Dark money donations to Virginia Republicans outpace Democrats 6 to 1 in fight for control of the state legislature

Virginia state capitol
The Virginia State Capitol in Richmond.Zach Gibson/Getty Images
  • Virginia has seen nearly $1.7 million in outside spending for candidates in key 2023 races.

  • The VCIJ and OpenSecrets report revealed that $1.4 million in funding has gone to GOP candidates.

  • All 140 seats in the Virginia legislature are up for grabs in districts that were recently redrawn.

In the fight for control of the Virginia legislature, independent political groups backed by "dark money" organizations have poured almost $1.7 million into the state for the 2023 election cycle, with the vast majority of money going to Republicans, according to a report by the Virginia Center for Investigative Journalism at WHRO and OpenSecrets.

The financial records were reflected in expenditure details filed with the Virginia Department of Elections and cover contributions made through September 12.

The funding from outside groups has raised a slew of concerns about good governance in a state where district lines were scrambled after a bipartisan independent redistricting committee put into place by voters deadlocked — paving the way for court-ordered maps that led many incumbents to retire rather than run in dramatically reshaped districts.

So far, the most prolific spender in the state this year has been Americans for Prosperity, the conservative nonprofit group that was launched as a political vehicle by the Koch brothers. The group lobbies against climate crisis regulations and an increase in the federal minimum wage while backing tax cuts and right-to-work laws.

"Voters have a right to know which wealthy special interests are spending this money to secretly influence their vote and their government," Elizabeth Shimek, a senior legal counsel for campaign finance at the Campaign Legal Center, told the Virginia Center for Investigative Journalism and OpenSecrets. "People have a right to cast an informed ballot."

These outside spending groups have so far contributed heavily to Republicans — giving their candidates more than $1.4 million compared to $245,000 for Democratic candidates — creating a roughly 6 to 1 advantage for the GOP.

All 140 seats in the Virginia legislature — 100 in the House of Delegates and 40 in the state Senate — are up for grabs in November.

Gov. Glenn Youngkin, who has been touted as a potential late entrant into the 2024 Republican presidential primary, is looking to enact a more conservative agenda in the blue-trending state.

Elected in 2021 in what was a major victory for Republicans, Youngkin has poured his energy into keeping the party's narrow hold on the House of Delegates and flipping the Democratic-led Senate in the blue-trending state.

But Democrats, who are seeking to maintain Senate control and win back the House, are competing hard for key seats in vote-rich metropolitan Richmond, Hampton Roads, and Northern Virginia.

Abortion — which has animated Democrats, independents, and a slice of Republicans since the US Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade last year — will be a key issue for voters this year.

Youngkin has so far been unsuccessful in moving a 15-week abortion ban through the legislature, blunted by Democrats in the Senate.

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