Wilder son eyed over lost funds

Richmond Commonwealth’s Attorney Michael N. Herring is expected to announce early next month the status of an investigation into roughly $170,000 missing from Mayor L. Douglas Wilder’s 1989 gubernatorial campaign fund.

The investigation has so far focused of Larry Wilder, the governor’s son and the campaign treasurer.

“The question is did Larry Wilder as treasurer of the account lawfully accrue and dispose of the funds,” Mr. Herring said yesterday.

In addition to possible criminal charges against his son, the case also poses potential political problems should Mr. Wilder, a Democrat, decide to seek re-election.

That is because Virginia law prohibits people from running for office if they have not filed the appropriate campaign finance reports, paid related fines and returned certain donations required by law.

Mr. Wilder — who became the country’s first elected black governor in 1990 and came out of retirement to become Richmond’s mayor in 2005 — has failed to file his final campaign finance report from his successful gubernatorial bid.

Mr. Herring said the state board of elections will make the decision on whether Mr. Wilder, 76, can run again for office.

“The last thing I intend to do is to wade into the ability for Doug Wilder to run for office,” he said. “That is not my call. That is their call.”

Mr. Wilder’s office did not return calls seeking comment.

Questions surfaced in 2004 after the board discovered during an internal audit the “Wilder for Governor” 1989 campaign committee had failed to file a campaign report since Jan. 15, 1999.

The board found the report, filed by Larry Wilder, showed the committee had a $172,571 account balance.

Mr. Wilder’s long-time advisor Paul Goldman, who replaced Larry Wilder as committee treasurer in 2005, told the board he was unable to recover bank records and that the account balance had somehow dropped to just about $3,000.

“In terms of the monies reported in the January 15, 1999 report but not in the account as of today… all this money went to Mr. Larry Wilder,” Mr. Goldman wrote in a June 22, 2005 letter to the board. “Bottom line: No records relative to the actual disbursement of this money have been located.”

In response, the state board of elections referred the case in late September 2005 to Mr. Herring’s office.

This is not the first time Larry Wilder has been the focus of an investigation.

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