Big businesses with power to influence policy back McAuliffe’s inauguration party

AP file photo

BIG FRIENDS: When Democratic Virginia Gov.-elect Terry McAuliffe takes office next week, the festivities will be paid for by large contributions from big business.

By Kathryn Watson |, Virginia Bureau

ALEXANDRIA, Va. — As Gov.-elect Terry McAuliffe takes his oath of office next weekend, his inauguration festivities will be paid for with a lot of cash from the business world.

The technology, health care and energy sectors lead the way — in that order — in contributions to the governor-elect’s inaugural committee, which has raised more than $850,000 in reported donations of $10,000 or more, according to data from the State Board of Elections and the Virginia Public Access Project.

While the vast majority of McAuliffe’s campaign cash came from out-of-state players doing all they could to make the former chair of the Democratic National Committee a governor in a key purple state, McAuliffe’s inaugural dough is coming from local big businesses with powerful influence over public policy.

The committee’s top givers include Altria, the Richmond-headquartered tobacco company at $50,000; the Richmond-headquartered Dominion Power, the state’s largest power company, at $50,000; and Verizon’s Richmond offices at $50,000. They’re all consistent contributors to both political parties with strong lobbying pull at the Capitol.

And perhaps unsurprisingly, medical organizations have given more than any other industry.

At some point during the McAuliffe administration, state leaders and lawmakers will make their final decision on whether to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act, something the hospital industry has been lobbying in favor of all year long. Health-care sector contributors include the Medical Facilities of America Inc., at $25,000, Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield at $20,000, and the Medical Society of Virginia at $10,000, to name just a few.

But outside businesses are trying to make the 72nd governor’s inauguration memorable, too.

West Legend, a New Jersey-based real estate development corporation that donated $70,000 to McAuliffe’s election campaign, gave $50,000 to his inaugural committee. And the California-based software company Oracle Corp. donated $25,000 for the inauguration, to name a couple outside groups.

The inauguration is bound to be a party, with prominent novelist and former Mississippi lawmaker John Grisham serving as co-chairman of the governor’s inaugural committee with Richmond Mayor Dwight C. Jones. The author, who lives outside Charlottesville and has a track record of backing Democratic candidates in Virginia, lavished McAuliffe with $75,000 in campaign contributions during election season. And he gave McAuliffe $50,000 in the governor-elect’s unsuccessful 2009 run for governor.

Grisham gave another $20,000 to Attorney General-elect Mark Herring’s campaign and $10,000 to Herring when he ran for state Senate in 2011.

The State Board of Elections shows just one large contribution for Lt. Gov.-elect Ralph Northam’s inaugural committee — $15,000 from the Virginia Hospital Association.

McAuliffe, Northam and Herring, will be sworn in at noon on Jan. 11 in Richmond.

Kathryn Watson is an investigative reporter for’s Virginia Bureau, and can be reached at

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