Right-wing megadonor tries to buy Virginia legislative seat with $500,000


A conservative megadonor from Illinois is taking advantage of Virginia's no-limits campaign finance system to bankroll embattled Republican Virginia state legislator Nick Freitas.

Republican Nick Freitas, a member of the Virginia House of Delegates, failed to meet the deadlines to get on the ballot for his 2019 reelection campaign and is instead trying to win as a write-in candidate. Thanks to Virginia's Wild Wild West campaign finance system, a wealthy beer heir from Illinois just donated $500,000 to bankroll Freitas' effort.

Freitas, in his second term as a legislator, narrowly lost the GOP nomination for U.S. Senate in 2018. Forced instead to run for reelection to the legislature, he and his campaign failed to send in the required paperwork to make it on the ballot. Following an unsuccessful maneuver to circumvent the rules by withdrawing and then trying to be selected by the party, he announced he would mount a write-in campaign.

On Monday, Freitas announced that he had received a $500,000 contribution in support of that effort from conservative megadonor Richard Uihlein. Because Virginia has no limits on campaign contributions, the Illinois-based shipping CEO and tea party funder was able to make this donation directly to Freitas' campaign without having to donate through a super PAC.

This contribution is one of the largest in Virginia history to a House of Delegates candidate. As a point of comparison, the Virginia Public Access Project listed just three candidates — one of whom is Virginia's speaker of the house — who had raised that much, in total, as of the reporting period that ended June 30. The largest individual donor in the 2017 cycle gave $190,000.

As another point of comparison, the National Rifle Association made national news this month for a $200,000 contribution to Virginia's House of Delegates Majority Leader Todd Gilbert.

While not as well known as the Koch Brothers or billionaire casino mogul Sheldon Adelson, Uihlein has been a major funder of the right-wing movement, donating tens of millions of dollars to conservative candidates and causes. In the 2018 midterms, he and the outside groups he backed spent more than $10 million to try to elect Republican Kevin Nicholson to a U.S. Senate seat in Wisconsin. He also gave tens of thousands of dollars to help elect alleged pedophile Roy Moore and hundreds of thousands to the rabidly anti-LGBTQ Madison Project.

With Republicans currently holding a one-seat majority in the 100-member House of Delegates, Freitas' race could realistically be the deciding race for control in the November elections.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.