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Dominion Energy gave $200k to secretive PAC attacking Youngkin from the right
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Dominion Energy gave $200k to secretive PAC attacking Youngkin from the right

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Big-league political influencer Dominion Energy donated $200,000 to a secretive PAC attacking GOP gubernatorial candidate Glenn Youngkin, a new filing shows.

The money from Dominion’s PAC went to Accountability Virginia PAC in Washington, according to a public filing this weekend by Dominion with the Virginia Department of Elections.

The political news outlet Axios reported in late September that the Accountability Virginia operation has ties to Democratic activists and is funding an ad campaign in which the Democrats pose as conservatives “to drive a wedge between the Republican candidate for Virginia governor and his core voters.”

The ads on Facebook, Instagram, Google and Snapchat target rural areas of the state that support Youngkin, and the ads question his commitment to the Second Amendment, Axios reported.

Dominion gave $200,000 between July and September to the PAC running the ads.

Youngkin’s campaign said Democrats are desperate.

“Forty year politician Terry McAuliffe and the Democratic party are running scared, so they’ve done what all politicians do — call in their special interest cronies to dump obscene amounts of money into shadowy organizations in order to protect their entrenched interests,” Youngkin spokeswoman Macaulay Porter said by email for this story. “Glenn Youngkin is winning on his message of being an outsider running against politics as usual, so it’s no surprise that desperation has set in for the ruling-class that sees their power slipping away.”

Dominion spokesman Rayhan Daudani said by email: “There is nothing secretive about any of our company’s political donations. They are disclosed monthly on the company website. We give in a bipartisan, transparent manner as our voluntary disclosures demonstrate and will continue to do so.”

He declined to answer why the company preferred McAuliffe over Youngkin in the Executive Mansion. The election is Nov. 2, and early voting is ongoing.

Dominion this summer took an active role in the race for attorney general, injecting $200,000 into a political operation that was helping run Democratic Attorney General Mark Herring’s primary campaign against challenger Del. Jay Jones, D-Norfolk. Herring faces Del. Jason Miyares, R-Virginia Beach, in the general election.

Dominion also gave $100,000 this summer to Hala Ayala, the Democratic nominee for lieutenant governor, who had previously promised not to take campaign money from the regulated utility. That was followed by more donations from Dominion to Ayala.

Winsome Sears, the GOP nominee for lieutenant governor, has attacked Ayala for a vote that will raise electric bills and for flipping on her promise.

Dominion’s involvement in the election comes as the utility is fighting efforts before the Virginia State Corporation Commission to order customer refunds and an electric rate cut following a finding by SCC staff that the monopoly utility earned more than $1.1 billion above a fair profit over four years.

Critics of Dominion say the regulated monopoly’s excess earnings were allowed by friendly laws approved by lawmakers who are heavy recipients of Dominion’s campaign money.

Reporting by the Richmond Times-Dispatch and ProPublica in 2020 showed how Dominion exerted influence in the General Assembly session on a clean energy law called the Clean Economy Act. Youngkin has been critical of the new law, which aims to transition Virginia away from fossil fuels for electricity production by 2050, while McAuliffe supports it. State regulators estimate the law and other legislative actions will lead to large increases in customer electric bills.

While Dominion Energy gives money to both parties, Democrats have been larger recipients since taking full control of the General Assembly in 2019.

McAuliffe’s ties to the company led to criticism of him by environmental groups during his term as governor from 2014 to 2018 and afterward.

McAuliffe was a strong supporter of the now-defunct Atlantic Coast Pipeline proposal, which Dominion and N.C.-based Duke Energy canceled in 2020 after increasing opposition and legal hurdles. McAuliffe had joined company officials at the 2014 announcement ceremony.

In 2015, McAuliffe signed GOP legislation — over opposition from Herring — that stopped the ability of state regulators to fully examine Dominion Energy’s finances for a period of time, during which the investor-owned monopoly earned hundreds of millions of dollars above a fair profit under the law.

McAuliffe spokesman Renzo Olivari did not immediately respond to questions for this story.

Sen. David Suetterlein, R-Roanoke County, a critic of Dominion Energy’s political influence, issued a statement Saturday slamming the company and McAuliffe.

“The monopolies got a great financial return the last time they politically financed Terry McAuliffe,” he said. “He delivered their rate freeze, sticking working Virginians with hundreds of millions in overcharged electric bills. By funding this shadowy PAC attacking Glenn Youngkin, Dominion has become even more cynical in its attempt to keep Virginia on the McAuliffe-Northam crony merry-go-round.”

Suetterlein said Ayala, at least, was transparent about her change of position.

“McAuliffe and Herring instead cynically reap six-figure Dominion contributions through shadow PACs while working Virginians are being overcharged on their electric bills,” Suetterlein said in his statement.

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