The Rise of Out-of-State Money

Democratic Party campaign donors from outside Virginia. Source: Virginia Public Access Project

Contributions from Democratic Party out-of-state donors has reached a new peak in Virginia’s 2019 legislative elections — $3.4 million, or 15% of total donations — according to new data visualization graphic published by the Virginia Public Access Project.

A similar trend is visible among Republican donors, though not as pronounced.

Out-of-state Republican Party donations.

As out-of-state moneyed interests assume a bigger role in campaign financing, we can expect the preoccupations and proclivities of those donors to influence the tenor of Virginia politics. In other words, we can expect Virginia politics to become even more hyper-partisan and vicious.


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17 responses to “The Rise of Out-of-State Money”

  1. Steve Haner Avatar
    Steve Haner

    There are two charts, Jim – one for Republicans and one for Democrats. You just show the Democrats. And of course you focus on one source of funds alone, when you can see that fundraising is surging in other categories, too. People should go to VPAP for the two graphs in full.

    Bottom line, Virginia has this off-year schedule and is clearly a potential flip so no surprise here. This is the election that picks the General Assembly which will draw new congressional lines in a bill that Governor Northam will be in office to sign (and legislative lines, of course). Both parties and all their aligned issue groups are pouring in resources. A flip to blue will be played as a big defeat for Trump, another magnet for money.

    The idea that having more money or the most money guarantees victory is false. But having enough money is crucial and this year both parties meet the Ambrose Bierce definition of “enough” which is “too much.”

    1. You’re absolutely right, Steve. Accordingly, I have replicated the chart for Republicans.

      True, fundraising is rising in all categories, but as a percentage, out-of-state donations have increased markedly. Another way of putting it, out-of-state donors are gaining market share, while business interests and “other” (non-business, non-partisan, non-single interest group interests) are losing market share.

  2. LarrytheG Avatar

    Geeze – all you have to do is ask Jim to show balance on the reporting!


    I just took it for granted that he was going to focus on the Dems and cut the GOP the usual slack!

    But I actually had a purely non-partisan question or two:

    1. – how do we know that a candidate received out of state money?

    2. – this one is harder – how does the State enforce that? What happens if the Candidate does not report it and someone finds out?

    3. – in terms of out of state money – what prevents outside interests from running their own Ads for candidates and issues? Can they state control that?

    4. – If the state requires the source of the money to be identified – how does “dark money” work? Is it really “dark” if we know the donor?

  3. Peter Galuszka Avatar
    Peter Galuszka

    The answer for out-of-state Dems is obvious. The off-year Va. races are seen as a run-up for the 2020 presidential race. The main actor, of course, is Trump whom the Dems very seriously want dumped. Jim talks about campaign nastiness. It’s always been there but it’s on steroids thanks to the Donald (insults galore, 10,000 public lies, etc.) I sense that Jim is trying to cast mean-spirit campaigning and big out of state money as a Democratic Party thing. I say it relates mostly to Trump.

  4. Steve Haner Avatar
    Steve Haner

    Larry, the name and address of the donor are mandatory on the report. At campaign time, the best enforcement is provided by opponents, who pour over the other side’s reports, and the (shrinking) media. The Board of Elections moves slowly on enforcement….

    Nothing prevents outside interests from running independent ads, robocall, mailings, etc. They need to register with the State Board, report their expenses, but not always their donors – your question four. They are supposed to avoid coordination with the candidate, but as I said, never assume that is the case. Sometimes the coordination is total.

    And I’d like to know more about question four and need to take a day. Certain non-profit entities either do not report their donors, or do so on a long delay which means you don’t know until after the election. When the Supreme Court decided Citizen’s United I think it left the opportunity for full disclosure intact, but Congress and the state legislatures make those rules (or don’t.)

    Peter, neither party can throw rocks at the other as the worst offender, and only blind partisans fail to see that. Before Trump, the Dems all whined about “Tricky Dick.” Remember him? Frankly compared to him and his ratf&%kers the Trumpers are just crude amateurs. And then there was Landslide Lyndon. Politics has been a blood sport in this country since 1800.

  5. LarrytheG Avatar

    re: ” the name and address of the donor are mandatory on the report. ”

    what if you do not file a report at all? How does anyone know?

  6. Steve Haner Avatar
    Steve Haner

    Well, watch for those shenanigans in the Final Days, and it happens. Or somebody registers a PAC four days out…..Look, if a mailing appears in mailboxes or a pile of flyers appear on car windows (watch the church parking lots the final Sunday) and they lack disclaimers and disclosure, that’s a crime. I don’t think you can go to a radio or TV station and buy ad time without filing plenty of paperwork, and being traceable. In this new digital wild west, though, lots and lots of opportunities. Not just out of state but international foolishness. Do you trust the social media providers to police that? I don’t.

    1. LarrytheG Avatar

      well no, I do not trust and I think the current framework is a ruse that purports to claim that it’s all regulated and in reality it’s not.

      The only way to stop it is to make it illegal for anyone other than the SBE to buy any media. In other words, the money itself has to go directly to the SBE who will track it and pay the bills They would charge a fee so that taxpayers don’t pay for it – the donors do.

      If you don’t do that or something like it – the environment is little more than swiss cheese.

      Even then, the last minute stuff – out and out lies days or hours before the vote – and it can’t be stopped apparently.

      But you know… I never heard much agnst about this in Virginia anyhow when the GOP had total control… eh?

      1. Steve Haner Avatar
        Steve Haner

        Absolutely the first time I’ve seen that suggested, anywhere. Hm, I write a check to the State Board of Elections and say – use it to help Kirk Cox, or Debra Rodman. The SBE picks the message, the medium? Not sure you can sell that one.

        1. LarrytheG Avatar

          No, the SBE handles the transactions only – but in toto. Any money spend must go through the SBE. That ensures that ALL the money IS tracked and there are no other paths to spend it – period.

          The content of the message is a separate issue and not part of this.

          1. @LarrytheG

            I think you risk creating a cure worse than the disease. If the SBE becomes corrupt, and we cannot buy media without going through the SBE…..

            Our system depends upon skeptical, sensible voters and a news media that at least includes some truthful investigative reporters. The bigger we make our government the more difficult it is to get skeptical, sensible voters and truthful investigative reporters. The more dependent people become on the government, the less objective they are with respect to it.

  7. Peter Galuszka Avatar
    Peter Galuszka

      Who can forget the “Trick?” I am proud to say I have been tear-gassed protesting him. In retrospect, Nixon did do some good things, such as new environmental laws, China and Soviet diplomacy, sense on the economy and so on. He said he wanted to get us out of Vietnam but then invaded Cambodia. The reasons behind Watergate escaped me, other than his paranoia about leaks. He had the 72 election locked up. Why ruin it? Fascinating, deeply flawed guy. BTW, when I worked in Moscow I found that a lot of Soviet officials thought very highly of him.

  8. Money would not be so important in politics if people were not so gullible, being overly swayed by advertisements and biased “news”. We need a study of gullibility vs age, but my guess is that younger people, who have not been fortified against propaganda, are making moneyed campaigns successful. No laws will be effective in limiting direct contributions, issue articles, or dark money.

  9. Steve Haner Avatar
    Steve Haner

    If age is the proof against gullibility, why is my phone ringing more and more with scams as I pass these milestone birthdays? 🙂

    1. LarrytheG Avatar

      I think older folks are just as gullible to be honest. Scammers actually target those over 70.

      How many people give money to these cult christian groups? geeze.

      How many BELIEVE – really obvious but bogus conspiracy theories?

      People ARE gullible – it’s an irony of the information age.

  10. We must overcome gullibility if we are to overcome the influence of money in politics, no matter what the age of the gullible. People need to exercise their minds, not just their bodies, and must follow both sides of the issues. Retirees have more time than others to spend on researching issues. I hope they are not too lazy.

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