“Although familiar with the Accountability Virginia PAC sponsors, we failed to vet sufficiently the scope of their intended activities,” Blue said in the email, which a company spokesman confirmed was authentic. “In as much, we have asked that our contributions be returned.”
The social media ads highlight the fact that Youngkin did not receive an endorsement from the National Rifle Association, an attempt to cast doubt on the former business executive’s commitment to gun owners’ rights.
While Youngkin promised to roll back restrictions on gun rights while pursuing the GOP nomination, he has more recently been mum on the topic — focusing instead on crime — as he seeks to woo independent voters who will play a crucial role in his increasingly tight race against former governor Terry McAuliffe, the Democratic nominee.
“While the NRA backs Donald Trump, they REFUSED to endorse Glenn Youngkin,” one of the ads says. “We can’t trust Glenn Youngkin on guns. Youngkin should tell us the truth about where he stands.”
Last month, Axios reported that Accountability Virginia PAC has ties to the Democratic Party. Among other things, Democratic fundraising platform ActBlue hosts the group’s online donations page, and it used a digital marketing firm co-founded by the digital director of Joe Biden’s presidential campaign, the Axios report found.
A day after the Sept. 28 Axios report appeared online, a $75,000 donation from Dominion to the Accountability Virginia PAC went through, the company’s campaign finance report shows.
A spokeswoman for McAuliffe said his campaign did not authorize the ads.
A representative of the Accountability Virginia PAC — which has no information about officers or funders on its website — could not be reached for comment Monday. A consultant group that registered the PAC in Virginia did not respond to repeated requests for comment.
Youngkin’s campaign called the ads an act of desperation on behalf of McAuliffe. Both candidates are touring the state to whip up enthusiasm with two weeks left before the election.
“Forty year politician Terry McAuliffe and the Democratic Party are running scared, so they’ve done what all politicians do — call in their special interest cronies to dump obscene amounts of money into shadowy organizations in order to protect their entrenched interests,” Macaulay Porter, Youngkin’s spokeswoman, said in a statement.
Virginia state Sen. David R. Suetterlein (R-Roanoke) said the ads targeted rural areas of his district with large concentrations of conservative voters.
At the same time they appeared, another set of ads from McAuliffe’s campaign that appeared in more moderate suburban areas of the district characterized Youngkin as being too extreme on guns.
Combined, the attack ads sought to suppress enthusiasm for Youngkin from two directions, Suetterlein said.
“Most people were not seeing both messages, but both messages were being put out by groups clearly aligned to help McAuliffe,” he said.
Laura Vozzella contributed to this report.