McAuliffe's Policy On Dominion Donations Follows Letter, Not Spirit

By The Fact Checker
Wednesday, May 20, 2009

The three Democrats seeking their party's nomination for governor of Virginia participated in their final debate yesterday. Many charges were exchanged by Brian Moran, R. Creigh Deeds and Terry McAuliffe, but one claim offered by McAuliffe generated extensive discussion.

McAuliffe's Assertion: The muddiest claim of yesterday's fifth and final debate among the three Democratic candidates for Virginia governor was this, from McAuliffe: "I'm the only candidate running for governor that refuses to take a check from Dominion Power or their PAC."

The Facts: It's true that McAuliffe has accepted no corporate or political action committee donations from Dominion Virginia Power, one of the most influential companies in the state (and the biggest contributor to campaigns). He said he made the pledge in part because the company is resistant to government-mandated use of renewable energy.

Here's where it gets murky: In April, McAuliffe attended a campaign event in his honor at the home of Thomas E. Capps, Dominion's retired president and chief executive. Capps also donated $2,500 to McAuliffe's campaign. And Eva Teig Hardy, a former executive and chief lobbyist for the company (and soon to be interim state director for U.S. Sen. Mark Warner), has contributed $7,750 to McAuliffe's campaign.

At yesterday's debate, McAuliffe volunteered the claim that he is not accepting money from Dominion. Deeds seized the opportunity to point out some of the exceptions to that pronouncement.

McAuliffe had an answer for that, too.

"Everybody who works at Dominion knows my stand," McAuliffe said. "If there are individuals inside Dominion who say, 'You know what? I agree with this guy, we need for the future of Virginia to move to a mandatory renewable energy standard' -- they know that I publicly say I won't take a check from the company they work for. . . . If they decide they want to help me, it's up to those individuals to decide to support me."

McAuliffe also made the points that Capps is retired and that Capps hosted him but didn't pay him at the event. ("In fairness, he didn't write a check. It was at his house, but he did not write a check.") McAuliffe did not point out, however, that Hardy still worked for Dominion when she donated to his campaign. Another executive, Christopher B. Rivers, contributed $1,777. And McAuliffe has hired Gordon Morse, a former Dominion employee, to assist his campaign.

For the record, Deeds has accepted $17,500 from Dominion and $5,000 from Hardy; Moran has accepted $1,500 from Robert Blue, a Dominion executive (and former Mark Warner adviser when Warner was governor).

-- Amy Gardner

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