The RSLC’s filing is public.

Remember the final days of the Deeds-McDonnell race, in October and November? The two were neck and neck when, suddenly, McDonnell took in millions of dollars. The money was coming from the Republican State Leadership Committee, a tool of the RNC used to funnel money into state campaigns. In the last few months the campaign they pumped a truly astounding $2,083,500 into the race ($1.5M in October and November), or a third of all of the money that McDonnell raised for his entire campaign. That sum constituted 59% of all of their contributions for the entire year. McDonnell proceeded to win the election, after a recount, by 0.0166% and he is now, of course, Attorney General McDonnell.

The question all along was, of course, who gave McDonnell the money? The RSLC is just a funnel for the money. So what was he hiding? The press universally lambasted McDonnell for hiding his donors, and his ties to the Abramoff/DeLay scandal didn’t help any. But McDonnell refused to talk, and so we just had to sit tight and wait for the RSLC’s January 31, 2006 IRS filing to be made public.

That IRS filing is now available (PDF). I have taken that data and converted it into a CSV file, so that you can play along at home. This is a list of all contributions that the RSLC has taken in. Consequently, every RSLC donor can be assumed to have had some or all of their contribution given to McDonnell; everybody is fair game.

It’s everything you might expect: McDonnell has taken in huge quantities of money from alcohol, big oil, drugs, gambling, and shady loan companies. Here are my immediate observations:

  • $500,000 from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce
  • $300,300 from the American Tort Reform Association
  • $265,150 from the tobacco industry (Altria/Philip Morris and R.J. Reynolds)
  • $85,000 from Intuit
  • $80,000 from Exxon Mobil
  • $85,000 from Pepsi
  • $75,000 from Eli Lilly
  • $50,000 from Georgia-Pacific
  • $150,150 Pharmaceutical Research And Manufacturers Of America
  • $100,000 from Harrah’s Casino Hotels
  • $75,750 from pawn shops and payday loan companies (Moneytree, Select Management/LoanMax, Cash America, Check into Cash, Rentway)

Here are the questions that I would like answered:

  • Who gave to the RSLC this year who has not given in past years?
  • Who gave to McDonnell both directly and via the RSLC?
  • Why did Intuit contribute so much? Does it have anything to do with wanting to keep the Virginia Department of Taxation from providing free tax software to taxpayers?
  • Why did Jonathan Perel donate $35,000, and does it have anything to do with Perel v. Brannan?
  • Which corporate donors also gave to Deeds, and what was the difference in their giving?
  • What business are these companies in? It takes a little research to find out that Diageo ($25,000) is an alcohol company, that Lorillard ($40,000) is a tobacco company,
  • Why did the Mississippi Band Of Choctaw Indians, a tribe embroiled in the Abramoff bribery scandal, give $25,000?

Frankly, I could go on for hours asking questions and pointing out interesting things about this filing. But now it’s your turn — what do you see in this filing? Can you answer any of the questions that I’ve raised here, or raise any of your own?

02/18 Update: Due to a spreadsheet error, I had many of the dollar figures above doubled. They’re high enough in reality — there’s no need to go inflating them. I’ve corrected them now.

Published by Waldo Jaquith

Waldo Jaquith (JAKE-with) is an open government technologist who lives near Char­lottes­­ville, VA, USA. more »

28 replies on “The RSLC’s filing is public.”

  1. Great work, Waldo! This is why you have always been “platinum” and will always be “platinum” in my book. You’ve started the ball rolling on this important subject, now it’s time for the rest of the Virginia Democratic blogosphere to run after it as well. Imagine if we could bring down “Taliban Bob?” That would be an amazing achievement, not just for us bloggers but also for Democracy and rule of law in general. Let’s do it!

  2. Is this really a story? Money and politics is as old as prostitution; we don’t like it and often turn a blind eye to it, but it’s not going to go away.

    Is the fact that tobacco and alcohol interested donated to this RSLC and they then gave a substantial amount to McDonnell any different then the common practice of the DNC (which accepts money from tobacco, alcohol and gambling interests as well) givinglarge sums to candidates as well? If you stand on the proposition that money from alcohol and tobacco interests are “dirty”, then should the state Democratic Party, Deeds and the DNC return any and all money received from those sources?

    To assume this practice occurs only with Republicans is extremely naive.

    My wonder for Waldo was, did he make similar statements of outrage and protest in 1996 or 2000 when the Clinton/Gore team were similarly raising $100K at a Tibetan monk fundraisers (interesting, given monks give a vow of poverty) and White House fundraisers with known Chinese military generals, individuals that were “conveniently” left off the official White House visitors logs? Hmmmmm…..all of this money was routed back to the Clinton/Gore team, and was both brazen and outright illegal.

    Part of what truly annoys me about the Right and the Left is the rank hypocrisy of both sides. All of this supposed “rage” at this RLSC, yet I challenge you to find one prominent Democrat that condemned the Clinton/Gore fundraising scandal.

  3. Where were you when the Teapot Dome scandal was going down?

    Point the first: In 1996 I was seventeen years old. Of course I didn’t investigate any fundraising. For that matter, I can’t see what in the world President Clinton has to do with any of this.

    Point the second: I have no “rage” at the RSLC. I don’t even know who you’re quoting when you write “‘rage'”. This is an altogether factual quote.

    Point the third: Every single major paper in this state roundly condemned Mr. McDonnell (What is the honorific for AG? General McDonnell?) for refusing to disclose these donors. If you are angry at the mere discussion of who has contributed to McDonnell, you’ll need to take that up with the Virginian Pilot, Washington Post, Staunton News Leader, Richmond Times-Dispatch, Daily Progress, and so on. Don’t waste your time ranting at me.

    Point the fourth: Don’t get all upset about how Democrats take money from these people, too. Had you read my post, you’d see that I asked: “Which corporate donors also gave to Deeds, and what was the difference in their giving?” I’m asking the precise same question that you’re asking.

    A little less high-and-mighty, a little more rational discussion, please.

  4. I’m sorry, I should not have put “rage” in quotes. What I meant was that this an issue you’ve become quite passionate about, which I find amusing since McDonnell’s actions aren’t entirely different then what has occurred in the past by Democratic candidates, for president no less.

    This is an issue you’ve followed, documented, and commented about for some time now. Reading all of your posts, I do not see you spending any significant amounts of time on similar actions by Democrats in the past. (Whether you’ve commented on Doug Wilder’s finance scandal, I do not know).

    Thus, in my mind, you come across as just another partisan who is more interested in finding any issue to paint opponents of your polifical philosophy as corrupt and inept.

    There is no problem with you being a partisan, Lord knows the Right does this on a frequent basis (the way they defend Delay makes me want to puke).

    I enjoy reading your blog and am disappointed that you’re increasingly emerging as just another partisan, who fails to see the misteps of those who share your political philosophy but commit the same underhanded practices as the very people you accuse of being “corrupt.”

    Perhaps I am being unreasonable, expecting a blog of one’s personal views to be objective. In that regards, I apologize.

  5. Reading all of your posts, I do not see you spending any significant amounts of time on similar actions by Democrats in the past.

    Of course not! That’s up to Republicans to do. I can’t see why I’d spend hours poring over Tim Kaine’s filings to see what he’s done wrong. If Republicans can’t muster the effort to do that sort of research, I can’t see any reason why I’d do it for them. If there was some clear reason to suspect some sort of impropriety on the part of a Democrat (such as every newspaper in the state requiring full disclosure), I imagine I’d spend some time looking into it. But short of that, I can’t see why I’d bother.

    Whether you’ve commented on Doug Wilder’s finance scandal, I do not know.

    Sure, I criticized him for it.

    I’m a partisan. I support many Democrats. I oppose many Republicans. My interest is in a Democratic majority. I’ve never hid that or pretended that my interests lie elsewhere. I choose to spend my time looking into Republicans, and I just can’t bring myself to see that as problematic.

  6. I don’t know what all this means — I’m not a donor-ologist or anything — but I’m beginning to suspect that money influences politics.

  7. Jon,

    Yes, money influences politics but it’s always important to understand how and why. We know why the tobacco industry & the pharmacutical industry donate. This makes sense to us. But Pepsi and Intuit? Choctaw Indians from Mississippi? What aspects of public policy in Virginia are they trying to influence? Are they trying to buy decisions that are out of step with what is just or with what most Virginians want?

    These things are worth finding out. Sometimes the first clue of hidden agenda is a large, mysterious campaign contribution. Examining these contributions is not necessarily a condemnation of those who legally accept them. It’s a way of finding out who is trying to wield what power over us. Don’t you want to know why Choctaw Indians from Mississippi suddenly think it’s in their best interest to throw $25,000 at our Commonwealth’s Attorney General?

  8. “Don’t you want to know why Choctaw Indians from Mississippi suddenly think it’s in their best interest to throw $25,000 at our Commonwealth’s Attorney General?”

    Hell yeah! I’m getting sick and tired of all the funny business from these Indian reservations. They dole out cash like Richard Pryor in Brewster’s Millions, ‘cept they’re less discriminating about it.

  9. Braveheart…
    The GOOOOAALLL would have been getting another 330 votes for Creigh Deeds. I’m not sure I’m doing the math right here, but it looks like those 330 votes cost about $6000 each. Hell, I’d consider voting for McDonnell for that kind of cash.

    but you’re right, Waldo is awesome.

  10. Ok, I consider myself Republican but I have an inquiring mind… Why are the Choctaw Indians from Mississippi donating??? Does seem a little strange.. especially if they were also involved in other scandalous actions.

    Hasn’t there been some recent issue with the Indians in Virginia wanting to be legally recognized? Could it be for something like that?

  11. Okay, I can see the dots, but I’m not smart enought to connect them.

    We know Jack Abramoff used Choctaw money to set up bogus Christian anti-gambling groups. We know that some of this money ($4,000,000) found its way to Ralph Reed. We know about Ralph Reed’s connections with Pat Robertson and the Christian Coalition. We know about Pat Robertson’s connection with Bob McDonnell. (McDonnell was a partner in Robertson’s law firm. He’s on the Board of Vistors of Robertson’s Regent University Law School. His wife is Director of Development at Regent. Robertson contributed $47,500 to McDonnell’s campaign, at last count.)

    I can’t figure out why Choctaw Indians from Mississippi were donating, except that Jack Abramoff told them to. Can anybody connect the dots?

  12. “Ok, I consider myself Republican but I have an inquiring mind…”

    As a Republican, you should have an inquiring mind. This is an issue that taints both parties.

  13. “We know about Pat Robertson’s connection with Bob McDonnell. (McDonnell was a partner in Robertson’s law firm.”

    THIS IS WHY BLOGS CAN BE DANGEROUS, THE AMOUNT OF WRONG INFORMATION IS STAGGERING. McDonnell was formerly at Huff, Poole & Mahooney. Pat Robertson has never been a partner, nor practised law with this firm. Pat Robertson did get a law degree from Yale, but to my knowledge has never actually practiced law.

    “His wife is Director of Development at Regent.”

    WRONG AGAIN, Maureen McDonnell does share a name with our Attorney General’s wife, but it is his sister, not wife who is the Director of Development.

    Blogs are notorious for posters to use seven degrees of Kevin Bacon type of connections to insinuate relationships and conspiracies that simply aren’t credible.

  14. Josh,

    Wanting to get influence is fine. No organization donates money for any reason other then the belief that either the candidate they are giving it to already agrees with them on a key issue (which is honest) or that the donation will make the candidate vote in favor of their position when he otherwise would not (which is arguably bribery).

    But the Choctaws are in Mississippi. They have no reservations in Virginia. What could they be expecting from our Attorney General? This is very strange and suggests that there may be a more elaborate quid-pro-quo at work than usual. Perhaps something involving an agreement with the National GOP that they help finance a VA candidate with the unlimited contributions permitted here in return for a favor at the federal level. There is *no* evidence of this. I just offer it as an example of the sort of thing that may fit the facts.

    The fact that native Americans were treated like dirt by the U.S. government for the last 230 years does not mean that we should ignore bizarre political contributions made by a modern tribe. Nor am I condemning their donation out of hand – I’m just saying that we should get to the bottom of it and find out what these non-Virginians are trying to influence in Virginia.

  15. This conversation has become de-coupled from the facts. The Choctaws gave to the national RSLC in December, AFTER the election. There is no evidence, no way to prove the tribe gave the money with Virginia in mind. The Choctaws were one of hundreds of donors who gave to the national 527, which in turn passed some of its money to a Virginia PAC, which in turn transferred money to McDonnell’s campaign. There’s no way to draw a bright line from any of the money money that went to the national RSLC and the money McDonnell received. In other words, there’s no way to know from the available evidence if any money was given to the RSLC with the intent of influencing the Virginia race.

  16. Thanks for that info, PowWow. I’m embarrassed to say I didn’t realize that the RSLC wass not a Virginia-based organization until you pointed it out. I’m not sure why one would assume, or even speculate, that the Choctaw Indian donation had anything to do with McDonnell.

  17. I’ll accept politcalopinion’s assertion that Pat Robertson has no relationship to the Huff, Poole & Mahoney law firm and that it’s Bob McDonnell’s sister, not his wife, who’s employed by Regent. It seems that I got bad information and passed it on and I apologize for my error.

    I’m not sure that I agree that my errors offer evidence that blogs are “dangerous”, though. To the contrary, the incorrect information was spotted by politicalopinion and promptly corrected in the same forum. You don’t see that kind of timely correction show up in newspapers, magazines, television or radio. (Although I will grant that they probably do better fact-checking that I did.)

    My errors of fact notwithstanding, I don’t think anybody will argue that there’s not a close relationship between Pat Robertson and Bob McDonnell.

    With respect to PowWow’s observation that “there’s no way to know from the available evidence if any money was given to the RSLC with the intent of influencing the Virginia race”, that’s right. And that’s exactly the problem with this political money laundering and that’s exactly why both the donors and recipients chose that method of moving cash in the waning days of a campaign.

    And, so, left in the dark, I’ll make the reasonable assumption that all parties to these transactions didn’t want the voters of Virginia to know who was funding that race. What have they got to hide?

    Maybe the Virginia Attorney General ought to begin a thorough investigation of these shenanigans… oh, wait.

  18. **Robertson’s donations up to $56,000

    **For 2005 RSLC (Va PAC) gave to:
    Bolling ($31,184)
    Dominion Leadership Trust PAC ($393,000)
    Kilgore for Governor ($375,000)
    McDonnell for Attorney General ($2,083,500)

    **Looks like all donations to the Va PAC came from the National RSLC.

    **Large Expenses for 2005 from RSLC (Va PAC) are to:
    Dominion Leadership Trust PAC ($50,000)
    Virginians for Jerry Kilgore ($25,000)
    Bolling for Lieutenant Governor Committee ($25,000)
    RDB Group Incorporated ($30,500)
    McDonnell for Virginia ($75,000)

    (There are some 2004 monies to Kilgore)

    I have no clue if this helps… Looks to me like PowWow is right. The money came from the larger National RSLC.

    Just out of curiosity, does anyone know how to find who received donations from RSLC in other states?

  19. Actually, I think the exchange between Harry Landers and politicalopinion in comments here demonstrates perfectly how blogs are quite the opposite of “dangerous”. My inference is that politicalopinion means that blogs are “dangerous” as information sources compared to, perhaps, more mainstream media like newspapers or television.

    I have no idea whether Harry’s original post about Robertson/McDonnell are correct; however, similar incorrect information is presented as fact on television broadcasts and in newspapers on a fairly regular basis. If anyone made this claim on TV, an audience member wouldn’t immediately be able to speak up and make an “on air” challenge to those facts, nor would the presenter make an immediate correction. (Aside from Dan Rather’s mea culpa, when have you seen a TV journalist make an on-air correction?) When corrections are made in newspapers, they’re usually tucked away in small print, appearing days after the original story.

    Here, anyone reading this exchange gets the claim, the challenge, and the concession, all on the same page. And the immediacy of the reader’s fact-checking tools (thanks, Google) means any interested reader can go from passivity to curiosity to research to find the facts themselves and maybe even post what they find.

    (Of course, I’m not moved to do such research myself!)

    Anyway, great work planting these seeds, Waldo! I look forward to seeing where Virginia bloggers take this story…

  20. The Choctaws gave to the national RSLC in December, AFTER the election.

    And the RSLC gave to McDonnell after the election, too.

    Candidates will run up a great deal of debt in the few days before an election if they receive an assurance from a donor that they’ll get a check after the election.

    Looks like all donations to the Va PAC came from the National RSLC.

    Yup, the VA RSLC exists only to permit the RSLC to contribute to state races. They’re obliged to create a state PAC for that purpose. (Though, if memory serves, they only did so once the SBE reminded them of that fact.)

  21. Campaign contributions, nationally, aren’t the quite thing the Republicans are trolling for these days. They’re setting up a political machine, or already have set one up. Lobbying groups hire Republicans (usually former Congressmen, Congressional staffers, or relatives of Congressmen) for fat salaries, gubmint doles out one or another kind of support, and the new hires plough the legal maximum back into the GOP coffers, which funds PACs and state campaigns nationally. Why are the Choctaws spending here? Why did Westar Energy (a Kansas concern) kick money into Texas legislative races? Because Tom Delay wanted them to, so that Texas would redistrict in a decidedly GOP-friendly way, so that he’d have much more power in the US House. It’s pay to play. The Choctaw leadership gives money to McDonnell because someone higher up in the GOP thinks it’s strategically important in some easily-imagineable fashion. What do they get? The Department of the Interior’s ear, and–incidentally–state influence against letting a Virginia tribe set up a competing franchise here.

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