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Individuals, Not Big Corporations, Top List of Political Donors

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Recently released campaign finance numbers are showing a growing influence of wealthy Democrats.

In most campaign cycles, the bulk of campaign cash comes from big business: Dominion, Altria, the cable association, the bankers association. But this year something a little different is happening.

Stephen Farnsworth at the University of Mary Washington says wealthy Democrats are emerging as a new force. “When you look at the individual recipients of funds you can see that some top donors are very interested in liberal Democrats," Farnsworth says. "They are looking to see the Democratic Party reshaped in a more liberal direction.”

Two Charlottesville-area mega-donors are at the top of the list compiled by the Virginia Public Access Project.

Top Donors data from VPAP

One wants to fund candidates as a counterbalance to Dominion, and he’s given twice as much money as the utility. The other backed Tom Perriello’s ill-fated campaign the Democratic nomination for governor against Ralph Northam.

Quentin Kidd at Christopher Newport University says that offers an irony. “These big wealthy donors are emerging in Virginia politics as a force when it comes to campaign finance, and the oddity is that they are trying to undo the influence or undermine the influence of the big associations,” Kidd says.

Traditional interest groups are also at the top of the list, including beer wholesalers and trial lawyers.

This report, provided by Virginia Public Radio, was made possible with support from the Virginia Education Association.

Michael Pope is an author and journalist who lives in Old Town Alexandria. He has reported for NPR, the New York Daily News and the Alexandria Gazette Packet. He has a master's degree in American Studies from Florida State University, and he is a former adjunct professor at Tallahassee Community College. He is the author of four books.
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