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Charge likely to heat up the Republican primary for attorney general nomination.
By CHELYEN DAVIS
RICHMOND—Republican attorney general candidate Steve Baril is accusing his competitor in the primary race, Del. Bob McDonnell, of skirting campaign finance law, an accusation McDonnell’s campaign says is baseless.
In a press conference here yesterday, Baril said a television ad—authorized by McDonnell but paid for by the Virginia Conservative Action PAC as an in-kind contribution—raises ethical issues because money for that ad could have come from a federal tort reform organization that doesn’t have to disclose its donors.
The federal group, the Americans for Tort Reform Association, donated $220,000 to VCAP on May 2. Soon after, VCAP began running TV and radio ads—which Baril said cost about the same as the ATRA donation—praising McDonnell and criticizing Baril.
Baril claims the connection between ATRA and McDonnell is clear.
“This is an obvious and deliberate attempt by Bob McDonnell to skirt Virginia’s election laws and spend unregulated political money,” Baril said. “I don’t think there’s any question about it. I know I’m from Chesterfield County, but I didn’t just fall off the turnip truck The point is, you look at the big picture and the overall scheme.”
There’s no proof that the ATRA money was spent on the ad. But Baril says the McDonnell campaign’s influence on the VCAP ad makes it his money.
“Bob McDonnell’s campaign provided the footage for VCAP’s ads,” Baril said. “Bob McDonnell’s campaign directed the expenditure. And Bob McDonnell authorized the advertisements. They are his attack ads. This is his money.”
McDonnell scoffed at that, and said he has done nothing wrong.
“We have complied absolutely fully with the letter and spirit of the law,” McDonnell said in a telephone interview. “He’s making a direct character attack, not only at me but the excellent business leaders of VCAP. The obligation to comply with both the spirit and letter of the law for a candidate is to fully report all the dollars they get, [not] who donated to the people who donated to that PAC. There’s no further duty to find out where monies are coming from.”
McDonnell noted that VCAP—which he helped found several years ago—has numerous contributors and has raised a lot of money over the years.