Virginia Democrats’ Quid Pro Quo Squabble

Michael Bills

by James A. Bacon

More blue on blue: Hedge-fund manager Michael Bills, the money meister behind Clean Virginia, worked behind the scenes to oppose the elevation of Del. Eileen Filler-Corn, D-Fairfax Station, to Speaker of the House. So alleged Senate Majority Leader Richard Saslaw, D-Fairfax, in an interview on the John Fredericks radio show last week.

“I had heard that they or they representatives had made phone calls to get people to vote against Eileen,” Saslaw said. “You know, quite frankly, you’re getting awfully close to that quid pro quo line when you’re doing stuff like that. I don’t take, nor does our caucus… we don’t take any contributions that come with any conditions. To me, you’re getting into dangerous territory when you accept a deal like that.”

Richard Saslaw

Bills and wife Sonjia Smith spent nearly $2 million in donations that came from them personally or funneled through Clean Virginia to candidates who pledged not to take contributions from Dominion Energy.

The story, if true, suggests that a schism exists between the establishment wing of Virginia’s Democratic Party and the militant environmentalist wing of the party. Militant environmentalists deem Dominion Energy to be a fount of political corruption and, due to the utility’s continued advocacy of natural gas, an impediment to the goal of achieving a 100% renewable electric grid. However, as long as Dominion can patch together a coalition of Republican and pragmatic Democratic lawmakers, it will likely continue to prevail in the General Assembly.

Clean Virginia denied that it lobbied against Filler-Corn, reports the Washington Free Beacon. “Dominion Energy advertises heavily on the John Fredericks Show, and it is all-too-common to hear blatant lies about our work on the broadcast,”  said Clean Virginia Executive Director Brennan Gilmore in a statement. “The allegation that our board chair Michael Bills was calling to lobby against Delegate Eileen Filler-Corn’s leadership bid is yet another one of these falsehoods.”

However, according to the Washington Free Beacon, Sen. Joe Morrissey said that he had spoken to multiple members of the Democratic caucus whom Bills had contacted to oppose Filler-Corn.

Whatever the truth of the matter, it sounds like there are plenty of hard feelings. The incident reflects a fundamental divide in the Democratic Party of Virginia.

So far, Virginia’s establishment media has yet to pick up the story — perhaps the press doesn’t consider the John Fredericks Show to be a legitimate source of news. Sounds like an important political story to me. Mainstream reporters need to get out of their bubble.

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14 responses to “Virginia Democrats’ Quid Pro Quo Squabble”

  1. Reed Fawell 3rd Avatar
    Reed Fawell 3rd

    A timely article here. It points up the very real threat rising that America, within next few decades, will most likely be run soup to nuts by billionaire oligarchs, along the Russian model. The mass movement politics of the country, the shattering of an effective Congress into a dysfunctional one controlled by a single party, and an ever more politicized and ideological Supreme Court, all these trends will likely accelerate this progress to Oligarchy, thanks largely to a corrupt system of higher education whose poison is now leaking out into the popular culture in ever more ways damaging to our vanishing Republic that soon will remain in name only, dead Republic akin to Augustan Rome after Julius Caesar’s murder.

    1. Reed Fawell 3rd Avatar
      Reed Fawell 3rd

      Here are snippets from a fresh alternative suggested by Republican Sen. Josh Hawley in Wall Street Journal, Nov. 24, 2019:

      “… It’s time for a new departure. The effort to remake the world from Washington has run aground. Now a new strategy abroad must protect American interests and meet American needs by prioritizing the people who sustain America: the middle and working class.

      Ours is a middle-class republic, the first of its kind, and we need a foreign policy that protects the prosperity and security of our working people. This is America’s enduring national interest: to preserve, protect and defend our unique way of democracy.

      To pursue that interest, America must prevent any one nation from dominating or dictating to us in any key region of the globe. To secure the prosperity of our people and sustain the political and economic independence of our middle class, we need to be free to trade and engage with other nations on free and equal terms.

      American foreign policy should be built on preserving our independence and preventing domination by others …” End Quote,

      For balance of commentary see:

      The title is End “Forever Wars’ and Face China’s Threat, America shouldn’t aspire to run the world but to prevent Beijing’s domination”



    2. Reed Fawell 3rd Avatar
      Reed Fawell 3rd

      Imagine this radical idea:

      The state, federal and local governments of America promote first and foremost the interests, economic and social, of America’s working classes and their families, instead of stealing the money, and destroying the heritage, culture, and history of those who work in America for a living, and for the health and welfare of their families.

      Why now is this such a radical idea?

  2. djrippert Avatar

    “You know, quite frankly, you’re getting awfully close to that quid pro quo line when you’re doing stuff like that. I don’t take, nor does our caucus… we don’t take any contributions that come with any conditions. To me, you’re getting into dangerous territory when you accept a deal like that.”

    From Saslaw? Bwaaaaaahahahahahah. Tricky Dick Nixon had nothing on Tricky Dick Saslaw.

  3. Peter Galuszka Avatar
    Peter Galuszka

    Reed. Has been so ruled. Visit american oligarchs from late 19th century. Watch “Citizen Kaine.”

  4. Steve Haner Avatar
    Steve Haner

    The real unanswered question, which perhaps our new leading news outlet Virginia Mercury could explore, is why? Why would Clean VA/Michael Bills be opposed to Filler-Corn? Perhaps just because they preferred one of the other names, I guess. I’ve given up trying to follow the GOP machinations and have no grasp of what’s happening in that other caucus.

  5. TooManyTaxes Avatar

    Geez, Bacon. Don’t you realize Democrats cannot do “quid pro quo.” And even if they did, it wouldn’t count. Just think about Bill and Hillary Clinton and Juanita Brodderick.

    It’s just like Tom Steyer who crusades against fossil fuels after he made billions on coal investments and a competitor to the Keystone Pipeline. I bet if the media dug into Bills they’d find and need to hide some dirt in his investments too.

    1. djrippert Avatar

      Tommy Coal Mines also invested in Corrections Corp of America which runs migrant detention centers on the U.S. – Mexico border for ICE. He now claims that he “deeply regrets” the investment and personally ordered his investment company to sell their stake. Let me see if I have this straight – you accidentally invested in a company that performs a service you find abhorrent but you want to have the responsibility of being president of the United States.

      Seeing billionaires like Tommy Coal Mines try to buy his way into the presidency almost gives Elizabeth Warren a shred of credibility. Almost.

    2. TooManyTaxes Avatar

      If Steyer had a true change of heart and realized he made “dirty” money from coal, pipelines and private prisons, he should immediately give away all his profits from those investments and, if he was truly sorry, treble the giveaway. But the holier-than-though billionaires with a “conscience” like their money. Do as I say, not as I do. I have to say, Steyer makes even Ralph Northam seem virtuous by comparison.

  6. Dick Hall-Sizemore Avatar
    Dick Hall-Sizemore

    Just a few comments, some unrelated:

    1. Why is Saslaw getting into the business of the House? That will not get him any friends there.
    2. Funny how certain adjectives get thrown around. Environmentalists who have strong feelings about Dominion are “militant” environmentalists. The Democrats who might support Dominion are “pragmatic” Democrats.
    3. “Sen.” Joe Morrissey? Boy, does that sound strange. The Senate floor actions should be fun to watch now, with both Morrissey and Surovell there. It was fun to watch these two take on the Republicans in the House.

  7. LarrytheG Avatar

    re: “militant” Dems verses traditional Dems!

    Quid Pro Quo ?



    When I HEAR that the Dems as a party are going to primary the moderates like the GOP does to its moderates, I might get on board with this twaddle.

    There is no question about the GOP these days – they are so desperate that just about any tactic is fair game including the good old circular firing squad.

    I predict – that the Dems will have some tough back and forth bruising but at the end of the day- they’ll unite and get behind some kind of unified approach as opposed to the GOP type warfare on their own.

    1. Steve Haner Avatar
      Steve Haner

      “Establishment” Democrats get challenged from the left in primaries all the time, Larry. But you are right, they will unify more quickly than the GOP, which loves its circular firing squads. The Governor just threw the unions under the bus on Right to Work, but they will be back at the next election working their butts off once again….

    2. TooManyTaxes Avatar

      Larry, Democrats did primary more moderate Democrats in 2019. Senator Favola had a hard-left primary opponent. So did Senator Saslaw and the incumbent Commonwealth Attorneys for both Arlington and Fairfax Counties were ousted by extremely hard-left opponents.

  8. Dick Hall-Sizemore Avatar
    Dick Hall-Sizemore

    I protest: “primary” is either an adjective or noun, it is not a verb. I know I am tilting at windmills. After all, “ask” as a noun has become common usage. But it still grates.

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