Richmond Times Dispatch: September 19, 2019

Democratic Party of Virginia rejects political dollars from Dominion

By Mel Leanor, Richmond Times Dispatch

The Democratic Party of Virginia will no longer accept political contributions from Dominion Energy, the Richmond-based electric monopoly that serves most Virginia residents.

Party Chairwoman Susan Swecker said Dominion’s contributions are a “very contentious issue with a lot of folks all across the commonwealth, and we thought it was time for us to just step up and say this is where we are,” according to an interview published on the left-leaning blog Blue Virginia.

Party spokesman Jake Rubenstein confirmed the decision but would not comment further. DPVA’s pledge also includes Appalachian Power, the state’s other electric monopoly.

With its pledge, DPVA joins dozens of Virginia legislators and Attorney General Mark Herring, who have pledged to not take money from Dominion. Some believe the company’s abundant contributions give it outsize influence over Virginia politics.

In announcing his decision, Herring, a Democrat, said, “I’ve seen the public’s trust in government at a real low point.”

DPVA has not received funding from Dominion since 2017, when it got $771, according to the Virginia Public Access Project. But in 2016, it accepted its largest-ever contribution from the utility: a one-time contribution of $100,000.

Republicans also accept contributions from Dominion. The Republican Party of Virginia has not received contributions from Dominion since 2017, but the political committees for House and Senate Republicans have received $108,000 in 2018 and 2019 combined.

DPVA’s decision does not mean Dominion’s lobbying funds will not wind up in the coffers of state Democrats.

The House Democratic Caucus, which has accepted $35,000 from Dominion this year, said Thursday that it would not follow DPVA in its pledge. Neither will Gov. Ralph Northam’s political arm, The Way Ahead, which accepted almost $21,000 from the utility and its officials this year. The Senate Democratic Caucus, which accepted $25,000 earlier this year, did not respond to a request for comment.

All help support Democratic campaigns, including through direct contributions.

A tally by the group Clean Virginia, which opposes Dominion’s electric monopoly, says 40 Democratic and Republican members of the General Assembly, and 43 challengers, have pledged to reject Dominion funding. Among Democrats, about 4 in 5 reject Dominion dollars.

In the interview, however, Swecker said the decision was made for the party individually.

“We know some of our candidates still take Dominion money, and we’re OK with that,” Swecker said. “We made a decision based on what we thought was right for the party, and everyone else can judge for themselves.”