The leadership of Virginia’s largest utility was more involved in the company’s shadowy attempt to influence last year’s gubernatorial race than previously known.
Dominion Energy CEO Robert Blue, General Counsel Carlos Brown, head lobbyist William Murray, and President Edward Baine all made personal donations to Accountability Virginia PAC, according to an FEC report first spotlighted by the non-profit Virginia Public Access Project on Monday.
The utility drew sharp criticism, and even a protest campaign from the Virginia Citizens Defense League, after it was revealed in October that it had donated $200,000 to the PAC. The new revelations could produce further outrage from Virginia gun owners.
The Accountability Virginia PAC, formed in July 2021, attempted to suppress turnout among pro-gun voters through ads attacking Republican Glenn Youngkin from the right for his failure to obtain endorsements from gun-rights groups, including the NRA and Virginia Citizens Defense League (VCDL). The ads were specifically targeted at regions of the state with a heavy percentage of Republican voters. Further, despite appearing to be a pro-gun group, the PAC was run by a liberal consulting firm and raised money through ActBlue, the largest liberal fundraising network in the country. It also never ran ads against Democrat Terry McAuliffe despite his support for restrictive new gun-control measures.
The backlash to Dominion’s involvement with the PAC prompted CEO Robert Blue to walk back the company’s support for the PAC. He disavowed the tactics employed by the PAC and claimed the company did not properly vet its activities before donating. Blue also said the company would no longer donate to groups like Accountability Virginia PAC in the future, and requested a return of the donations already made.
“As with any failure in terms of living up to our core values, we will learn from this and implement lessons learned going forward,” he said in an email at the time. “We will not be giving to organizations of this nature in the future.”
Yet the report reveals a $5,000 contribution to the PAC from Blue on October 18, the same day as his remarks. Baine and Murray made donations that day as well.
The Center for Responsive Politics, which tracks political spending, said the date reported in FEC records is meant to represent the day it was actually made.
“The receipt date for a political contribution listed in FEC records is supposed to reflect the date that the contribution was actually made,” Anna Massoglia, an expert with the group, told The Reload. “The receipt date reported to the FEC is usually the date that the political committee receives the money, but if a fundraiser is collecting contributions for a political committee, the date listed should be the date the contribution is received by the fundraiser even if the funds are transferred to the political committee at a later date.”
Dominion officials disputed the dates on the FEC report, though. They insisted that all donations were made before the PAC’s activities were revealed.
“All of our donations, both personal and from the PAC, preceded both 10/18 when our CEO disavowed the tactics and preceded the news coverage which brought those tactics to light,” Rayhan Daudani, a Dominion spokesperson, told The Reload. “There appears to be a lag in the FEC reporting. We attempted to stop payment but the transaction was complete.”
The report shows $250,000 in contributions to the PAC given through Dominion Energy’s own PAC, $50,000 more than was previously reported in October. CEO Robert Blue personally donated $10,000, and head lobbyist Murray contributed $7,500. Baine and Brown each personally contributed $5,000.
In total, the company and individual members of its leadership contributed $277,500 to Accountability Virginia. Out of state donors from Massachusetts, New York, Florida, Illinois, and California—representing 12 of the 18 listed donors—contributed a total of $296,100 to the PAC.
Daudani maintained Dominion was unaware of Accountabily Virginia’s actions when the donations were made. He said the incident has led to changes to the utility’s policy on political donations.
“As we stated in October, our PAC and the employees who made individual contributions to Accountability Virginia were not aware of its activities, denounced those activities when we learned about them and have implemented policy changes to prevent contributions to organizations of this nature going forward,” he said.
However, the report also revealed a refund of Dominion’s donations to the group never materialized.