McAuliffe Holds Martha's Vineyard Fundraiser as COVID Hits Island Hard

Attendees paid thousands to enjoy cocktails while local hospitals complained of 'bursting at the seams'

Virginia gubernatorial candidate Terry McAuliffe / Getty Images
August 19, 2021

Virginia Democratic gubernatorial nominee Terry McAuliffe held a swanky fundraiser on Martha's Vineyard as the liberal vacation hotspot struggled to battle a spike in coronavirus cases that follows former president Barack Obama's birthday party.

McAuliffe charged attendees thousands of dollars to attend the Wednesday event, which he held at Sen. Mark Warner's (D., Va.) $7 million island mansion, according to a copy of the invitation obtained by New York Times reporter Ken Vogel. While donors enjoyed "cocktails and conversation in support of" McAuliffe, however, local medical professionals rushed to deal with a spike in COVID-19 cases nearly two weeks after Obama held his celebrity-filled soirée on the island. After the former president pledged to "scale back" the party over coronavirus concerns, hundreds of guests, including celebrities John Legend, Chrissy Teigen, and Don Cheadle, flocked to the island to attend.

"We're bursting at the seams," Martha's Vineyard Hospital president and CEO Denise Schepici told reporters Wednesday. "We are pretty jam-packed. … We're hoping there will be a reprieve in September. But that's a prayer right now."

Cases in the island's surrounding county have increased 179 percent since Obama's "sophisticated" guests began to arrive for the birthday bash.

The fundraiser marks McAuliffe's latest attempt to nationalize his fundraising efforts as he works to defeat GOP opponent Glenn Youngkin. Last week, the Democratic candidate attended a Las Vegas fundraiser with Nevada governor Steve Sisolak (D.). McAuliffe ditched a candidate forum hosted by a disabilities advocacy group to fly to the event, a decision that drew a swift rebuke from Virginia's disabled community.

Warner purchased his Martha's Vineyard mansion from the late 60 Minutes journalist Mike Wallace in 2011. The waterfront estate consists of "two dwellings connected by a covered brick veranda and two car garage" and boasts six bedrooms, five bathrooms, a private dock, and private beach, as well as a screen porch that provides "unsurpassed water views to the shores of Cape Cod." Warner's residence is just miles away from Obama's $11.75 million, 29-acre estate.

At the fundraiser, Warner announced his intention to investigate President Joe Biden's disastrous Afghanistan withdrawal, according to Vogel. Event "hosts" paid $10,000 to attend, while "co-hosts" and "sponsors" paid $5,000 and $2,500, respectively, the invitation shows.