Money and Democracy

Published — November 4, 2013 Updated — May 19, 2014 at 12:19 pm ET

Koch-backed governors group gives big to Cuccinelli in Virginia

Outsiders turn race into national proxy on tea party, Democrats


Virginia Republican gubernatorial candidate Ken Cuccinelli has raked in millions from out-of-state donors while at the same time hammering Democratic opponent Terry McAuliffe for doing the same, campaign finance records show.

Cuccinelli has received $8.1 million — more than 40 percent of funds raised by his campaign since Jan. 1 — from the Republican Governors Association (RGA), a Washington, D.C.-based group that funnels big contributions from corporations and billionaires into races for governor across the country, according to state data collected by the Virginia Public Access Project.

Tomorrow’s contest pits tea party favorite Cuccinelli against McAuliffe, former Democratic National Committee chairman and friend of Bill and Hillary Clinton. Heading into Election Day, Cuccinelli trails in the money race, having received nearly $20 million compared with McAuliffe’s nearly $32.9 million, according to VPAP. A Quinnipiac University poll released Monday shows McAuliffe with a 6 point lead.

Cuccinelli, the state’s attorney general, has attempted to paint McAuliffe as a carpetbagger, backed by out-of-state liberals with no connection to Virginia.

An Oct. 15 email warned supporters that “liberal Democrats in New York and Hollywood are trying to buy the Virginia governor’s mansion.”

An Oct. 30 fundraising email blast from the Cuccinelli campaign noted McAuliffe has been helped by New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s Independence USA PAC and San Francisco environmentalist Tom Steyer’s NextGen Climate Action PAC.

Records show more than $1.7 million in advertising was paid for by Independence USA and another $1.6 million by NextGen.

But just less than 5 percent of the RGA’s donors in the first six months of the year were from Virginia, the organization’s IRS filings show, and none of the organization’s top 30 donors were from the state.

Among the top donors in the first half of 2013 was billionaire David Koch, who gave $1 million. Koch Industries, the company he owns with brother Charles, gave $25,000, according to IRS records. Tied with David Koch for the top spot at $1 million each were two Texans, the late Houston homebuilder Bob Perry and billionaire Harold Simmons’ Contran Corp.

However, Virginia state records differ. The RGA reported to the Virginia State Board of Elections that David Koch only gave $250,000 this year to the group. In addition, state records show Contran gave $950,000.

Out-of-state groups like the RGA are required to disclose the source of all donations greater than $2,500, according to elections board spokeswoman Nikki Sheridan.

The RGA did not respond to requests for comment.

The second-largest contributor to Cuccinelli’s campaign, the Virginia Republican Party, received more than $155,000 from the RGA and $428,000 from the national Republican State Leadership Committee. Of the $12.5 million the RSLC has raised this year, about 7.5 percent came from Virginia, IRS data shows.

Koch Industries is also an RSLC backer, having given more than $202,000 through Sept. 20 of this year, according to the group’s filing with the IRS. The company also donated $7,500 to the Republican Party Virginia House Campaign Committee, another of the state party’s top sponsors.

Koch — who listed a New York address for himself and a Kansas address for his company — gave another $25,000 directly to Cuccinelli. According to Federal Election Commission records, he also contributed to the Republican National Committee, which gave more than $85,000 to Cuccinelli.

Even when categorizing the state party as an in-state group, Cuccinelli still received only about a third of his funds from inside Old Dominion. A spokeswoman for the campaign did not immediately return a request for comment.

This year’s gubernatorial election is the first in state history to be funded primarily by out-of-state donors, according to VPAP.

McAuliffe received less than one-third of his roughly $33 million from groups or people in the state, including some with Virginia addresses whose funds come primarily from out-of-state.

McAuliffe’s top donor was the Democratic Governors Association’s PAC, DGA Action, which contributed nearly $6.5 million. According to IRS records, the DGA’s top donors in the first half of the year were the Washington D.C.-based Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA) trade group and the International Association of Firefighters union.

The DGA’s biggest donors are typically national labor unions.

In addition to what he received from Bloomberg’s and Steyer’s PACs, McAuliffe received nearly $1.7 million from the Virginia League of Conservation voters — which received 97 percent of its funds from its parent organization.

McAuliffe received $1.1 million from the national Planned Parenthood Votes PAC, which doesn’t list any donors from Virginia. The PAC also funded Planned Parenthood Virginia and the national Planned Parenthood Action Fund, both of which contributed separately to the campaign.

McAuliffe’s campaign spokesman did not immediately return a request for comment.

The impact of national groups extended to the state attorney general’s race.

Of the $4.5 million raised by Republican candidate Mark Obenshain, nearly $2.7 million — more than half — came from the RSLC.

The RSLC’s biggest donors in 2013 include health insurance and tobacco companies, as well as Koch Industries.

Similar to McAuliffe, Democratic candidate for attorney general Mark Herring received help from Bloomberg and an out-of-state party association. Of the roughly $2.9 million total he has raised, nearly $1.4 million came from the Democratic Attorneys General Association, a group similar to the DGA, and about $1.3 million from Bloomberg’s Independence USA PAC. Another $366,655 came from the state Democratic Party, which was heavily funded by McAuliffe’s own campaign.

And like McAuliffe, he was backed by Planned Parenthood and the League of Conservation Voters, as well as national, Washington D.C.-based unions.

Representatives from both the Obenshain and the Herring campaign did not immediately return requests for comment.

Virginia governors are limited to a single four-year term. The attorney general is often looked at as the next gubernatorial candidate, thus the race has attracted tremendous interest, said Kyle Kondik, managing editor of Larry Sabato’s Crystal Ball at the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics.

“Republicans really want to avoid a sweep because, if Mark Obenshain gets elected, they automatically have their 2017 gubernatorial candidate,” he said. “Given that you have this weird dynamic in Virginia where you only can serve for one term, a gubernatorial election is always conducted with the next one in mind.”

Alan Suderman and John Dunbar contributed to this report.

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