Va. Coal Money Will Help Fund McAuliffe Inauguration

Image: Va. Coal Money Will Help Fund McAuliffe Inauguration Governor-elect Terry McAuliffe and wife Dorothy McAuliffe at the Southwest Inaugural Ball on Jan. 4 at Heartwood in Abingdon, Va.

Tuesday, 07 Jan 2014 10:53 AM

By Drew MacKenzie

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Incoming Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe has accepted $75,000 from coal and utility companies to help finance his expensive inauguration ceremonies this weekend even though he has pledged to clean up the industry, according to the Washington Times.

In his election campaign against Republican Ken Cuccinelli, the Democrat governor-elect promoted a green agenda for the state and vowed to support tougher new federal regulations on coal firms.

But Alpha Natural Resources and Dominion Virginia Power are putting up thousands to help pay part of the estimated $1 million cost of inauguration events in Richmond, which will be attended by former President Bill Clinton and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, both of whom campaigned for McAulifffe.

The money will be used for an inaugural ball, a prayer breakfast, a parade, and other celebrations not covered by the state, which foots the bill of about $250,000 for the official swearing-in ceremony.

The two companies normally contribute to the state's gubernatorial candidates and did so this year, although they gave disproportionately more to Cuccinelli than McAuliffe, the Times noted.

But the Times suggested that accepting inaugural donations from the coal and power companies could draw criticism from environmentalists and green groups that worked hard to get McAuliffe elected.

The newspaper also noted that McAuliffe's inaugural donations include $180,000 from Medicaid companies as well, according to the Virginia Public Access Project, a non-partisan tracker of finances in politics.

McAuliffe was a supporter of the Medicaid expansion program under Obamacare and insists that it will eventually save the state about $500 million a year.

Geoffrey Skelley, a political analyst at the University of Virginia Center for Politics, told the Times the special interest contributions could present an image problem for the new governor, especially if he ends up backing legislation that would somehow benefit the companies.

"I think you’re always walking a fine line in politics," Skelley said. "There's a reason to be concerned, or at least wary, of the kind of money you see given by companies to politicians."

But Skelley added, "I think as long as there’s public records of who’s given money, that at least forms some kind of protection against abuse."

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