RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — Democrats and Republicans united to quash another effort to stop state-regulated utilities like Dominion Energy from making political donations in Virginia.
State Sen. Chap Petersen (D-Fairfax City) renewed his push to end the flood of campaign donations from public utilities in the commonwealth, including from the megadonor Dominion Energy and the Appalachian Power Company.
The legislation aimed to prevent candidates, campaign and political committees from seeking or accepting money from any public utility. It also sought to block those utilities, or any of its political action committees [PAC], from making political contributions.
But Petersen’s proposal met the same fate as last year, voted down by a bipartisan group of lawmakers in a state Senate committee, many of whom have received donations from Virginia’s public utilities, and write the laws that set their regulatory structure and impact their profits.
Similar to Petersen’s proposal last year, the bill rejected Tuesday by the Senate Privileges and Elections Committee didn’t mention any specific public utility.
Appalachian Power Company and other major state-regulated utilities have contributed millions to state legislators over the years — either directly or through committees. But Dominion Energy, the state’s largest utility, is Virginia’s top corporate political donor.
According to the Virginia Public Access Project, Dominion Energy has donated $3.2 million to Democratic candidates and $3.3 million to Republican candidates since 2021.
The Senate Privileges and Elections Committee’s chair, State Sen. Lionell Spruill (D-Chesapeake), has received nearly $318,000 from Dominion, his top political donor, according to VPAP.
The 15-member committee voted 12-3 to kill the legislation, with three Democrats — state Sens. Jennifer McClellan (Richmond), Adam Ebbin (Alexandria) and Creigh Deeds (Bath) — voting to advance the measure.
The 12 state senators who rejected Petersen’s effort included six Democrats and six Republicans: John Bell (D-Loudoun), Jennifer Boysko (D-Fairfax), Travis Hackworth (R-Tazewell), Janet Howell (D-Fairfax), Monty Mason (D-Newport News), Ryan McDougle (R-Hanover), Mark Peake (R-Lynchburg), Bryce Reeves (R-Spotsylvania), Frank Ruff (R-Mecklenburg), Spruill, Scott Surovell (D-Fairfax) and Jill Holtzman Vogel (R-Fauquier).
Virginia has no limits on political donations to state lawmakers, who can use the campaign cash on personal expenses. Legislative efforts to rein in the commonwealth’s campaign finance rules have failed.