RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — Gov. Terry McAuliffe said Thursday he did not approve a fundraising appeal his newly formed political action committee sent promising big-dollar donors personal access to him and also said he's giving to charity a past contribution that came from a D.C. businessman who recently pleaded guilty to campaign finance violations.
Speaking on his monthly call-in show on WRVA in Richmond and later with reporters, McAuliffe said aides sent a fundraising solicitation without his knowledge or approval. The request asked for donations to the new Common Good Virginia PAC in increments of $10,000, $25,000, $50,000 and $100,000, with corresponding levels of access to the governor.
Donors who gave $100,000 were promised a private dinner with McAuliffe and his wife. The fundraising letter, first posted on the conservative website BearingDrift.com, also promised large donors monthly meetings with unnamed policy experts.
The governor's political opponents were quick to condemn the timing of the PAC's solicitation, which was sent less than a week after the General Assembly adjourned without passing a budget. McAuliffe and House Republicans are at an impasse over whether to expand Medicaid, a standoff that could potentially lead to a state government shutdown.
McAuliffe said he did not like tying set donation amounts to types of access and won't be abiding by the PAC's letter.
"I don't think that people needed to pay a set amount to do this or that," said McAuliffe, who donors added will still "get to see me one way or the other."
Past governors have created PACs to help push their agenda and help their political allies. McAuliffe, a former Democratic National Committee chairman and prolific political fundraiser, said his PAC will be no different. He said he'll raise money the "traditional" way of just calling people and asking.
"I'm pretty good at this, I know what to do," McAuliffe said.
The governor said his PAC's spending will be needed to help offset the heavy spending by conservatives, including billionaire activists Charles and David Koch.
McAuliffe also confirmed a report by the Virginia Pilot that he was donating $2,500 to charity in response to a recent guilty plea by a past donor. District of Columbia businessman Jeffrey Thompson pleaded guilty earlier this month to several campaign finance violations and is at the center of a federal investigation into D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray.
McAuliffe's unsuccessful 2009 gubernatorial campaign received $2,500 from Thompson, campaign records show.
Federal prosecutors say Thompson used so-called "straw donors" to circumvent individual donor limits.
Court records show Thompson also told prosecutors that Minyon Moore, an associate of McAuliffe, was involved in an off-the-books campaign operation during Hillary Rodham Clinton's 2008 presidential campaign. Moore was McAuliffe's first hire when he led the DNC, according to his autobiography. She has denied any wrongdoing.
Several prominent Democratic politicians have previously returned or donated donations linked to Thompson after some of his associates pleaded guilty to campaign finance violations in 2012 and 2013. They include President Barack Obama, Virginia U.S. Sen. Tim Kaine, Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley and Delaware Gov. Jack Markell.
The Virginia Republican Party tried to pressure McAuliffe into returning Thompson's money during last year's gubernatorial race. But McAuliffe said he chose not to donate the money until Thompson pleaded guilty.
"I just don't believe you ought to be condemning anyone until they are convicted," McAuliffe said.
An aide to the governor said the donation would come from the still-active McAuliffe 2013 campaign, since the 2009 campaign account was closed.