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Foreign influence
McAuliffe, Cuccinelli raking in money from out of state

Date published: 9/23/2013

WHOSE ELECTION is this, anyhow? The latest figures on campaign contributions to Virginia's gubernatorial candidates make you wonder.

Much has been said and written about the candidates' relative lack of appeal. When New York Magazine earlier this year described Ken Cuccinelli as a "Republican nutjob" and Terry McAuliffe as a "soulless Democratic hack," perhaps it was overstating the case for dramatic effect, although the campaign has produced much more heat than light so far. Somewhere around 100 percent of the political ads we're seeing are positive only in that they're positive the opponent deserves a public flogging.

The latest contribution figures, gathered by the Virginia Public Access Project, make this race seem to be only tangentially about the commonwealth at all. If money talks, this is more like a nationally funded debate of ideologies than a state election.

Break down Mr. Cuccinelli's support to in-state and out-of-state for the first half of 2013, and 56 percent of it comes from beyond the border. And, since July 1, Mr. Cuccinelli has received about $3.5 million in in-kind donations from the Republican Governors Association, which has ponied up $6.78 million total for him in 2013.

Mr. McAuliffe makes the attorney general's contributors look as homegrown as a Virginia peanut. Some 79 percent of his donations in that period were out-of-state. The first 27 donors listed according to their largesse are from elsewhere. Finally, at No. 28, we get a supporter truly interested in state affairs: Liberian International Ship & Corporate Registry, good for $60,000.

Yes, there are thousands of in-state donors writing checks in support of each of the candidates. Much of the big money, though, the kind that wants a little quid pro quo, is coming from elsewhere.

And it prompts this question: If both Mr. McAuliffe and Mr. Cuccinelli are getting most of their funding and backing from elsewhere, is the well-being of the commonwealth really going to be the top priority for either of the candidates? Or is our state gubernatorial election just a battleground for outside forces that really don't care much about us and will care even less after Nov. 5?

Outside money funding mudslinging attack ads makes many TV viewers adopt a MUD strategy of their own: Mute Until Done.