- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Virginia’s gubernatorial race is attracting attention — and donors — from across the country, partly because of the state’s loose campaign financing laws.

The most recent example came yesterday from the Republican Governors Association (RGA), which is forming a political action committee (PAC) for former Virginia Attorney General Jerry W. Kilgore, whom it formally endorsed.

Several governors said the formation of the Honest Leadership for Virginia PAC shows a “deep level of commitment” to the race.

Nevada Gov. Kenny Guinn said the PAC will raise at least $1 million nationally for Mr. Kilgore, and that no limit will be placed on contributions.

“We will raise whatever it takes to get the job done,” said Mr. Guinn, who also serves as the RGA’s chairman. “We are very high on Jerry Kilgore as a candidate.”

Mr. Guinn said the RGA will donate a “substantial” dollar amount into the PAC. “We’re going to make a valiant effort,” he said.

State law sets no limits on the amount of money donated to candidates.

“There are no limits as to how much money can come in and from where,” said Chris Piper, campaign finance administrator for the Virginia State Board of Elections.

Mr. Piper said Virginia requires more disclosure of information than other states, and requires itemization of donations greater than $100.

Mike Pieper, executive director of the RGA, said state campaign finance laws have dictated whether the group forms PACs in governor’s races. The RGA has formed PACs in Louisiana, Mississippi, North Dakota and Montana in previous years.

The Democratic National Committee has given $1.5 million and has pledged an additional $3.5 million to Virginia Lt. Gov. Timothy M. Kaine, Mr. Kilgore’s likely challenger. Mr. Kaine is running unopposed for the Democratic nomination.

Gov. Mark Warner, a Democrat, has donated $35,000 of his own money to Mr. Kaine’s campaign to keep his party in the governor’s mansion. Mr. Warner is chairman of the National Governors Association.

The Virginia race is key for both parties. Republicans control the General Assembly and want to take back the state’s top office from Democrats. Democrats want to hold on to the governorship and prove the party can win in a Southern state.

Last year, Virginia briefly was mentioned as a presidential battleground state; President Bush won re-election in Virginia by eight percentage points last fall.

Only Virginia and New Jersey are holding gubernatorial races this year. Next year, 36 states will choose a governor. Across the country, 28 states have Republican governors.

The Democratic Governors’ Association did not have a response to RGA’s announcement.

In February, organizers with the anti-Bush group Americans Coming Together told the Associated Press they were considering getting involved in the Virginia race.

Donations from out-of-state sources have come in to both the Kaine and Kilgore campaigns, campaign finance reports show.

Mr. Kilgore received $15,000 from Bob J. Perry, a Houston real estate developer who was one of the leading contributors to the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth 527 organization during last year’s presidential campaign.

Mr. Kilgore, who served as chairman of the Virginia campaign to re-elect Mr. Bush, faces Warrenton Mayor George B. Fitch in the June 14 Republican primary.

Mr. Guinn said it was unusual for the RGA to endorse a candidate before he has won the party primary, but said that in this case the consensus among the governors was to “move ahead” with support for Mr. Kilgore.

“We’re confident this man represents the leadership needed for Virginia,” said Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, who serves as the RGA’s vice chairman.

Mr. Romney applauded Mr. Kilgore for opposing the $1.38 billion tax increase passed by the state legislature last year.

Campaign finance reports show that Mr. Kaine had a slight fundraising lead over Mr. Kilgore.

As of March 31, Mr. Kaine had raised $8.1 million over the course of the campaign and had $5 million cash on hand; Mr. Kilgore had raised $7.4 million and had $4 million cash on hand, the reports show.

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