The older I get, the more irritable I get. Perhaps, upon passing the threshold to Medicare eligibility, I became a cranky old man. In my defense, however, I do find myself continually provoked. The latest vexation comes from a Community Idea Stations article describing how an increasing number of Democratic Party candidates for General Assembly are self-righteously turning down campaign donations from corporations — not just Dominion Energy, mind you, but any corporation. One example:
Zachary Brown, a law student at the University of Richmond who is running against Eileen Bedell and Ghazala Hashmi in the 10th Senate District, only raised around $2,000 in April and May. But the 23-year-old law student says he came by it honestly.
“We can’t have our constituents second-guessing out votes because we take contributions from large corporations,” Brown said.
Such sentiments are consistent with Democrats’ conviction that the injection of corporate cash is a uniquely corrupting practice. Labor union money, extracted from union dues for causes members may or may not agree with… perfectly OK. Money laundered through Democratic Party PACs… just fine. Contributions from out-of-state billionaires like Tom Steyer… not a problem. But money collected from individual employees in a corporation and bundled through a corporate PACs… horrors!
According to the Virginia Public Access Project (VPAP), the biggest donor in the current electoral cycle, is Tim Chapman, a 51-year-old real estate developer who is seeking the Democratic Party nomination for Fairfax County supervisor chair. He has donated $877,310 so far — the vast majority of which has gone to his own political campaign. Does the fact that he has enough money to buy an election make him any more virtuous or less disinterested than, say, a candidate who accepts money from Dominion or Altria?
The next largest donor — $810,000 contributed so far — comes from the Laborers District Council, which represents construction & public-employee laborers. It is not a stretch to suggest that Laborers have their own narrow political agenda and expect recipients of their largess to vote their way.
The third largest donor is Michael D. Bills, the Charlottesville financier who has promised to bankroll the campaigns of candidates not accepting money from Dominion. His $770,000 in contributions are significantly larger than the $465,063 donated so far by Dominion. Are political candidates any more pure for having taken money from Bills, who is pursuing an ideological, green-energy agenda, than for having taken money for Dominion, which is pursuing its corporate self-interest?
The fourth largest donor, the Commonwealth Victory Fund, is the primary fund-raising arm of the Democratic Party legislative caucus. The fund plays its cards close to the chest. It does not have a website. Political insiders undoubtedly know who calls the shots at the Victory Fund but the general public does not. The fund has donated $627,500 so far this electoral cycle.
No. 5 on the list of mega-donors is Vienna resident Edward Hart Rice, who has given $552,350. Who the heck is Edward Hart Rice? About all we know is that he’s a stockbroker — and a huge contributor to Virginia Democrats. He appears to be intensely private. There is little information online by which members of the public can appraise his motivations in donating.
Next on the list: S. Sonjia Smith, a Charlottesville resident who has given $517,500 exclusively to Democrats. The public knows little about her either — except for the fact that she’s married to Michael Bills. Like her husband, she is using her considerable wealth to advance her political values and priorities.
Democrats dominate the big-money politics in Virginia. Limousine liberals donate huge amounts of money as individuals to their favored candidates. The main counter-weight is money that comes from corporations. (Dominion is the 8th largest donor, while Comcast is the 10th largest donor and Altria is the 13th largest donor.) While limousine liberals donate exclusively to Democrats, corporations spread their money around to both parties.
By de-legitimizing corporate donations, Democrats seek to clear the field of a class of donors that fund Republicans on a roughly equal basis with Democrats. By capping or otherwise limiting corporate donations, Democrats would dominate the world of big campaign donations even more than they do now. That’s fine as a matter of raw power politics. But please, please, please, spare me the sanctimonious moral posturing!
Michael Bills donated $25,000 this year to the John Bell for Senate campaign. I know nothing about John Bell, But if an important green-energy issue came up for a vote in the Senate, do we think that Bills wouldn’t give him a call and apply some pressure? If Bell voted the wrong way, do we think that Bills wouldn’t yank his support the next election cycle? Does anyone believe that Bills, motivated by ideology, is a more disinterested player in energy policy than Dominion?
Campaign contributions are only the most visible means by which Big Money (and by Big Money I include Big Limousine Liberalism) influence politics in Virginia. Far larger sums slosh around the system as “dark money,” funneled through non-profits that influence the political and regulatory process by filing lawsuits, organizing activists, issuing “studies,” and spending millions of dollars on “educational outreach.” Much of this activity is bankrolled by foundations, typically set up by dead zillionaires, controlled by liberals to fund progressive causes, and enjoying tax-free status in the bargain. Unless an initiative is funded by the Koch Brothers, liberals never complain about dark money.
The only thing worse than a political system dominated by money is a system dominated by sanctimonious, non-transparent, purer-than-thou money.There are currently no comments highlighted.