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Elaine Luria pays off campaign debt using corporate PAC money she said she’d reject

PACs of cigarette company, defense contractors donate to Virginia Democrat

Virginia Rep. Elaine Luria speaks at a town hall at New Hope Baptist Church in Virginia Beach on Oct. 3, 2019.
Virginia Rep. Elaine Luria speaks at a town hall at New Hope Baptist Church in Virginia Beach on Oct. 3, 2019. (Caroline Brehman/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Corporate political action committees gave Rep. Elaine Luria more than $30,000 in the final weeks of 2020, after the Virginia Democrat reversed her policy of refusing such donations.

Luria, who ended her 2020 reelection race owing more than she had in her campaign account, used contributions from the PACs of Google, Altria, Raytheon, General Dynamics, Rolls Royce North America and others to pay off debt, according to recent filings with the Federal Election Commission. 

Luria was elected in 2018, and then reelected last year, while vowing to reject donations from the PACs of companies. She changed her mind late last year, as first reported by CQ Roll Call. Back then, Luria’s campaign did not respond to requests for comment over 11 days. It did not respond to a request for comment on Monday, either.

For the entire 2020 campaign, Luria reported raising $6.6 million. As of Nov. 23, she had more than $107,000 in debts and less than $103,000 in her account.

The corporate PAC donations, totaling about $34,000 and all coming in December, also came from the funds connected to Boeing, BAE Systems, Ernst & Young and AFLAC, among others, the FEC documents show. 

Corporate PAC donations come from the personal money of executives and employees, not from the corporate treasury. Donations from such PACs are disclosed to the FEC and, unlike super PACs, must abide by strict spending limits of $5,000 per election. Most company PACs contribute to lawmakers on both sides of the aisle and are viewed as a tool to help companies build ties to elected officials who may have sway over legislation that affects their industries.  

Critics from the left and right 

Luria represents Virginia’s 2nd District, which includes much of the Hampton Roads area that is home to several military installations. She beat former Republican Rep. Scott Taylor 52 percent to 46 percent in a November rematch of their 2018 contest.  

The liberal-leaning group End Citizens United, which tracks the lawmakers and candidates who pledge to reject corporate PAC donations, has criticized Luria’s about-face on the matter, as have Republicans. 

Tiffany Muller, president and executive director of End Citizens United, said in a statement last year that Luria breaking her pledge “would demonstrate that her values have changed since she’s been in Washington or that she wasn’t sincere to voters in the first place. It will be a heavy burden on her to explain to voters why she is going back on her word.”

The group tweeted a campaign appearance from 2018 when Luria said that a “key tenet in my campaign is that I am not accepting any corporate PAC contributions.”

The National Republican Congressional Committee also piled on. “Virginians know Elaine Luria is a phony who will never keep her word to them and this is the latest proof,” said Camille Gallo, a spokeswoman for the House GOP campaign arm.

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