Candidate Richard “Rip” Sullivan Jr. says he will not take campaign contributions from the political-action committee of energy giant Dominion. If the Democrat wins election to the 48th House of Delegates seat – and sticks to his pledge – that would make Sullivan unique among the seven-member Arlington delegation in Richmond.
All incumbent members of the state Senate and House of Delegates representing parts of Arlington have accepted contributions (and in several cases, intangible gifts) from Dominion over the past two years, according to data from the nonpartisan Virginia Public Access Project (VPAP).
According to the figures, over the last 18 months Dominion has contributed $3,000 to state Sen. Barbara Favola (D-31st) and Del. Rob Krupicka (D-45th); $2,500 to state Sen. Janet Howell (D-32nd); $2,000 to Del. Alfonso Lopez (D-49th); $1,500 to Del. Patrick Hope (D-47th); and $1,000 to state Sen. Adam Ebbin (D-30th) and then-Del. Bob Brink (D-48th).
Howell also received Washington Redskins tickets worth $492 and Hope was hosted at a dinner with a value of $52, according to VPAP figures.
Dominion’s political-action committee, which is funded by donations from company executives and employees, is among the most voluminous donors to state political campaigns in Virginia; its contributions since the start of 2013 total about $1.33 million. Republicans tend to receive more than Democrats, but members of both parties tend to benefit. The three current statewide office-holders – Gov. McAuliffe, Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam and Attorney General Mark Herring, Democrats all – have received Dominion donations for their campaigns over the past 18 months.
Sullivan, who is running against Republican David Foster in the Aug. 19 special election to fill Brink’s seat, said at an Aug. 11 forum his refusal to take Dominion’s campaign cash didn’t mean he won’t work with the power giant on important issues.
“I absolutely want to do that, Day 1,” he said. “I have no problem with Dominion.”
At the Aug. 11 debate, Foster said he would accept contributions from Dominion, and suggested he received one. But a search of campaign data from the VPAP has not turned up any.
There is a $7,500 contribution – his largest – from the “Dominion Leadership Trust,” but that is a political committee associated with House Speaker William Howell (R-Fredericksburg), not the utility company.
Because of the truncated timetable for the special election, getting a complete handle on campaign financing is not without challenges. VPAP reports, based on documents filed by the candidates through the State Board of Elections, show Sullivan raised $112,585 in cash and in-kind contributions through Aug. 8, and Foster raised $98,792.
Large campaign contributions after that date are required to be reported on a daily basis, but more complete receipt-and-expenditure data won’t be available until after the race is decided by voters.
At the debate, both Sullivan and Foster came out in favor of enhanced ethics rules for state lawmakers. But Foster said he wanted to give new restrictions, enacted during the 2014 session, a chance to play out before deciding how to move forward.