RICHMOND — The Democratic Party of Virginia — eager to raise campaign cash and move past scandals surrounding Virginia’s top three officeholders — turned away a $2,500 donation this month from Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax (D), whom two women have accused of sexual assault.
Fairfax, who has denied the accusations, made contact with the party on April 1 to reserve a table at the Blue Commonwealth Gala, a June fundraiser that is expected to feature several Democratic presidential contenders.
The $2,500 cost for the table would be considered a donation to the state party. And the party said it did not want to accept it — at least not for the time being.
The decision, first reported by the Richmond Times-Dispatch, does not prevent Fairfax from attending the gala as a guest at someone else’s table, said party spokesman Jake Rubenstein.
“We were not comfortable accepting the Lieutenant Governor’s PAC’s contribution and we let his team know that when they reached out,” Rubenstein said in an email.
He said the party was monitoring the situation with Fairfax, who requested the table just as the controversy had returned to the national news. On April 1 and 2, Fairfax’s two accusers recounted the alleged assaults in interviews with Gayle King on “CBS This Morning.”
Fairfax announced at that time that he had taken and passed two polygraph examinations.
Fairfax spokeswoman Lauren Burke said the party was being unfair to Fairfax — who has not been charged with any crime.
“The Lt. Governor’s We Rise Together PAC was planning to have a group of African-American pastors and other supporters sit at his table,” Burke said in an email. “He is innocent and has passed two polygraphs and repeatedly called for an investigation. DPVA has assumed he is guilty of a violent criminal act with no investigation or even a conversation to ascertain his version of events.
“This is beyond comprehension for a state party claiming dedication ‘to the preservation of all the rights enumerated in Article One of the Constitution of Virginia,’ ” she said. “That Article, of course, provides for due process of law. If the Lt. Governor can’t receive due process from his own party how can we assume the average Virginian can?”
Rubenstein objected to her comparison of the party’s action to a denial of constitutional rights, calling that characterization “very unfortunate.”
The party’s decision to reject Fairfax’s donation could put pressure on other groups or candidates to return contributions he made before the scandal.
Kathryn Gilley, a spokeswoman for the House Democratic Caucus, which has called on Fairfax to resign, said it had no plans to return the $5,000 contribution Fairfax made in December.
“That contribution from the LG’s PAC went to assist paying down the legal fees from the 2017 recounts,” she said in an email.
In early February, two women went public with claims that Fairfax sexually assaulted them years ago. That scandal erupted just as Gov. Ralph Northam (D) and Attorney General Mark Herring (D) admitted to wearing blackface as young men.
All three remain in office. At least so far, Northam and Herring have not sought to sponsor tables at the gala.
Northam will be out of the country, leading a trade mission to the Paris Air Show, spokeswoman Ofirah Yheskel said. A spokesman for Herring did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The gala is expected to feature several Democrats running for the White House. So far, one has been booked: Pete Buttigieg, the mayor of South Bend, Ind.