Virginia’s Construction Industry Generous to Candidates

Wed May 18, 2005 - Northeast Edition
Construction Equipment Guide

RICHMOND, VA (AP) The people who plan, build, market and sell homes and offices are among the most generous givers to candidates in November’s elections so far this year.

Discounting the money being shifted from one political committee to another, Virginia’s real estate and construction sector is the richest font of new cash for legislative and statewide candidates facing election this fall.

Through the first three months of 2005, the industry contributed $1.2 million to statewide and House of Delegates campaigns, according to reports filed with the State Board of Elections and compiled into a database by the Virginia Public Access Project.

Political cash accounted for nearly $2.6 million in overall giving, but most of that represents donations already made to parties and political committees and redistributed to candidates. More than half of that total —$1.5 million — represents a single transfer from the Democratic National Committee to gubernatorial candidate Timothy M. Kaine.

In Virginia, no sector of the economy has flourished as grandly as real estate in recent years. The lowest mortgage rates in 50 years have created a statewide boom in new home construction, sales of new and existing homes and refinancing.

The wildest growth has been in the state’s most densely populated region, northern Virginia, largely because of heavy federal spending on homeland security and defense. The Washington, D.C., exurb of Loudoun County was the nation’s fastest-growing county from 2000 to 2003.

Real estate and construction has been a perennial top sponsor of politics in Virginia for both parties. But it was most generous to the Republicans for the first quarter of this election year, giving $244,000 to Republicans in the governor’s race compared to $186,000 for Kaine, the lone Democrat.

A wealthy Texas homebuilder who was prominent in the 2004 presidential race was a major individual contributor to Republican Jerry Kilgore’s campaign for governor. Bob J. Perry, a leading benefactor to the anti-John Kerry Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, gave Kilgore $15,000.

House Democratic candidates got slightly more than $224,000 from the development, real estate and construction industry compared to more than $544,000 that went to GOP House candidates. Republicans hold 60 of the 100 seats in the House.

The industry knows the value of access to people who write state laws on land use, transportation and other issues affecting their business.

“As sectors go, they’re one of the two or three economic divisions that benefits most from association with government,” said University of Virginia political science professor Larry Sabato. “An as an economic sector flourishes financially, its contributions almost always increase.”

Other top givers were banking and finance, which has given $1.1 million so far this year; the law profession, which wrote slightly more than $821,000 in campaign checks; and business and retail services, which gave politicians nearly $600,000.

While the GOP dominated in contributions from real estate, business and finance, the law sector favored Democrats by nearly a 2-to-1 ratio.

The only sector to overwhelmingly support an independent candidate was agriculture. Of the nearly $343,000 it gave in the race for governor, almost three fourths went to state Sen. H. Russell Potts thanks to a $250,000 single contribution from Kentfield Farm of Middleburg.

Potts, elected to his Winchester seat as a Republican in 2003, is running for governor as an independent, saying he is fed up with the GOP’s hard line against taxes and abortion.

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