This afternoon the folks at the Virginia Public Access Project released their analysis of the campaign contributions raised during the first quarter of the Virginia’s race for governor. The numbers underscore how the richest among us have the most influence in our political system. They also show how powerful out of state donors are in control of the campaign of Terry McAuliffe, in contrast to the other three candidates: Bob McDonnell, Creigh Deeds and Brian Moran.
Here’s what the analysis shows:
All four candidates raised the bulk of their 1st quarter cash from people, corporations or organizations who gave more than $100. It’s also telling to look at the donations by zip code. I was particularly struck by where the candidates raised this money — VPAP’s zip code list makes that easy to discover. I define a “gold mine” zip code to be any zip code whose residents give $10,000 or more to a candidate. Keep in mind one $10,000 donation could make a zip code a “gold mine” in my book. So could 10 $1,000 gifts.
Bob McDonnell received 1,561 contributions. His average contribution size was $1,421. McDonnell had 33 “gold mine” zip codes. All but 5 were in Virginia. This number is skewed by the fact that the Republican Governors Association donated $1.2 million to McDonnell. The RGA’s donations made to McDonnell were made by an arm of the RGA which is organized as a Section 527 organization, so the public has no idea who made these contributions. Presumably these donations are from corporate donors and out of state donors. (From people I know who have raised money for the RGA and its counterpart, the Democratic Governors Association, that’s where they typically raise their cash.) If you take out the RGA donation, McDonnell has 4 out of state “gold mine” zip codes and his revised average donation size was $653.
Creigh Deeds received 982 contributions. His average contribution size was $742. Deeds had 15 “gold mine” zip codes. All but 2 were in Virginia.
Brian Moran received 1762 contributions. His average contribution was $458. Moran had 19 “gold mine” zip codes. All but 2 were in Virginia. Significantly, the overwhelming number of Moran’s donors gave $100 or less.
Terry McAuliffe received 2,556 contributions. His average contribution size was $1,649. McAuliffe had 78 “gold mine” zip codes. Of these 78 zip codes, only 17 were in Virginia. Most surprising is how much of McAuliffe’s money came from out of state. According to his campaign, 82% of these donations were from outside of Virginia. (I don’t know if that’s in dollar terms or where the donors live.)
Here are the key take-aways:
- The wealthiest among us are controlling this election. To raise this kind of cash candidates must spend the bulk of their time with wealthy donors. This is troubling. What are these donors expecting in return?
- Terry McAuliffe is raising an enormous amount of money from wealthy people who don’t live in Virginia. I am deeply disturbed by this fact. To me it underscores that McAuliffe has no real history of community involvement in Virginia. He is much closer to donors outside of the state. Indeed, McAuliffe has raised more than $600,000 from donors in Los Angeles, California alone! To put this in perspective, Moran raised $807,432 and Deeds raised $728,812 during the entire quarter from donors across the country.
As I have said elsewhere on this blog, I believe we should ban PAC and corporate donations. I believe we should limit donors to $100 gifts for the primary and $100 for the general. I also believe that candidates should receive free television air time and that they should be prohibited from self-funding their campaigns.
Until we reform the way we pay for campaigns, we will continue to have elected officials beholden to the wealthiest among us.
Virginia, we can do better than this.