New tools from the Virginia Public Access Project provide information about who is influencing Virginia elections and what that influence might mean come November.
VPAP is both non-profit and non-partisan. The information relies on public documents, including campaign finance reports, disclosures and lobbyist registrations.
One new tool deals with the rise of “outside money,” specifically in Virginia elections.
According to VPAP, if you look back to the early 2000’s, the largest chunk of money came from Virginia citizens--people who would be directly affected by who is elected. In more recent and current election cycles, that trend has changed. The largest pot of money is now from outside groups, including labor unions and single-issue PACs.
We asked Quentin Kidd of CNU's Wason Center for Public Policy what that means for elections.
“It says that the Virginia governor's race is very important to people outside of Virginia,” he described. “Outside groups could come in, spend a lot of money on television ads and raise issues that the two candidates aren't necessarily talking about or wanting to talk about.”
Another tool shows, if money equates to votes, which candidate in the governor's race would have an advantage. It allows you to look at each region in Virginia, along with the Commonwealth as a whole. In “South Hampton Roads” and on “the Peninsula,” it appears the advantage goes to Ralph Northam.
The question remains--does money in fact equal votes?
“Individual money tends to equal votes,” Kidd explained. “Corporate or associational money tends to not equal votes. Corporations and associations will often give to both sides because what they're really after is access after the election happens.”
VPAP's records show Ralph Northam has more money on hand than Ed Gillespie. Top donors for Gillespie include republican advocacy groups and casino billionaire Steve Wynn. Northam has also received money from his party's advocacy group, planned parenthood and some unions.