The Richmond-based company is followed by the Virginia Bankers Association ($370,822); the Virginia Hospital and Healthcare Association ($277,902); Alpha Natural Resources coal company ($252,907); Verizon ($227,660); the Virginia Trial Lawyers Association ($216,742); the Medical Society of Virginia ($189,746); Altria, the parent company of Philip Morris and one of the world’s largest cigarette manufacturers, ($171,500); the Virginia Cable Telecommunications Association ($151,477); and Appalachian Power ($153,150).
“Contributions are all about the opportunity to be heard,’’ said Jack Harris, executive director at the Virginia Trial Lawyers Association, which represents more than 2,000 lawyers across the state. “I don’t see that there is anything wrong with it.”
Katharine Webb, senior vice president of the Virginia Hospital and Healthcare Association, said her organization’s political action committee raised $25,000 in its first year, about two decades ago. That amount has increased tenfold in this cycle as it helps candidates pay for TV and radio advertising and direct mail.
“Health care has a lot of moving parts. That’s tough for a part-time legislator,’’ Webb said. “The people that ask questions and are interested, we’re helping them. Listening comes first and then comes money. Giving is all about relationships.”
Both the lawyers group and the hospital and health-care association successfully lobbied legislators this spring to override Gov. Robert F. McDonnell’s veto of a bill that will raise awards in medical malpractice lawsuits by $50,000 a year starting in 2012.
In total, Republicans had a nearly 2-to-1 advantage over Democrats as of the last reporting period, which ended June 30, according to an analysis by VPAP, as the GOP looks to take control of the state Senate and add to the party’s majority in the House of Delegates.
Republicans had $13.7 million in the bank, compared with $7.4 million for Democrats, including committees controlled by candidates, parties and legislative leaders.
Virginia is one of a handful of states that don’t limit donations, a system that some argue has led to costly campaigns and candidates who cater to Richmond interests and wealthy donors.
State law bans legislators and statewide officeholders from raising money during the General Assembly’s annual session, which will begin in January, but they make up for it in the days before they convene with a flurry of activity. They are required to disclose all contributions.