Disparate donors fuel early fundraising in Virginia governor’s contest


Terry McAuliffe and Ken Cuccinelli (Associated Press and Getty Images)
April 18, 2013

As Republican Ken Cuccinelli and Democrat Terry McAuliffe battle over undecided voters in the swing state of Virginia, each one is relying on his base for financial help.

The latest fundraising totals in the gubernatorial contest show that McAuliffe’s commanding cash lead was boosted by labor groups, significant out-of-state donors and his deep Democratic political donor base.

In addition to a $1 million donation from the Republican Governors Association, Cuccinelli received money from energy groups and conservative interests as well as an unusually large number of smaller donors.

For the three-month period ending March 31, McAuliffe reported raising $5.1 million, compared with $2.4 million for Cuccinelli, who as state attorney general was prohibited from raising money during the legislative session, which coincided with much of the quarter.

McAuliffe took full advantage of his perch as both a businessman not in public office and the lone candidate seeking the Democratic nomination. He did especially well among the friends and contacts he has made as a close ally of Bill and Hillary Rodham Clinton.

In addition to a $100,000 donation from the former president, McAuliffe got $100,000 checks from longtime Clinton aide Doug Band and former Clinton business partner Ron Burkle. He took in smaller donations from Clinton White House alumni Sandy Berger, Harold Ickes, Thomas F. “Mack” McLarty and Doug Sosnik, among others. And McAuliffe got $20,000 apiece from Rep. John Delaney (D-Md.) and his wife, April McClain-Delaney, who are also allies of the Clintons.

Best-selling authors David Baldacci and John Grisham also pitched in donations for McAuliffe.

While Cuccinelli got more than $100,000 from the energy industry, one particular McAuliffe energy donor — Dominion PAC, which also gave to Cuccinelli — is notable.

In his 2009 campaign, McAuliffe made a point of saying he was “the only candidate running for governor that refuses to take a check from Dominion Power or their PAC,” asserting that the state needed to focus more on renewable energy. At the time, the statement sparked controversy, because McAuliffe’s foes noted that Dominion’s retired chief executive had hosted a fundraiser for McAuliffe.

But this year, he reversed course and accepted a $25,000 donation from Dominion’s political action committee.

“Terry has been meeting with Dominion over the last few years talking about renewable energy,” spokesman Josh Schwerin said when asked about the donation. “He is excited about the prospect of working with Dominion to create 21st-century clean-energy jobs.”

According to an analysis of campaign finance data from the Virginia Public Access Project, Cuccinelli has reported more than 9,100 donations overall of $100 or less, which is consistent with his ability throughout his career to attract conservatives who give in small amounts. That number at this stage in the race is a record for a Virginia gubernatorial candidate, dislodging Republican Jerry Kilgore, who drew more than 5,200 small donors at the same point in the 2005 race.

In the latest quarter, however, McAuliffe had 3,576 donors who gave $100 or less; Cuccinelli had 2,946.

While Cuccinelli had significantly more in-state donors, McAuliffe raised more money from Virginians. According to VPAP, 82 percent of Cuccinelli’s supporters had a Virginia address, compared with 47 percent of McAuliffe donors. But that translated into $797,000 for Cuccinelli, compared with over $1 million for McAuliffe.

Cuccinelli had far fewer five- and six-figure donors than McAuliffe. But some big-dollar conservative donors pulled out their checkbooks, including marriage-equality opponent Sean Fieler, who gave $50,000 this quarter. The Campaign for Working Families, which has taken stances against marriage equality and allowing gays to fully participate in the Boy Scouts of America, gave $10,000.

Christopher Newport University political science professor Quentin Kidd said that this quarter’s totals are telling and that the spring fundraising numbers could reveal more about the direction of the race.

Cuccinelli “has to make a better showing in the spring,” Kidd said. “Some of the big Republican business donors . . . they know the game. If Cuccinelli had them in the bag, he would’ve gone to them in the past couple of weeks and asked them for the big check. He didn’t get that.”

The Cuccinelli campaign said it is entering the next fundraising period “in a strong position, having exceeded fundraising expectations.”

“The fact that so many individual donors are supporting the campaign is a testament to the robust grass-roots support his candidacy is building throughout the commonwealth,” said Dave Rexrode, Cuccinelli’s campaign manager. “Ken Cuccinelli’s strong fundraising numbers prove we will have the resources necessary to run a winning campaign.”

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