RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — Republican and Democratic lawmakers confirmed Wednesday that Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s office told them the governor would sign legislation banning public utilities like Dominion Energy from giving political donations.
State Sen. Richard Stuart (R-King George) filed a bill that would prohibit any public utility from making contributions to candidates or committees. Stuart confirmed a report from the Richmond Times-Dispatch in which he said he’s been informed by the governor’s office that Youngkin supports this bill and one from state Sen. Chap Petersen (D-Fairfax City) and would sign them if they reached his desk.
Petersen also told 8News he’d gotten confirmation from the Governor, saying, “I’ve talked to Youngkin staff. They support our bills.”
Petersen and Del. R. Lee Ware (R-Powhatan) held a joint press conference last week announcing their bipartisan effort to keep utilities from donating to political campaigns. During the press conference, Petersen reiterated his call for Youngkin to speak out on the issue.
“Hate to say it but I really need Mr. Youngkin to step up and say it’s time for Dominion’s money to get out of Virginia politics,” Petersen said in an interview with 8News days before.
Their legislation, which Petersen is carrying in the Virginia Senate and Ware is carrying in the House of Delegates, would ban public utility companies from making contributions to state candidates, political action committees (PACs) and campaign committees.
A Youngkin spokesperson who told 8News on Jan. 17 that “the governor will review all legislation that comes to his desk” declined to comment Wednesday. Despite the support from Youngkin, the legislation must first get through the General Assembly before making it to his desk.
Virginia’s two largest electric utilities, Dominion Energy and Appalachian Power Company, have donated millions to candidates since 2010. While Appalachian has doled out more than $4.2 million since then, Dominion is the state’s biggest corporate political donor and has contributed over $24 million in that span, according to the nonpartisan Virginia Public Access Project.
Dominion Energy did not make anyone available for an interview Wednesday but Rayhan Daudani, a company spokesman, shared the same statement with 8News that he did on Jan. 13: “Campaign finance laws should apply to all equally.”
Dominion Energy, the state’s largest regulated electric monopoly, has generally given Republicans and Democrats similar amounts of political donations throughout the years.
When he was a candidate, Youngkin said in a radio interview that he would stand up to Dominion Energy after the utility gave $200,000 to a secretive PAC attacking the Republican during his gubernatorial campaign. Youngkin also said he would “disrupt all these entrenched interests in Richmond.”
Critics of the company’s power in Virginia politics have questioned legislative changes that have blocked rate reviews as prices for customers continued to rise. Bills that would have strengthened state oversight of Dominion and would have allowed for customers to get the utility’s over earnings were rejected by committees with Dominion-backed lawmakers on them.
There are several bills filed for the 2022 session that aim to overhaul Virginia’s campaign finance laws, but similar efforts have failed to get through the legislature for years.
The commonwealth does not have contribution limits for political action committees, corporations or individuals donating to candidates. Virginia also allows party committees to donate unlimited amounts of money to campaigns.
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