October 23, 2013 at 7:55 am EDT | by Michael K. Lavers
Anti-gay groups donate thousands to Va. GOP candidates
Gay News, Washington Blade, Gay Virginia, Ken Cuccinelli

Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

The latest campaign finance reports that Virginia’s Republican candidates for statewide office filed last week indicate they continue to receive significant financial support from social conservatives and anti-LGBT groups.

The campaign finance report that Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli filed with the Virginia Board of Elections on Oct. 15 notes Leadership Institute President Morton Blackwell gave the gubernatorial hopeful $19,665 on Sept. 12.

Morton, who opposed the gay group GOProud’s participation in the 2011 Conservative Political Action Conference and received an award during last year’s Values Voter Summit, has given the Cuccinelli campaign a total of $25,878. Morton also gave $1,000 to state Sen. Mark Obenshain(R-Harrisonburg)’s attorney general bid on Sept. 30, according to campaign finance records.

Campaign finance reports indicate the Family Research Council Action PAC on Sept. 30 made a $5,000 contribution to E.W. Jackson’s campaign; he’s running for lieutenant governor. The group also donated $20,000 to Cuccinelli’s campaign on Aug. 31.

Obenshain’s campaign on Sept. 10 received a $10,000 contribution from Pat Robertson, according to a campaign finance report it filed with the Virginia Board of Elections on Oct. 15. The anti-gay televangelist also gave $2,500 to Jackson’s campaign on Aug. 31.

Foster Friess, who backed former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum’s 2012 presidential bid, on Sept. 19 gave Cuccinelli’s campaign $20,000. Campaign finance reports further indicate the billionaire businessman has thus far contributed $50,000 to the attorney general’s gubernatorial campaign.

John Rocovich, Jr., a member of the Virginia Tech Board of Visitors who led efforts to remove sexual orientation from the university’s anti-discrimination policy in 2003 when he was rector, has given $38,986 in cash and in-kind contributions to Cuccinelli’s campaign. He has also contributed $7,500 to Jackson’s bid and another $18,750 in cash and in-kind contributions to Obenshain’s campaign.

The Family Foundation, a Richmond-based group that supports the commonwealth’s constitutional amendment that bans same-sex marriage and opposes LGBT-specific measures in the General Assembly, has also contributed to the three men’s campaigns.

Roger Pogge of the Family Foundation has given $400 to Cuccinelli, according to campaign finance records. Pogge has given $250 to Jackson and another $200 to Obenshain.

The re-election campaign for state Del. Brenda Pogge (R-James City), whose husband is Roger Pogge, has given $1,150 to Cuccinelli’s gubernatorial bid. Campaign finance reports indicate the Republican lawmaker has also given $500 to Obenshain.

Jackson in his latest campaign finance report noted a $1,500 donation to the Family Foundation on Sept. 24. This contribution came less than two weeks before the organization held its annual dinner in Richmond at which Cuccinelli and U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) spoke.

LGBT advocates criticize Va. Republican ticket

Cuccinelli’s, Jackson’s and Obenshain’s Democratic opponents and LGBT rights advocates note these contributions come as no surprise considering the three men’s opposition to marriage for same-sex couples and other gay-specific measures in the commonwealth.

The U.S. Supreme Court earlier this month denied Cuccinelli’s request to appeal a lower court ruling that found Virginia’s sodomy law unconstitutional.

Cuccinelli, who has previously described same-sex sexual acts as “intrinsically wrong”, in July reaffirmed his opposition to homosexuality during a gubernatorial debate against former Democratic National Committee Chair Terry McAuliffe.

The current attorney general in 2010 recommended Virginia colleges and universities remove LGBT-specific provisions from their non-discrimination policies. Cuccinelli was also among those who spoke at an anti-gay marriage gathering at a Manassas church last October to which the Washington Blade was denied access — a California pastor who attended the event described gay men as “predators” during a separate event at a Baltimore church the week before that Family Research Council President Tony Perkins, Bishop Harry Jackson, Jr., of Hope Christian Church in Beltsville, Md., and others attended.

LGBT rights advocates have repeatedly blasted Jackson over his comparison of gay men to pedophiles and describing them as “very sick people.”

Obenshain sponsored a bill that Gov. Bob McDonnell signed into law in March that bans public universities from denying recognition and funding to student organizations that discriminate in their membership based on sexual orientation and other categories that federal law does not protect. He also opposed a measure a Virginia House of Delegates subcommittee in February tabled that would have banned discrimination against LGBT state employees.

Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee and Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar, stars of the TLC reality show “19 Kids and Counting” whose eldest son now works as a lobbyist for the Family Research Council in D.C., joined Cuccinelli on the campaign trail last week.

Cuccinelli reiterated his opposition to marriage rights for same-sex couples in response to the Blade’s question after he and McAuliffe squared off in a debate sponsored by the Fairfax County Chamber of Commerce and NBC 4 in McLean last month. He declined to say whether he feels his position on the issue and his previous anti-LGBT statements have received too much attention on the campaign trail.

“That’s a very sensitive issue, and I respect that,” Cuccinelli told the Blade as he discussed his position on same-sex marriage. “There are people who feel very strongly about it, and I respect that. For those folks they want to hear about it, it is one of a range of issues.”

Poll: Nearly half find Cuccinelli too conservative

A poll that Rasmussen Reports conducted on Oct. 20 shows McAuliffe leads Cuccinelli by a 50-33 percent margin. Eight percent of respondents said they support Libertarian gubernatorial candidate Robert Sarvis.

Forty-six percent of likely Virginia voters who responded to a Quinnipiac University poll conducted between Oct. 2-8 said they feel Cuccinelli is too conservative.

“Ken Cuccinelli has spent his career demonizing and insulting gay Virginians,” McAuliffe campaign spokesperson Josh Schwerin told the Blade. “It’s no surprise that some of his biggest donors would have equally offensive records.”

Equality Virginia Executive Director James Parrish noted Cuccinelli, Jackson and Obenshain all have a record of “being openly hostile” to LGBT Virginians through their own statements or their legislative actions.

“It’s not surprising that Pat Robertson, Family Research Council and other opponents of fairness and equality are funding the most right-wing, anti-gay, anti-choice ticket to ever run for statewide office in Virginia,” gay state Sen. Adam Ebbin (D-Alexandria) added. “They’re not just conservatives; they are zealots on a mission and it’s a common mission that some of their most prominent donors share.”

Democratic statewide candidates tap gay money

McAuliffe and Jackson and Obenshain’s Democratic opponents – state Sens. Ralph Northam (D-Norfolk) and Mark Herring (D-Loudoun) respectively – have all publicly backed marriage rights for same-sex couples. The former DNC chair has repeatedly said as governor he would issue an executive order that would ban discrimination against LGBT state employees.

Campaign finance records indicate that McAuliffe, Northam and Herring continue to receive significant financial backing from LGBT contributors.

McAuliffe’s latest campaign finance report he filed with the Virginia Board of Elections on Oct. 15 indicates Tim Gill donated $10,000 to his gubernatorial bid on Sept. 25. The gay philanthropist on the same day made $2,500 contributions to Northam and Herring’s campaigns.

DNC Treasurer Andrew Tobias has donated $11,000 to McAuliffe’s campaign. Gay Democratic strategist Steve Elmendorf on March 20 made a $5,000 contribution to the former DNC chair’s gubernatorial bid – and campaign finance reports indicate he made an in-kind donation of $4,060 on May 16 for event expenses.

California Lieutenant Gov. Gavin Newsom on Sept. 21 gave $1,000 to McAuliffe’s campaign, while lesbian Democratic strategist Hilary Rosen on Sept. 27 donated $1,000.

Campaign finance reports indicate the Human Rights Campaign made a $23,308 in-kind donation to the Democratic Party of Virginia for staff time and telephone calls on Sept. 11, and another $31,013 in-kind donation for the same items and e-mail advocacy on Oct. 26. The organization’s PAC on Sept. 11 made $117 in-kind contributions for online advocacy to McAuliffe, Northam and Herring’s campaigns.

Michael K. Lavers has been a staff writer for the Washington Blade since May 2012. The passage of Maryland's same-sex marriage law, the HIV/AIDS epidemic, the burgeoning LGBT rights movement in Latin America and the consecration of gay New Hampshire Bishop V. Gene Robinson are among the many stories he has covered since his career began in 2002. Follow Michael

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