In odd-numbered years, voters in Virginia write checks to their favorite candidates, hoping to power their campaigns to victory on Election Day. The 2021 election cycle has been no different, with over $146.8 million in contributions already reported by candidates and committees across the state just ahead of this week’s primary elections. With only a few months to go before voters determine the direction of their state for the next four years, many of the big Virginia donors have already given well in excess of $1 million to their preferred candidates and political action committees (PACs).
Here is a look at the top ten Virginia donors for the 2021 election cycle, so far:
The top individual contributor in Virginia this year has been businessman and hedge fund head Michael D. Bills. According to his profile on the UVA McIntire website, Bills is the Founder and Chief Investment Officer of Bluestem Asset Management LLC. Bills previously worked as Senior Managing Director of Tiger Management and as Vice President in the Equity Trading and Arbitrage Division for Goldman, Sachs & Co. According to campaign finance records, the bulk of Bills’ contributions have gone to Clean Virginia Fund, a group which promotes “clean government and clean energy,” in the amount of $3,970,000.
Sonjia Smith, who claims the number two spot on Virginia donors list, is a Democratic donor and the wife of businessman Michael Bills. According to campaign finance data, Smith has contributed to multiple candidates and committees this year, with the largest share of her contributions going to Jennifer Carroll Foy in the amount of $500,000. Foy, is a former state delegate currently running for the Democratic nomination for Governor.
Dominion Energy Services Inc. is an energy company that currently operates in 16 states, providing service to over seven million customers, according to the company’s website. One of Virginia’s top donors, the company has contributed the bulk of its 2021 campaign cash — in the amount of $1.35 million — to its Dominion Energy Inc PAC – Virginia.
According to Unite America’s website, the group describes itself as “a movement of Democrats, Republicans, and independents working to bridge the growing partisan divide and foster a more representative and functional government.” The group has seen the largest share of its political contributions in Virginia go to Fair Maps Virginia, the group responsible for the successful passage of Virginia Question 1 last year, which transferred the authority to draw legislative districts from the state legislature to a redistricting commission made up of citizens and legislators.
The Pamunkey Indian Tribe is one of 11 Virginia tribes recognized by the Commonwealth of Virginia, as well as the first federally recognized tribe in the state. According to campaign finance reports, the contributions from this top Virginia donor have gone to Yes Norfolk Committee, the group responsible for the successful passage of a measure last year allowing casino gambling east of Harbor Park Stadium in Norfolk.
According to campaign finance reports, Betting on Bristol was a group in support of a successful measure to allow the creation of a casino gambling establishment in Bristol, which was passed by voters last year. Betting on Bristol’s sole contribution of the election cycle went to Vote Yes for Bristol, another group in favor of the measure.
Mark Kimsey is an investment banker and the son of the late James Kimsey, who co-founded AOL. This election cycle, Kimsey has contributed to only one candidate, Pete Snyder, a businessman and marketing executive who unsuccessfully sought the Republican nomination for Governor of Virginia this year.
The Democratic Attorneys General Association is a federal PAC that, according to their website, provides “ political and policy support to Democratic State Attorneys General in their mission to protect citizens, promote progress and support civil rights.” A single donation of $834,599.85 to Mark Herring’s 2021 campaign for Attorney General of Virginia landed the DAGA in one of the top spots ahead of the primaries.
Ronald D. Abramson is an attorney and shareholder at Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney PC, a law firm that currently employs over 450 attorneys and government relations professionals across 15 different offices, according to the firm’s website. Abramson has been a major contributor to multiple candidates and organizations for the 2021 election cycle, with his top recipient reported as being Actblue Virginia in the amount of $273,800. His top candidate recipient is Attorney General Mark Herring, with Abramson contributing $75,000 to the incumbent ahead of his re-election battle this November.
According to Zinc Collective’s website, the group is the creator of DigiDems and the Blue Leadership Collaborative, which are aimed at investing in talent and infrastructure gaps to assist Democrats and Democratic candidates. The group’s contributions in Virginia this election cycle have gone to one recipient — the House Democratic Caucus — in the amount of $600,600.
The top spot among Virginia’s political donors for 2021 on our website is occupied by a group that was not included on this list. That’s because Aggregated Unitemized Cash Contributions, the group of donors responsible for $9,355,404.77 in unitemized contributions, is not actually a single entity. According to the Virginia Department of Election, these contributions come from contributors who have donated less than $100 to a candidate or committee for an election cycle. When the total stays below this threshold, no detailed reporting is required. With $9,355,404.77 in unitemized contributions thus far, there is no question that small dollar contributions are playing a major role in the 2021 election fundraising.