Del. Sam Rasoul Declines PAC, Lobbyist Money
By Carmen Forman from the Roanoke TimesDel. Sam Rasoul said Wednesday he no longer will accept special interest PAC or lobbyist campaign contributions or any donations of more than $5,000 from individuals or businesses.He claims to be the first member of the current Virginia General Assembly who will not accept special interest PAC donations.The Roanoke Democrat has previously accepted more than $60,000 in campaign donations from health care, beer, wine, telecommunications, education associations and other special interest groups. Some of the larger donations come from the Virginia AFL-CIO ($4,500), the Virginia Association of Realtors ($2,500), Blue Ridge Beverage Co. ($2,000), Appalachian Power Co. ($2,000) and the Virginia Education Association ($2,000), according to the Virginia Public Access Project.Rasoul relies on special interest money far less than many of his General Assembly colleagues. According to VPAP, only about 10 percent of his campaign cash since 2015 has come from companies and trade associations that have a lobbyist.At the end of 2016, Rasoul had about $110,000 in the bank, some of which came from PACs and special interest groups. Rasoul will keep that money. The solution isn’t perfect, but is a step forward when it comes to campaign finance reform, Rasoul said.No Democratic or Republican challengers have emerged to oppose Rasoul in this year’s election, which means he won’t have to spend much on campaigning for re-election in the fall. He represents a Democratic stronghold in urban Roanoke.“Because I have money in the bank and because I don’t have a challenger as of yet, I understand that it’s even a little bit easy for me to make this pledge right now,” Rasoul said. “It’s something that’s weighing on me for a long time, and it’s time for me to make a definitive decision.”Virginia does not limit campaign contributions, and candidates are able to use those donations however they see fit, including for non-campaign materials.In the past 20 years, Virginia legislators have received 162,532 donations adding up to $111.3 million from companies, unions and trade associations with lobbyists, according to VPAP.In total, Rasoul has raised $478,898 in campaign donations since 2013.When Rasoul made his announcement at a news conference in front of the Martin Luther King Jr. statue in Roanoke he was flanked by local Democrats from Our Revolution, Strong Women, Strong America and the Roanoke City Democratic Committee. A few dozen people showed up to support his announcement.Long before Rasoul entered politics, former state Sen. Elliot Schewel, D-Lynchburg, who served from 1976 to 1995 shunned PAC money. The former lawmaker had family money from helping manage Schewel’s, a Virginia furniture chain.