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Votes

Contributors Give for Many Reasons

Following the Money in the 34th Senate District and the 35th and 37th Delegate Districts

Rob Grey, owner of the Falls Church-based information technology firm Intellidyne, supported Democrat Ron Christian's campaign for state Senate because he believes Christian's character to be admirable. Christian had married Grey and baptized his children.

"I know he's a good, decent man, and I think he'd make a great representative," said Grey, who contributed $10,000 to Christian's campaign for the 34th District.

Whether the reasons are political maneuvering or personal, companies, associations and individuals funnel thousands of dollars into the campaigns of candidates they support or who they think will win. With competitive races for the 34th District state Senate seat and the 37th and 35th Districts House of Delegates seats, both Democrats and Republicans are eager to contribute funds in attempts to alter or maintain the party balance in the General Assembly.

"We're looking for people who are business-friendly, willing to listen to our positions, make themselves accessible," said Don Hall, president and CEO of the Virginia Auto Dealers Association, adding that local automobile dealers also affect who gets money from the association. Hall's association has given a total of $371,865 to various state election races and fund-raising committees this election cycle.

The Virginia Educational Association usually gives contributions to those who have received recommendations from the local level, said Rob Jones, the association's director of government relations. It also looks "for elect-ability," Jones added.

"If we do not receive a recommendation from a locality, we do not go to them," Jones said. The political action committee (PAC) has given $106,900 to various state races this election cycle.

According to the Virginia Public Access Project, for the 34th District state Senate race, Del. Jeannemarie Devolites (R-35th) had raised $269,993 as of Sept. 30, with $14,772 from Republican leadership or candidate committees, $14,300 coming from donors who classified their occupation as “information technology,” $7,100 from lobbyists, $5,500 from those in the defense field, and $5,250 from real-estate developers.

Among those contributors were the Virginia Auto Dealers Association, who gave $2,250, and the Virginia Educational Association, whose PAC gave $2,500.

The Auto Dealers Association has had a long-standing relationship with Devolites, Hall said.

Jones said Devolites had received contributions partly because she had sponsored legislation in the area of child-protection services.

"We felt very comfortable with that record," Jones said.

Christian had raised $97,548, with $17,054 coming from donors who classified their occupation as “unknown,” $13,387 from Democrat state and local committees, $10,000 from information technology, $8,748 from Democrat leadership or candidate committees, and $4,626 from attorneys or law firms.

IN THE AREA delegate races, contribution totals to candidates running for the 37th and 35th districts both totaled over $350,000 in each race.

In the race for the 37th district, Democrat incumbent J. Chapman "Chap" Petersen raised $214,290 as of Sept. 30, with $28,975 coming from attorneys or law firms, $16,100 from self-financing, $10,000 from Democrat leadership and candidate committees, $7,450 from auto dealers, and $5,388 from donors who classified their occupation as "restaurants."

Republican challenger John R. "Jack" Rust, who had been delegate for the 37th district until defeated by Petersen in 2001, had raised $150,815. Of that total, $54,604 came from Republican leadership and candidate committees, $7,975 from real estate developers, $6,900 from attorneys or law firms, $6,150 from donors who classified their occupation as "information technology," and $6,070 from retirees.

While most contributors give to one candidate in a race, a handful give to two.

“For us, it’s just a weird situation,” said Ray LaMura, director of legislative affairs for the Virginia Bankers Association. Their PAC had given $1,000 each to both the Rust and Petersen campaigns. LaMura explained they had a good working relationship with Petersen, yet Rust, as a bank owner, was “within the family of the world in which we operate.” LaMura added that they had given to the Petersen campaign before Rust had announced his candidacy.

“It’s just an anomaly for this year. We normally don’t do that,” LaMura continued.

For the House of Delegates race representing the 35th District, Republican candidate Rob McDowell raised $163,379 as of Sept. 30, with $64,050 coming from Republican leadership and candidate committees, $10,785 from attorneys or law firms, $6,230 from donors who classified their occupation as “in telecommunications,” $5,900 from lobbyists and $5,050 from telephone carriers within the telecommunications field.

"I find him to be an attractive candidate," said Hall of McDowell. The Virginia Auto Dealers Association had given $2,500 to McDowell's campaign. "The fact is, it's a little more Democrats because they're in the minority."

Democrat candidate Steve Shannon raised $223,085, with $45,325 coming from attorneys or law firms, $19,450 from Democrat leadership or candidate committees, $16,560 from donors who classified their occupation as “in the software field of information technology,” $14,710 from candidate self-financing, and $9,242 from Realtors.

Shannon had received $2,000 from the Virginia Education Association because the Fairfax Educational Association had endorsed him, Jones said.