Shadow Money Arrives in Virginia

Democracy Alliance-aligned PAC funnels thousands to Virginia Dems

The Virginia State Capitol in downtown Richmond, Virginia / Getty Images
August 6, 2019

A new federal political action committee with ties to a shadowy network of liberal billionaires has contributed $200,000 to help Virginia Democrats retake the statehouse, according to FEC filings from the organization.

The Virginia Plus PAC was established in February and has raised $225,000 from a small group of donors. Nearly all of that money has gone directly to party committees for Democrats in the Virginia House of Delegates and state Senate. Each committee received $100,000 from the PAC.

The largest contribution to the PAC, which did not respond to request for comment, comes from the Civic Participation Action Fund, a left-wing advocacy organization. The group donated $100,000 to the Virginia Plus PAC on April 15. The Civic Participation Action Fund (CPAF) is directly connected to hedge fund billionaire George Soros and the Democracy Alliance network. IRS filings show the fund gifted grants to Democracy Alliance in 2017, 2016, and 2015, the most recent years available.

Neither CPAF nor the Democracy Alliance responded to requests for comment.

A previous exposé from the Washington Free Beacon delved into the Democracy Alliance network and how it connects high net worth liberal donors with progressive advocacy groups in need of funding. The network has been described as highly secretive and prohibits donors and the affiliated organizations from discussing the organization publicly.

CPAF is not the only notable connection between Virginia Plus PAC and the Democracy Alliance donor network.

Joan Huffner, who is listed as the treasurer of the new PAC, sits on the Democracy Alliance board, according to the organization's website. Huffner donated $20,000 to the newly formed PAC in 2019 and is listed as the founder of the PAC elsewhere online. The website listing Huffner as the founder of the Virginia Plus PAC describes it as "a progressive donor collaborative focused on increasing civic and electoral engagement in Virginia."

Another Democracy Alliance board member, Shekar Narasimhan, also chipped in a $20,000 contribution to the Virginia Plus PAC just a day before Huffner's donation, making him the first donor to the newly established PAC. Narasimhan is the founder and chairman of AAPI Victory Fund which claims to be the first super PAC solely focused "on building the political power of the Asian American Pacific Islander community."

Albert Dwoskin, a member of the Democracy Alliance donor network, contributed $30,000 at the end of March. Dwoskin has been an active Democratic donor over the past decade and has given nearly $25,000 to the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and $5,000 to Speaker Nancy Pelosi's leadership PAC in 2019. He is best known for his support of the anti-vaccination movement. He previously sat on the governing board for the Children's Medical Safety Research Institute, which falsely linked autism diagnoses to the spread of childhood vaccinations.

The institute shut down earlier this year during divorce proceedings between Dwoskin and his ex-wife Claire, who founded the controversial institute. Dwoskin has sought to distance himself from the institute since his divorce.

In Virginia, state campaign finance laws allow unlimited contributions to candidates and political committees so it's unclear why these Democratic donors have opted to donate to the federal election PAC instead of donating directly to the legislative campaign committees.

The funding from prominent national liberal donors signals a continued focus by national Democratic donors to flip the Republican legislative majorities in Virginia. Heading into the 2019 elections, Republicans maintain narrow majorities in both chambers of the legislature and Democrats only need to flip two seats in each chamber to gain a majority.