GOP Holds 2-to-1 Fundraising Advantage Over Dems in Virginia

July 18, 2011

Republicans had a nearly 2-to-1 fundraising advantage over Democrats at the end of June for this year's legislative elections, including a definitive battle for partisan control of a closely divided Virginia Senate.

State Board of Election campaign finance reports compiled and analyzed Monday by the Virginia Public Access Project show GOP candidates, party committees and leadership committees with $13.7 million on hand to the Democrats' $7.4 million.

While the Republican advantage is striking, some of the money will be spent the next five weeks by Republicans against Republicans in several contentious, high-profile legislative primary elections.

In the Senate, where Republicans can take a working majority with a net gain of two seats, there are seven GOP primaries and just two Democratic nomination fights.

Big-ticket Senate primaries that await Republican voters on Aug. 23 include ousted state GOP Chairman and former Del. Jeff Frederick taking on conservative immigrant Tito "The Builder" Munoz in the 36th District with a heavy immigrant population, a five-way primary in a redrawn 22nd Senate District with no incumbent, and anti-abortion former Del. Dick Black's effort to return to the General Assembly in northern Virginia's 13th District.

In the House, there are seven Republican House primaries and
three Democratic primaries.

Republican Gov. Bob McDonnell's political action committee, Opportunity Virginia, has nearly $3 million on hand, 127 percent more than Democratic former Gov. Tim Kaine had at the same point heading into midterm legislative races four years ago.

McDonnell has been clear about his desire to help his party take control of the Senate. That would give Republicans unfettered say over policymaking in Virginia for the first time since 2001 and afford McDonnell the chance to enact the conservative agenda he championed as a candidate two years ago.

VPAP, the nonprofit, nonpartisan Virginia campaign finance watchdog, also found that incumbent legislators rely almost totally on lobbyists to stay in power. Lobbyists gave sitting lawmakers $7.4 million, or 99.6 percent of all donations. Challengers received just $3,200 from lobbyists, or just 4 one-hundredths of a percentage point.

Candidates in races for open seats where there is no incumbent received $25,600 in lobbyist donations, or about 0.34 percent.

The candidates most reliant on lobbyist contributions, according to the analysis, was Del. Joseph P. Johnson Jr. of Washington County, who got 94 percent of his $4,500 in itemized donations from lobbyists; Del. Donald Merricks of Chatham, who attributes $42,600 of his $46,300, or 92 percent, of his donations to lobbyists; and Del. Bev Sherwood of Winchester, who reported getting $41,650, or 91 percent of her $45,550 from lobbyists.

The most prodigious donors for the 2011 midterm legislative elections are lawyers and law firms, whose combined giving of nearly $1.1 million retains the industry's No. 1 spot from the comparable election four years ago. Utilities, primarily Virginia's dominant power provider Dominion, increased giving by 31 percent from 2007, from 556,373 to $738,598, edging banks out of their No. 2 spot from four years ago. Banks, with total giving down by 14 percent since then, moved into third place at $587,149.


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