-disposed to a particular political viewpoint and they will willingly believe stuff that is patently false because it suits their loyalties to one cause or another.

    So, the greatest country in the world is now functioning like some 3rd world country where mobs are fueled by false rumors and disinformation.

    Congrats (sic) !

  6. Dick Hall-Sizemore Avatar
    Dick Hall-Sizemore

    Yes, Citizens United was a landmark decision. Ah, conservatives now seem to have some misgivings now that the shoe is on the other foot.

  7. TooManyTaxes Avatar

    Why should Jeff Bezos have freedom to use print and electronic media to push or punish candidates through election day through the Post but another corporation cannot do the same because it does not own a newspaper? And given the clear trend that daily newspapers will soon be all but 100% electronic, how does one distinguish between the Post and any other corporation? The MSM is about 95% leftwing. Why isn’t the effort to overturn Citizens United yet another attempt by the left to suppress any counter-voices? At a bare minimum, the campaign finance statutes need to be amended to make media endorsements a campaign contribution.

    1. TooManyTaxes Avatar

      This prove my point. There is nothing special about the MSM because of the Internet. Treat the MSM like any other corporation. Either everyone can push or attack candidates or issues without it being a prohibited campaign contribution or no one can.

      Where’s Drudge? It gets more hits than anyone on your list.

      1. LarrytheG Avatar

        Well, it’s NOT my list – it’s a list that anyone can get just by casually searching for Conservative Media ….

        and it pretty much proves just how false the MSM claim is… these days.

        THe right-wing is more than amply represented in media these days – it’s just a canard excuse continue to attack WaPo and NYT over and over claiming they are THE MSM when we have the WSJ and FOX NEws and a plethora of other media like the Washington Examiner and Brietbart , Rush Limbaugh, BIll O’Reilly and many, many others.
        “MSM” is not the media… it’s the right-wing who pretends there is no right-wing media but the credibility of the right-wing media just sucks and they promote conspiracy theories left and right and just flat out lie … taking up Trumps lies…

        1. TooManyTaxes Avatar

          You missed my point. With electronic publishing available to anyone with some skills and money, there is no practical difference between a traditional media company and any other entity that desires to report and comment on “news.” Toss in the massive and continuing decline in print media and the rise in streaming, there is no reasonable justification to use the First Amendment to protect traditional media companies, while regulating other corporations that do the same thing.

          But the laws attempt to put restrictions on non-traditional companies, especially close to elections. I can’t see the legal justification. Why is it OK for a newspaper to support the candidacy of X up to the election and not call it a campaign contribution, while calling another corporate entity’s support of X up to the election a campaign contribution, when both spend money to put their advocacy pieces on line?

          Either allow all electronic advocacy without campaign finance regulations or count media editorializing as a campaign contribution. This should not be that hard to do.

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