Funding Virginia's Political Campaigns

By: Michael Hyland Email
By: Michael Hyland Email

Millions of dollars are already pouring into Virginia's gubernatorial race.

One political group argues Virginia's system gives too much influence to too few people. The Commonwealth is one place where there are no limits on what a person can give a candidate.

However, some of the top donors in the gubernatorial race say the system works well.

Walter Curt is a long-time Republican supporter. According to the Virginia Public Access Project, the Rockingham County businessman is Bob McDonnell's top individual contributor. He says he's given the candidate $150,000 this election cycle.

"It's important. Without money, the politicians cannot get their message out," says Curt. "When politicians go to buy media in the D.C. area, the Richmond area, or in [the] Norfolk area, the cost is enormous just for even a small ad."

According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, Virginia is one of six states where there are no limits to what can be given to a candidate in a state race. The other states are Illinois, Missouri, New Mexico, Oregon and Utah. After the 2010 election, New Mexico will impose limits on some donors.

At the federal level, the limit will be $2,400 per person in the general election next year. This year, people have given six-figure donations to both gubernatorial candidates.

The non-partisan group Public Campaign opposes Virginia's system. They say it invites corruption.

"What average voters think is that when a campaign contribution is given to a candidate there's an expectation that those contributors, their voices are going to be heard louder than anyone else's," says David Donnelly, national campaigns director for Public Campaign Action Fund.

"I wish that that were true, but I don't think it is," says Roberta Bell Williamson, a long-time Democratic supporter who co-owns the Charlottesville Ice Park.

Bell has given $20,000 to support Creigh Deeds.

"The difference between the state level and the federal level is that the pool is much smaller. But the campaigns cost almost as much within the state. It costs a lot of money to run a campaign in Virginia," says Williamson.


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