Dominion and the pipeline issue have played a role throughout the gubernatorial campaign this year and they have resurfaced this week with reports that Ralph Northam owns between $10,000 and $50,000 worth of stock in Dominion Energy. Combine this with all the money that Dominion has contributed to Ralph and other elected officials and it’s hard to believe all this money doesn’t buy the organization some influence.
Opposition to taking money from Dominion is one of the reasons I supported Tom Perriello in the Democratic primary this year and I’m glad to see Justin Fairfax has also refused to take the corporation’s money. While I don’t think Ralph has evil intentions, I think Tom and Justin were right to make sure there wasn’t even the perception of being bought by Dominion.
Now there are some people who believe we should simply be looking past this issue. The conservative Richmond Times Dispatch, for instance, even came out with an editorial in defense of Northam. The paper points out that the Lt. Governor would put all his assets in a blind trust if he’s elected governor and that there’s simply no evidence he would “let his financial interests override his scruples about doing what’s best for the commonwealth.”
While the Richmond Times Dispatch is right that there’s no evidence corporate money has influenced Ralph throughout his career, it’s still a shame that we even have to have this conversation. And, for the record, the same conversations could be had about several of Ed Gillespie’s business relationships.
The fact that we can have this discussion about both major party candidates brings up two major points worth paying attention to. First of all, it shows that it’s primarily wealthy people who are running for office. You have to be relatively well off to have between $10,000 and $50,000 in one particular company.
Secondly, it shows that money plays an overly important role in our political process.
So while we should pay attention to the relationship between Ralph Northam and Dominion and make sure he’s still good on environmental issues, this situation is more an example of larger issues. Unfortunately we won’t see a discussion of the larger issue because it’s easier to explain this potential scandal is much sexier in the days leading up to a gubernatorial election.