By Daniel Berti
Capital News Service
RICHMOND — Virginia Democrats have received more campaign cash from top natural gas, coal and electric utility donors this election cycle than Republicans, according to recently filed campaign finance reports posted online by the Virginia Public Access Project.
For the past several decades, the opposite had been true: Republicans have typically received the lion’s share of contributions from Virginia’s wealthiest energy companies.
Stephen Farnsworth, director of University of Mary Washington’s Center for Leadership and Media Studies, said energy companies might be reacting to the shifting political landscape in Virginia.
“It’s clear that Dominion and many other energy industries are trying to win more friends in the Democratic Caucus,” Farnsworth said. “This is particularly important in 2019 because there may be Democratic majorities in the House and Senate next year.”
So far this election cycle, Dominion Energy, the state’s largest electric utility, has given $108,027 to Democrats and $100,913 to Republicans. This is the first time since 2000 that Dominion has donated more to Democrats than Republicans.
Dominion contributed $25,000 to the Virginia Senate Democratic Caucus and $20,750 to the Virginia Legislative Black Caucus this election cycle, according to VPAP, a nonprofit, nonpartisan group that shines a light on money in politics.
EQT Corporation, a Pittsburgh-based natural gas company, this election cycle has donated $40,750 to Democrats and $24,000 to Republicans. EQT Corporation is one of several companies involved in the construction of the Mountain Valley Pipeline, which would deliver natural gas from West Virginia to Virginia.
EQT Corporation donated $25,000 to the Northam Inaugural Committee in 2018.
Virginia Natural Gas has given $22,000 to Democrats and $21,000 to Republicans. In the last campaign season, Virginia Natural Gas gave $52,000 to Democrats and Republicans $84,803.
United Coal Company, the state’s top coal industry donor thus far, has given Democrats $112,500 compared with $105,000 for Republicans. The last time United Coal Company donated more to Democrats than to Republicans was 2002. The company’s largest-ever single contribution, $100,000, was to Ed Gillespie’s unsuccessful gubernatorial campaign in 2017.
Clyde E. Stacy, former head of Rapoca Energy, is the second-biggest coal industry donor. Stacy has given $112,500 to Democrats and $80,000 to Republicans. Stacy is currently serving as CEO of Par Ventures in Bristol, Virginia, and is the owner of Bristol Mall, the site of a proposed casino and resort.
“This year will likely be a very expensive year for a lot of interests in Richmond,” Farnsworth said. “They basically have to donate to Republicans and Democrats, not knowing which party is going to be in control next year.”
All seats in the General Assembly are up for election in November.
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