“I’ve never seen the business community as united as they were” on the transportation measure, said Clayton Roberts, president of the nonpartisan business group Virginia Free.
One Northern Virginia business executive who donated to Cuccinelli this year said some of his fellow Republicans are wary of the attorney general.
“All they know is the law-and-order and social stuff, and he scares” them, said the executive, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to speak frankly about the candidate. He added that some donors with legislative interests in the state worry that Cuccinelli is “unlobby-able.”
One of McDonnell’s biggest contributors — Ted Weschler, a Berkshire Hathaway portfolio manager — has given only to McAuliffe’s campaign, while Dominion chief executive Thomas F. Farrell II has made small donations to both McAuliffe and Cuccinelli.
Then there is Dwight Schar, chairman of the home-building company NVR and a Washington Redskins minority owner, who gave $70,000 to McDonnell’s campaign and also kicked in six figures to the governor’s political action committee. Schar endorsed McAuliffe in early June and has attacked Cuccinelli for his “ideological agenda” and “focus on extreme social issues.”
Some donors from the financial sector also may have been dissuaded by SEC rules to limit “pay to play” practices. The guidelines restrict contributions to state and local campaigns by firms and investment advisers that do business with public pension funds.
Fred Malek, a major Republican donor who is co-chairman of Annapolis-based Thayer Lodging Group, said he could not personally contribute to Cuccinelli because “the new rules make it very difficult for a private-equity managing partner to give money to a statewide race.”
But, Malek added, “I support Ken Cuccinelli to the hilt.”
Waiting for the bandwagon
Polls have shown the race to be tight, and Cuccinelli could still enjoy a late windfall if momentum looks to be on his side in the final months leading to Election Day.
Some of McDonnell’s most generous donors in 2009 waited until October to contribute, when it was clear he had the advantage. McDonnell had raised $9.8 million through May 2009 and ended up raising $24 million for the contest.
“If people believe you’re going to win, they want to be with the winner,” said Boyd Marcus, a Republican campaign consultant who has worked for Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling.
Some well-known conservatives, including retired Roanoke Realtor Lynn Via and energy billionaire David Koch, have stood by Cuccinelli. And Cuccinelli has managed to attract some deep-pocketed supporters who did not give to McDonnell four years ago, among those, hedge fund executive Sean Fieler.
Fieler, the chairman of the American Principles Project, a conservative advocacy group in Washington, said he donated $50,000 to Cuccinelli’s campaign because of what he called “McAuliffe’s extreme position on abortion.”
Cuccinelli has excelled with small donors: Through May, he had gotten about 12,000 donations of $100 and under; McAuliffe received fewer than 8,000. LaCivita said the Republican had gotten more than “16,000 individual contributions” since the end of May and “almost three times the number of contributions at this point in the race compared” with McDonnell in 2009.
Some of McDonnell’s donors were longtime Democrats, including Sheila Johnson. The co-founder of the Black Entertainment Television network caused a stir by endorsing and donating $50,000 to McDonnell four years ago. This time around, she said, she will be voting for McAuliffe — but doesn’t plan to contribute to either candidate.
“I’m not giving nobody another dime,” Johnson recently told The Washington Post. “I’ve spent way too much money on politicians. . . . It’s like throwing money down a toilet.”