Although 89 percent of the people who gave money to the candidates in the last statewide election gave less than $100, most of the money raised by the six candidates came from people able to give large amounts, according to a study released yesterday by Common Cause.
The study found that in last November's election for governor, lieutenant governor and attorney general the candidates who raised and spent the most money won. The race was the most expensive in Virginia's history, with the six candidates spending a combined total of more than $7 million, including the Democratic Party primary, to seek three jobs whose annual salaries add up to $121,000.
John N. Dalton, the Republican who won the election for governor, collected $1.9 million in loans and contributions, of which more than $800,000 was from "business affiliated persons or groups," according to the public advocacy group's report. Dalton's rival, Democrat Henry E. Howell, raised and spent $830,680 of which 85 percent came from contributors who gave more than $500; 45 percent of these were from business interests.
The report notes that while "business donations are often juxtaposed against labor gifts in the rhetoric of many political pundits," in this election labor gave only one-fifth the amount of money donated by business in the over $500 category. Labor gave $262,000 in large contributions, 81 percent of it to Howell.
Common Cause also found that "personal wealth has also been a factor in the funding of statewide elections," in that family loans or gifts made up 7 percent of both Dalton's and winning lieutenant governor candidate Charles S. Robb's over-$500 contributions, 13 percent of Robb's opponent, Sen. Joe Canada's large gifts, and 9 percent of attorney general J. Marshall Coleman's.
Common Cause has lobbied for public financing of state elections as well as financial disclosure laws.
The study also found that although people who give more than $500 are required by law to be listed by occupation and principal place of business, the four candidates for governor and lieutenant governor failed to supply this information for several major contributors. Dalton failed to identify eight contributors by occupation and place of business, while Howell failed to identify two.
In attacking the fact that two-thirds of the money given to all six candidates was contributed by only 4 percent of the total donors, the authors of the report say that "these interest groups regard their contributions as an investment which will pay off in friendly relations or even a sense of obligation toward the donor on the part of the candidate."