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Virginia Politics
Posted at 01:04 PM ET, 05/12/2011

Donation of Greenbrier owner to McDonnell may be an investment in the future

Jim Justice, the billionaire owner of the swanky Greenbrier resort in West Virginia and one of America’s wealthiest people, said Thursday that his family’s $100,000 donation to Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell came not because of his business dealings in the state but because he wants to invest in the future.

“I just think the man is a dynamic leader,’’ Justice said in interview with The Washington Post on Thursday. “Who knows, he may be president some day.”
Jim Justice, owner of The Greenbrier in White Sulphur Springs, W. Va. (By Linda Davidson/The Washington Post)

Justice said he rarely donates to political candidates — but when he does, he sometimes donates to Democrats, sometimes to Republicans. He has made contributions to West Virginia Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin and former U.S. representative Rick Boucher of Southwest Virginia, both Democrats.

McDonnell, a Republican, was at the Greenbrier five months ago, but the two men did not have a chance to meet. After that visit, McDonnell called Justice and the two have spoken about half a dozen times, though they still have not met, Justice said.

“It’s simple. I think Bob McDonnell is doing a great job,’’ Justice said. “I’ve been following him a long time.’’

Justice said he’s frustrated to see Virginia have so many top rating in business and education while West Virginia is consistently last on national rankings.

The West Virginia native, who made his money from corn, timber and coal, has a large swath of farmland on the Virginia-West Virginia border and a business and house in Culpeper. His son lives in Roanoke and his daughter attends Virginia Tech’s medical school.

Justice said that he has no business pending before the executive or legislative branches, and that if he did, he wouldn’t have given such a large donation. “I don’t look for political favors,’’ he said.

Justice donated $50,000 to McDonnell’s political action committee, Opportunity Virginia. His wife, Cathy, sent McDonnell $25,000 and their daughter, Jill, contributed another $25,000.

All the donations came May 6, the day McDonnell left on his 11-day trade mission to Asia, according to the Virginia Public Access Project, a nonpartisan tracker of money in politics.

Justice said he doesn’t support anyone in particular for president in 2012 — he called the potential Republican field a “collage of confusion” — but he said he’d be interested to see whether McDonnell ended up on the national ticket.

Justice has invited McDonnell, Tomblin and the governors of Kentucky and Tennessee to play at the Greenbrier Classic, a Pro-Am tournament, in July. No word yet on who will attend.

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