Few articles about energy, the environment, or Virginia’s General Assembly are complete without reference to the sums donated to politicians by Dominion, Virginia’s largest utility. Indeed, Dominion is routinely referred to as the state’s “top corporate donor.” According to a recent piece on the company’s influence, this “makes for a lopsided battle for its opponents.”
Then again, maybe not. As it turns out, environmental groups sometimes outspend Dominion — not just by a little bit, but by a lot.
Using data from the Virginia Public Access Project, the Staunton News Leader found that “over the last decade the top three environmental campaign donors, the League of Conservation Voters, NextGen Climate Action, and the Sierra Club, have shelled out a combined $4,993,560 to individual statewide candidates compared to Dominion’s figure of $3,319,853.” Gov. Terry McAuliffe, for instance, got $75,000 from Dominion — a fact that critics of his support for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline have not ignored. Yet the $3.8 million McAuliffe got from green groups swamps that sum.
Corporate contributions often are said to “buy” politicians. But if that is true of some campaign donations, then it is true of all of them. Campaign donations are either corrupting, or they are not. And if Dominion’s donations to political coffers deserve skeptical scrutiny, then so do donations from its antagonists.