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    Sen. Petersen: We need Youngkin to join effort to end Dominion campaign donations

    January 19, 2022 - PATRICK WILSON Richmond Times-Dispatch


      RICHMOND — A state senator who's tried for years to scale down Dominion Energy's influence in the state Capitol called on Gov. Glenn Youngkin on Monday to join the effort, saying lawmakers need the new governor's support if they're going to pass the legislation.

      "We need the new governor to speak out on this issue," said Sen. Chap Petersen, D-Fairfax City. "I can get a portion of my caucus. I can't get them all. I certainly can't get the ones that are more senior in leadership. ... The commonwealth needs the new governor to take a firm stand on this issue."

      Petersen held a news conference with Del. Lee Ware, R-Powhatan, on Monday to discuss legislation they have filed that would prohibit campaign contributions from any public utility.

      The issue: The General Assembly writes laws that regulate Dominion, a monopoly and the state's largest electric utility. Dominion is among the largest campaign donors to lawmakers, and those laws they write generally favor the utility's bottom line.

      Last year, Dominion was able to keep hundreds of millions above a fair profit following a review of its finances, rather than return it to customers.

      Ware said he thinks the bill has a good chance of passing in the House, where Republicans have a 52-48 edge. "This is about ratepayers. At the bottom line, we are concerned for the ratepayers."

      Adding to the chances something could pass this year, he said, was Dominion's $250,000 in funding to a secretive federal political action committee last fall that funded misleading attacks on Youngkin. The ads were meant to undercut Youngkin with his Republican base by painting him as weak on the Second Amendment.

      Dominion CEO Bob Blue apologized last year and said the company failed to properly vet the PAC, while Youngkin attacked the utility's assistance of his Democratic opponent, Terry McAuliffe.

      On Monday, the nonprofit Virginia Public Access Project posted Federal Election Commission data showing all the donors to the anti-Youngkin PAC, called "Accountability Virginia."

      In addition to money from the Dominion PAC, Accountability Virginia received personal donations from Blue ($10,000), Dominion President Ed Baine ($5,000), Dominion general counsel Carlos Brown ($5,000) and Bill Murray ($7,500), the utility's head lobbyist.

      Dominion donated $50,000 to Youngkin's inauguration committee in December.

      As for the legislation from Petersen and Ware, Dominion spokesman Rayhan Daudani said on Monday: "Campaign finance laws should apply to all equally."

      A state filing by Dominion's PAC last year showed the utility had given $200,000 to the PAC between July 1 and Sept. 30. A new federal filing by the PAC also showed an additional $50,000 donation from Dominion to Accountability Virginia, received on Oct. 15, bringing the utility's total contribution to $250,000.

      Sen. David Suetterlein, R-Roanoke County, unloaded on the utility in a speech on the state Senate floor on Monday.

      "I said at the time that we needed to change disclosure policies in Virginia because we would not know exactly what was done until after the next governor was inaugurated," he said.

      Suetterlein said Dominion's leadership should have known in September what was happening with its money, and noted that the personal donations from its executives came right around the time Blue was apologizing and saying Dominion wanted its money back from the PAC.

      "I know those folks are sophisticated enough that they knew how to cancel a check between Oct. 16 and Oct. 18. There's no excuse ... we need more disclosure in this commonwealth," he said.

      Daudani said Dominion's last donation was made electronically on Oct. 12. "We did try and put a stop payment after the fact, but the transaction was complete."


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