Corporate interests with business before the state government cut hefty checks to Republican Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin's campaign committee after his victory in November through the end of December, according to finance reports filed this week.
Youngkin, who was sworn into office Saturday, raised about $2.2 million in mostly cash as well as in-kind contributions between Nov. 26 and Dec. 31, according to campaign committee finance reports compiled by the nonpartisan Virginia Public Access Project. He reported ending the period with nearly $2 million cash on hand.
Nothing in Virginia law would prevent the campaign donations from being used to repay part of the $20 million in loans Youngkin, a wealthy former private equity executive, made to his own campaign.
Youngkin, who like all Virginia governors will be prohibited from seeking a second consecutive term in the office, could also use the money to help fellow Republicans in future elections.
We're making it easier for you to find stories that matter with our new newsletter — The 4Front. Sign up here and get news that is important for you to your inbox.
“The reality is that when you win an election, especially an election where your party wasn’t favored, there are a lot of people who want to be friendly. So it's a great time to raise money for the next political battles to come,” said Stephen Farnsworth, a professor of political science at the University of Mary Washington.
Campaign strategist Kristin Davison said Youngkin was solely focused on governing and no decision about how the funds would be used had been made.
Cash contributions that flowed to Youngkin's campaign during the period that began weeks after he defeated former Democratic Gov. Terry McAuliffe came from interests ranging from tobacco to banking to insurance to energy to gambling. Hundreds of individuals made smaller-dollar donations as well.
Some of the companies that gave during the reporting period were either new donors to Youngkin or gave far more substantially to McAuliffe during the campaign, including tobacco giant Altria and McLean-based Capital One, according to VPAP's records. Neither immediately responded to a request for comment Thursday on their political giving.
Youngkin’s end-of-year campaign committee fundraising haul exceeded what his recent predecessors brought in over an equivalent period, according to records maintained by VPAP. Northam raised $33,590 during the time frame, for instance. McAuliffe, a prolific fundraiser, brought in about $562,000, according to VPAP's records.
The campaign money is separate from at least $4.4 million in large donations Youngkin's inaugural committee raised post-election from a mix of individuals, companies and interest groups to fund last weekend's celebratory events. That inaugural figure also far surpassed the amounts raised by his predecessors. Democrat Ralph Northam raised $2.3 million in large donations in 2017, McAuliffe raised $1.9 million in 2013 and McDonnell raised $1.7 million in 2009, according to a VPAP analysis published last week.
Youngkin's inaugural committee haul could also still grow. The current total accounts only for donors who gave $10,000 or more. The full picture of the committee's spending and its fundraising activity, including smaller dollar donations, won't be available until mid-March.
State law forbids candidates from transferring surplus inaugural money to a political action committee. They have to either refund donors or give the excess to charity.
Well before the most recent finance reports were filed, it was clear that last year’s race between McAuliffe and Youngkin — a political newcomer who has vowed to disrupt special interests and “restore power to the people” — shattered previous fundraising records.
Other year-end finance reports shed light on the fundraising activities of members of the House, who all faced election this year, and members of the Democrat-led Senate, who did not.
Leaders of the House Republican caucus, now in control the chamber after it flipped in November, were among the biggest fundraisers during the period. But Democrats still closed the year with a $1.8 million lead in total cash on hand.
The same was true in the Senate, where the Democrats' edge in cash on hand was even larger, nearly$2.5 million.
The Senate, where Democrats have so far signaled little agreement with the new governor's agenda, is next scheduled for elections in 2023. All 100 House seats were on the ballot in the fall. Members ordinarily would serve a two-year term, but a pending lawsuit seeks to force elections again next year because the delayed census results held up this year's redistricting process.
Youngkin did not report any donations during the recent period from Dominion Energy, a political heavyweight at the Capitol whose influence has been under scrutiny for years. But records show the Richmond-based company made two $150,000 donations to GOP House Speaker Todd Gilbert's leadership PAC in late October, shortly after Youngkin criticized the company for its donations to a different federal PAC formed to oppose him.
The company, which said it failed to thoroughly vet the PAC and asked for its donation back, also gave $50,000to Senate GOP leader Tommy Norment during the same timeframe.
Rayhan Daudani, a Dominion spokesman, said the company's contributions are “bipartisan and transparent on behalf of our 17,000 workers” and in the advocacy of energy policy that supports its mission of providing safe, reliable, affordable and clean energy.
Virginia has some of the country's loosest campaign finance regulations. A number of bills filed this year would cap donations or tighten disclosure regulations. Reform measures have been taken up in past years, but lawmakers have found it difficult to reach agreement.