Northam Win Fueled By Money From Obama-Backed Group, Steyer, Bloomberg

Prominent liberals combined to pour millions into Virginia to support Dem candidate Ralph Northam

Virginia Governor-elect Ralph Northam / Getty Images
November 8, 2017

A group backed by former President Barack Obama and headed by former Attorney General Eric Holder poured $1 million into the Virginia gubernatorial race in support of Democrat Ralph Northam, who on Tuesday defeated Republican Ed Gillespie.

Other prominent liberals, including progressive mega-donor Tom Steyer and former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, also devoted large sums of money and resources into the effort to elect Northam.

The National Democratic Redistricting Foundation—a foundation associated with the National Democratic Redistricting Committee (NDRC), a Washington, D.C.-based organization chaired by Holder and with which Obama is involved that is focused on redistricting efforts—zeroed in on Virginia as its first electoral battleground since leaving the White House given the state's redistricting implications after the 2020 U.S. Census.

The group, which uses a four-part strategy that includes "advancing legal action, mobilizing grassroots energy, supporting reforms, and winning elections," donated $750,000 to the Virginia Democratic Party in recent months to aide Northam, the Washington Free Beacon previously reported. The group added $200,000 in contributions in late October, filings show.

Holder told the New York Times last year that redistricting efforts are personal to Obama, who holds resentment towards House Republicans for impairing his legislative agenda for a portion of his presidency.

"The tasks that he had placed before him were made a lot more difficult, progress a lot more difficult, than it needed to be," said Holder. "That's because of the Congress that he had to deal with, which was a function of the 2010 redistricting effort."

Obama held a strategy meeting before leaving the White House that was attended by Sen. Chuck Schumer (D., N.Y.), Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D), and Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D., Calif.), where the group had identified breaking up Republican controlled areas as a top priority for Democrats.

Obama's first political event since departing the White House was an NRDC fundraiser this past summer with Holder and Pelosi. McAuliffe has also aided the group with its fundraising efforts, which pulled in nearly $11 million during the first half of the year.

Obama hit the campaign trail for Northam in October.

Marc Elias, a partner at the D.C.-based Perkins Coie law firm, who was the top lawyer for Hillary Clinton's failed presidential campaign, acts as the group's senior advisor and general counsel.

Also involved with the NDRC are Kelly Ward, the former executive director of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC); Elisabeth Pearson, the executive director of the Democratic Governor's Association (DGA); Jessica Post, the executive director of the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee; Ali Lapp, the president of the House Majority PAC, a super PAC backed by Pelosi; and Greg Speed, president of America Votes Action Fund.

The NRDC plans to raise $30 million for governor races during the 2018 election cycle. They will additionally spend on local races in states where the legislature is competitive.

Other prominent Democratic players also threw their weight behind Northam's candidacy.

Tom Steyer, a liberal billionaire environmental activist, initially vowed to spend $2 million on the Virginia gubernatorial race through his group, NextGen America.

"This is the race of the year," Steyer told the Washington Post in August. "It seems like there is a struggle for the hearts and minds of Americans right now, and it's taking place as much in Virginia as anyplace else in the United States of America."

Steyer donated $1 million to help Latino groups mobilize on behalf of Democrats.

Steyer's committee also provided nearly $1 million of in-kind donations to Northam's campaign for staff time and advertising, records posted on the Virginia Public Access Project show.

Michael Bloomberg spent $1.4 million in support to Northam via Everytown for Gun Safety, his gun control group, in the form of campaign donations and in-kind contributions for advertising, polling, staff, and volunteer expenses, records show.

Everytown referred the Free Beacon to its press release from Tuesday night when asked for comment on its involvement. The group referred to the election as a "major defeat for the gun lobby."

"Everytown for Gun Safety Action Fund and the Virginia chapter of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, part of Everytown, today declared victory in Virginia, where gun-sense champions won up and down the ballot," the release reads. "Everytown for Gun Safety Action Fund and Moms Demand Action endorsed gubernatorial candidate Ralph Northam, lieutenant governor candidate Justin Fairfax, Attorney General Mark Herring and Delegate candidates Chris Hurst and John Bell, all of whom ran on gun safety and won, even in the NRA’s backyard. The victories show that one thing is clear heading into the 2018 midterm elections: Momentum is on the side of the gun violence prevention movement."

George Soros, the liberal billionaire financier, is the largest individual donor to the Latino Victory Fund, a group that came under fire after releasing an anti-Gillespie ad depicting a Gillespie supporter chasing minority children down streets and alleyways in a pickup truck.

The ad was ultimately pulled following the terrorist attack in New York City that left eight people dead.

The NDRC and NextGen America did not return a request for comment on their involvement by press time.