Dominion Energy has contributed $750,500 to Virginia General Assembly members and political committees so far this year, according to campaign finance reports that its political action committee filed with the Virginia Department of Elections through September.

The utility directed more than a third of those funds toward House and Senate appropriations committee members; those committees months later would kill a proposed measure to refund hundreds of millions of dollars in Dominion over-earnings to erase electric customers’ debts amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

State legislators were not up for election this year, save for one special House of Delegates race in which Dominion contributed to the victor. But Virginia’s lax campaign finance laws permit candidates to pilfer campaign funds for personal use, rendering Dominion’s donations to friendly lawmakers virtually unrestricted.

Dominion is one of only a handful of businesses to have increased its political giving in Virginia compared to this time in 2018, the last “off-cycle” year in the state. A pair of graphs from the Virginia Public Access Project (VPAP) show contributions from most business-related PACs “down sharply” this year amid the COVID-19 pandemic and recession. “Economic uncertainty has led some PACs to delay setting a budget for the year and some legislators have postponed fundraisers,” VPAP wrote.

Dominion’s political contributions to members of the Virginia General Assembly grew steeply from $113,381 in 2018 to $615,500 in 2020, according to VPAP’s analysis. VPAP excluded Dominion from its graphs, as the magnitude of the company’s giving would have so compressed their scale.

General Assembly appropriators accept Dominion cash ahead of high-stakes legislative session

Dominion funneled $265,000 to seventeen members of the state House and Senate appropriations committees, which quashed a proposal from Gov. Ralph Northam that would have required the company to return $320 million in excess profits it has taken from consumers since 2017 to forgive customer debts during the COVID-19 crisis. As part of the state’s budget process, appropriators instead passed a measure that would apply a lesser amount from Dominion – $125 million, the company estimated in a recent earnings call – to forgive outstanding bills of 30 days or more as of the end of September. Unlike in the original proposal, Dominion could still pass those costs back onto its ratepayers in the future by reducing the amount of refunds they could receive as a consequence of the utility’s rate case next year.

Legislators foreshadowed an intervention to address arrearages and disconnections as early as this spring. Fifty-eight delegates and senators sent a bipartisan letter to the State Corporation Commission on June 5 requesting it extend its utility shutoff moratorium long enough for the General Assembly to act on the matter during its special session. Dominion made some of its largest contributions to appropriators in the intervening months.

House Appropriations Committee Chairman Luke Torian (D-52) received a total of $55,000 from Dominion this year; the committee’s Vice-Chair, Mark Sickles (D-43), got $15,000. Senate appropriators Louise Lucas (D-18) and Mamie Locke (D-2) each received $50,000, while Senate Majority Leader Dick Saslaw (D-35) took in $25,000. Dominion is the top corporate or the top overall career donor to each of these five legislators.

Amounts for all ten Democratic and seven Republican appropriators who have accepted Dominion cash in 2020 are provided below.

Dominion Energy contributions to General Assembly appropriators, 2020

NameDistrict/OfficePartyAmount Received
Luke Torian (Committee Chairman)House District 52D$55,000
Louise LucasSenate District 18D$50,000
Mamie LockeSenate District 2D$50,000
Dick Saslaw* (Senate Majority Leader)Senate District 35D$25,000
Mark Sickles (Committee Vice Chair)House District 43D$15,000
Roslyn TylerHouse District 75D$15,000
Dave MarsdenSenate District 37D$10,000
Tommy NormentSenate District 3R$10,000
Cliff HayesHouse District 77D$5,000
Emmett HangerSenate District 24R$5,000
Frank RuffSenate District 15R$5,000
George BarkerSenate District 39D$5,000
John EdwardsSenate District 21D$5,000
Nick RushHouse District 7R$5,000
Emily BrewerHouse District 64R$2,500
Will MorefieldHouse District 3R$1,500
Matt FarissHouse District 59R$1,000
TOTAL$265,000

*Saslaw’s initial campaign finance disclosure for the period did not include a June contribution from Dominion’s PAC. His committee subsequently filed an amended report.

Source: Virginia Department of Elections and Virginia Public Access Project data

Loyal legislators, committees from both parties receive Dominion handouts

Republican and Democratic state political committees were nearly equal recipients of Dominion’s largesse. Key Democratic committees received $90,000, while Republican ones garnered $80,000. The contributions follow a pattern of Dominion increasingly hedging its political bets as Virginia’s politics have shifted to lean more reliably toward Democrats, and after the company doubled down on pivotal Republican incumbents in 2019, who lost most of those contests.

Recipients of Dominion contributions this year included the House and Senate caucuses of both parties; the Legislative Black Caucus; Gov. Ralph Northam’s The Way Ahead committee; and Del. Todd Gilbert’s (R-15) Republican Commonwealth Leadership PAC. Dominion is a top historical contributor to most of these entities.

Dominion Energy contributions to key Virginia partisan committees, 2020

Committee NamePartyAmount Received (2020)Total Received from DominionNotes/Affiliation
Commonwealth Victory FundD$25,000$500,400General Assembly Democratic Caucus party committee
The Way AheadD$25,000$92,500Gov. Ralph Northam-associated leadership committee
Virginia Legislative Black Caucus*D$15,000$195,030
Virginia Senate Democratic CaucusD$15,000$394,500
House Democratic CaucusD$10,000$188,000
Republican Commonwealth Leadership PAC**R$30,000$54,219Del. Todd Gilbert-associated (R-15) leadership committee
House Republican Campaign CommitteeR$25,000$417,000
Virginia Senate Republican CaucusR$25,000$416,152

*Dominion’s PAC discloses a July 2020 contribution to the Virginia Legislative Black Caucus, which is not listed on the Black Caucus’ report for the same period.

**The Republican Commonwealth Leadership PAC reports receiving two $15,000 contributions from Dominion’s corporate PAC in 2020 – one in January and one in July. Dominion’s PAC reports making the first of these in December 2019.

Source: Virginia Department of Elections and Virginia Public Access Project data

Dominion also continued to contribute heavily to some of its most favored legislative allies, to each of whom it remains the top all-time donor.

Del. Lamont Bagby, chair of the Legislative Black Caucus (D-74), received $32,500. He co-patroned a Dominion bill after his nonprofit received five- and six-figure donations from Dominion and Farrell, as the Richmond Times-Dispatch reported in 2018. This year’s contributions from Dominion exceed the career total that Bagby’s candidate committee previously received from the company.

Sen. Lionell Spruill (D-5) took in $50,000 from Dominion this year. He patroned a 2020 bill supporting two gas-fired power plants in Virginia that originated with lobbyists for the plant developers, the Energy and Policy Institute first reported; he later withdrew the bill.

Long-time patron of Dominion legislation Del. Terry Kilgore (R-1) got $15,000 from Dominion in 2020. He is one of the all-time highest career recipients of Dominion contributions, having received nearly $230,000.

Dominion executives, lobbyists contribute to supporters of Farrell-backed Richmond project

Dominion senior executives and lobbyists also contributed nearly $40,000 to Virginia elected officials, candidates, and political committees in 2020 – including company loyalists who faced electoral challengers. The utility’s management have made significant political contributions in recent years, sometimes “bundling” multiple donations to a candidate over a short period of time, a practice documented by the Richmond Times-Dispatch in 2017.

Much of this year’s total was funneled into mayoral and City Council elections in Richmond, the state capital. Dominion executives and lobbyists contributed almost $17,000 to incumbent Mayor Levar Stoney, an ally of company leaders, between March and election day. This included support from Dominion’s top brass; Executive Chair Tom Farrell made a $5,000 donation to Stoney’s campaign, and CEO Bob Blue made contributions totaling more than $2,000.

Stoney was an enthusiastic proponent of the failed $1.5 billion Navy Hill project led by Farrell’s development group, which the developers claimed would have “rejuvenated” part of the city’s downtown and replaced the Richmond Coliseum. Criticized for threatening a historically Black community harmed by past infrastructure projects, the plan was scrapped by a majority vote of the City Council earlier this year.

Stoney was re-elected this month against multiple challengers, including Alexsis Rodgers, who campaigned on re-centering community interests over those of Dominion, and Kim Gray, who opposed the Navy Hill project while on the City Council. The contributions this cycle bring Stoney’s career-total contributions from Dominion and its senior employees to over $30,000. Dominion Energy Virginia President Edward Baine also contributed to two City Council members – President Cynthia Newbille and Ellen Robertson – who supported the Navy Hill project. Both defeated challengers to hold their seats.

Dominion Energy executive, lobbyist contributions to Levar Stoney, 2020

NameTitleAmount Contributed
Tom FarrellExecutive Chair$5,000
Bob BluePresident and CEO$2,066
Mark BowlesLobbyist (Retained)$2,000
Bill MurraySenior Vice President - Corporate Affairs and Communications$1,000
Carlos BrownSenior Vice President, General Counsel, and Chief Compliance Officer$1,000
Diane LeopoldExecutive Vice President and COO$1,000
Edward BainePresident - Dominion Energy Virginia$1,000
Eva Teig Hardy*Lobbyist (Retained)$1,000
Katharine BondLobbyist - Vice President, Public Policy and State Affairs$1,000
Kaci Easley** ***Lobbyist - Legislative Affairs Advisor$704
Edward MullenLobbyist (Retained)$500
David Hallock Jr.Lobbyist (Retained)$350
Jim ChapmanExecutive Vice President, CFO, and Treasurer$250
TOTAL$16,870

*Eva Teig Hardy contributed an additional $2000 to Stoney later in the year (August), when not concurrently registered as a Dominion lobbyist.

**Includes $104 in-kind donation of food and beverage on August 18, 2020.

***Easley made an additional $250 contribution to One Richmond, the Stoney-affiliated Democratic leadership committee, in January 2020. At that time, she was registered as a retained lobbyist for Dominion. Easley registered as an employed lobbyist with the title of Legislative Affairs Advisor in July.

Source: Virginia Department of Elections and Virginia Public Access Project data

Senior Dominion executives also contributed to various state committees this year. Farrell and Blue gave a combined $6,000 to Northam’s The Way Ahead committee. Blue donated $2,500 to House Speaker Eileen Filler-Corn’s (D-41) Energized for Change PAC. Lobbyist Eva Teig Hardy, who has worked for Democratic politicians and just chaired Democratic U.S. Senator Mark Warner’s re-election campaign, gave $2,500 to the Virginia Senate Republican Caucus. And Retired CEO and Chairman Tom Capps contributed $2,500 to former Gov. Terry McAuliffe’s Common Good VA PAC. McAuliffe, who supported Dominion’s Atlantic Coast Pipeline project, is reportedly eyeing another run for Governor next year.

“Skyline Richmond Virginia” by rvaphotodude is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

Posted by Kelly Roache

Kelly Roache is a research and communications specialist at the Energy and Policy Institute.

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