- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 23, 2009

Deep-pocket donors who helped fund Terry McAuliffe’s unsuccessful bid for the Virginia governor’s office are showing much less interest in helping the man who beat him in the Democratic primary - campaign finance records show only two of the 115 donors who gave $10,000 or more to Mr. McAuliffe have so far contributed to state Sen. R. Creigh Deeds.

Mr. McAuliffe’s well-heeled donors, who included 29 Virginia residents, may not be crucial in a race that is garnering hundred-thousand-dollar contributions from outside the state, but their lack of involvement could suggest a wider indifference toward the Deeds campaign.

Mr. McAuliffe, a former Democratic National Committee chairman, raised more than $8.2 million during his campaign - $3.5 million of which came from the 115 individuals who gave $10,000 or more.

Mr. Deeds so far has collected only $35,000 from those same people. Virginia places no limits on the size of individual campaign contributions.

Mr. McAuliffe, a prolific fundraiser, collected the majority of his money outside the state from a vast donor network built during his years of raising money for the national party and for the presidential campaigns of Bill Clinton and Hillary Rodham Clinton, who is now secretary of state. But he also won the support of well-known Virginia donors, whose contributions of $10,000 or more accounted for almost $1 million of his war chest.

The Virginia residents who provided major support to Mr. McAuliffe included Radford businessman Randal J. Kirk, a key contributor to Gov. Tim Kaine’s political action committee who has doled out $1.8 million to Virginia candidates and causes in the past 10 years.

But Mr. Kirk, who gave the McAuliffe campaign more than $106,000, told The Washington Times that the race between Mr. Deeds and former Attorney General Robert F. McDonnell simply has not captured his imagination.

“I haven’t yet figured out why I should care very much which of these two candidates is governor,” he said. “I think they are both fine individuals. I just don’t have any basis to prefer one over the other. I may not get involved at all.”

Another big contributor to Mr. Kaine’s 2005 Democratic gubernatorial campaign announced on Monday that this year she would support Mr. McDonnell.

Sheila Johnson, the billionaire co-founder of Black Entertainment Television (BET), told the Associated Press that though she is a lifelong Democrat, she thinks Mr. McDonnell is more likely to turn around the state’s economy. Mrs. Johnson donated more than $400,000 to the Kaine campaign four years ago.

Many of Mr. McAuliffe’s supporters in Virginia reached by The Washington Times said they donated because of close personal ties to the candidate. Virtually all of them said they would support Mr. Deeds, but some seemed less certain they would contribute financially.

Larry J. Sabato, director of the Center for Politics at the University of Virginia, said it is too early for the Deeds campaign to panic.

“It’s not a good early sign but these things can turn around so quickly,” he said, adding that some of the big donors may not yet have been asked for support - or they may not have been asked by the right person.

“If McAuliffe has any further interest in Virginia, he will want to do a better job of ensuring people get behind Deeds,” Mr. Sabato said. But, he noted, the “incentive may not be there” for Mr. McAuliffe to make personal pleas.

Mr. McAuliffe could not be reached for comment, but Justin Paschal, a senior campaign staffer, said that Mr. McAuliffe has been working closely with Mr. Deeds since the primary and that he will host a fundraiser for Mr. Deeds at his house in the coming months.

Big-money supporters of Mr. Deeds’ other defeated primary opponent, former Delegate Brian J. Moran, have made noticeable contributions to the Deeds camp. Of the 42 donors who gave Mr. Moran $10,000 or more, 11 have written checks to the Deeds campaign totaling $227,500.

Deeds spokesman Jared Leopold said that Mr. McAuliffe, as well as Mr. Moran, sent supporters an e-mail that has netted the Deeds campaign dozens of donations of between $5 and $250. Both former candidates also have added links from their campaign Web sites to a donation page for Mr. Deeds.

“We’ve had a number of donations, both small and large, from folks who supported both Brian and Terry, and we expect to see more of them,” Mr. Leopold said.

Mr. Moran told The Washington Times that he has made calls to his donors asking them to support Mr. Deeds and will continue to do so.

As to why more money hasn’t been rolling in, Mr. Moran said, “It’s the summertime; this is a traditionally slow period. We obviously had a very spirited primary, and it takes the donors a period of time to assess the field. I’m confident they will support Creigh in the end.”

The $35,000 Mr. Deeds has collected from former big-money McAuliffe supporters included $25,000 from W. Russell Ramsey, of Great Falls, managing general partner of Ramsey Asset Management. He gave to Mr. Deeds on June 25 after contributing more than $68,000 to Mr. McAuliffe. Lawyer Frank M. Conner III, of Alexandria, gave $10,000 to Mr. Deeds on June 25 after contributing $20,100 to Mr. McAuliffe and $2,500 to Mr. Deeds during the primary campaign.

Among the 11 donors who have given to Mr. Deeds after donating to Mr. Moran, Barbara J. Fried, of Crozet, gave $100,000 on June 22 - matching the $100,000 she had given to Mr. Moran. Michael T. Bills, president of Bluestem Asset Management in Charlottesville, gave $50,000 to Mr. Deeds on June 18 after giving $20,000 to Mr. Moran during the primary campaign.

Neither Mr. McAuliffe nor Mr. Moran has personally donated to the Deeds campaign.

Mr. Deeds isn’t hurting for money. Campaign-finance records released last week and collected by the nonpartisan Virginia Public Access Project show he raised $3.4 million from May 28 to June 30, bolstered by $1 million in donations from national Democratic Party organizations.

That was nearly twice what his Republican opponent raised in the same period. Mr. McDonnell retains an overall advantage, however, with about $5 million cash on hand, compared with $2.7 million on hand for Mr. Deeds.

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