Northam Campaign Coordinated With Progressive Group Behind Controversial Anti-Gillespie Ad

Virginia's Lt. Governor Ralph Northam / Getty Images
• November 2, 2017 2:53 pm


Newly released public records show Virginia Democratic gubernatorial candidate Ralph Northam's campaign coordinated with the Latino Victory Fund (LVF), the organization that released a race-bating ad smearing Republican candidate Ed Gillespie's supporters as racist.

Northam said earlier this week that he had no connection to the controversial ad, but public records suggest a different story.

On Monday, the progressive political action committee released the ad, which showed a man driving a pick-up truck with a Gillespie campaign sticker, a Tea Party license plate, and a Confederate flag on the back. The man chases down a pair of Latino boys, an African-American boy, and a Muslim girl wearing a hijab as the children run into an alley and tried to climb a fence. The children ultimately wake up, revealing the experience was a nightmare that would exist if Northam's Republican opponent was elected.

The controversial ad was pulled in the wake of the of the New York City terrorist attack involving a rental truck, but not before it was the subject of significant backlash. Gillespie's campaign manager called the ad an "attack on the people of Virginia," and on Wednesday, Gillespie said online donations had "tripled" as a result of people being disgusted by the ad. The Washington Post editorial board, despite previously endorsing Northam,  called the ad "vile."

"It is sad that it took such a tragedy for the group to realize how out of bounds its ad was. It’s also sad that someone who promises to be a governor for all Virginians didn’t call them out right away," the Post editorial board wrote.

A Northam campaign spokesman told the Post on Tuesday, before the ad was pulled, that they "would not have run this ad." Northam also told WAVY News on Wednesday that the commercial did not come from his campaign, and he would not have wanted to run it. However, new public records show the Northam campaign reported receiving a large in-kind donation from LVF just one week before the election. The $62,730 donation was for "media" purposes, according to the Virginia Public Access Project.

The Northam campaign received two other in-kind contributions from LVF on Oct. 17 in the amounts of $23,475 and $2,870.10 in the designated categories of "advertising" and "media," according to Virginia's Department of Elections. The records appear to contradict Northam's account.

When it comes to in-kind contribution and independent expenditures, Virginia election laws are different from federal election laws, according to Section 4.2 of Virginia State Board of Elections’ Summary of Laws and Policies for Candidate Campaign Committees.

"To qualify as an in-kind contribution, the candidate or an agent of the candidate’s campaign committee must have either expressly requested or suggested to the person or committee that the expenditure be made, or the candidate or an agent of the candidate campaign committee must have material involvement in devising the strategy, content, means of dissemination, or timing of the expenditure," the law indicates.

LVF also donated $16,000 directly to the Northam campaign in late September.

A Northam campaign spokesperson said on Wednesday that the campaign did not approve the truck ad and the donation was in-kind because LVF goes to the campaign's canvasses and has held fundraisers, according to Post reporter Dave Weigel.

The Republican National Committee rapid response director pointed out, however, that the most recent "media" contribution is suspect.