RICHMOND, JAN. 8 -- After months of saying it was no one else's business, Gov. L. Douglas Wilder disclosed today that he made a profit of nearly $1 million on festivities surrounding his inauguration one year ago this week.
A surplus of $966,533.40 will be turned over to a political action committee, to be spent on political activities in the state, according to a statement issued by the governor's office.
Wilder's press secretary, Laura Dillard, said the governor broke his silence on the subject "because the people should know the purpose" for which the money will be used and "now is the time he has determined" it should be made public. Dillard did not explain why Wilder chose to release the information at this time.
Wilder's announcement came on the day before the 1991 session of the Virginia General Assembly was to get underway. Republicans said they plan to introduce legislation that would require a governor to disclose contributions and spending from inaugural activities.
The PAC gives Wilder a political carrot, "a bunch of money to use as he sees fit" in a year when all 140 seats in the legislature are up for election, said Robert Holsworth, a Virginia Commonwealth University political science professor.
The fund will be administered by Richmond lawyer Robert J. Grey Jr., who also served as Wilder's general counsel for the inauguration. Grey said the new PAC will be separate from a previously announced Committee for Fiscal Responsibility in 1992, which Wilder plans to use to finance his out-of-state travels and other activities that could aid his chances for national office next year.
Larry J. Sabato, a University of Virginia political science professor, said "it would be much too complicated" to try to use the surplus in a campaign for national office because federal laws make corporate contributions illegal and limit individual contributions to $1,000.
Virginia election laws place no limit on the size or source of political contributions.
Today's accounting, offered in a two-paragraph statement, said the balance reflects the excess, including interest, of contributions that previously were estimated to have been about $1.5 million.
Many of the tickets to the Wilder inauguration, including box seats for a ball that cost $7,500, were bought by corporations and lobbyists.
The inaugural committee has not paid a $192,000 bill for printing invitations. The committee contends the amount is excessive, and a lawsuit filed by the printer will go to trial here next month. Grey said he did not know if any settlement would be paid from the surplus.