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Glenn Youngkin’s Wealth Fuels Record Fundraising Haul

Glenn Youngkin gestures on a stage at sunset
Glenn Youngkin speaks at a GOP event outside of Richmond in April. (Ben Paviour/VPM News)

Investor Glenn Youngkin has out-fundraised any previous GOP gubernatorial candidate at this point in the campaign cycle, his campaign said Tuesday. Campaign finance reports published Wednesday show how the first-time candidate did it: dipping into his vast personal wealth. 

Over three-quarters of the $15.9 million Youngkin raised since late January came from his own pocket. There’s a lot more where that came from. According to  SCC filings last July, Youngkin owned at least $227 million in stock in the company where he once served as CEO, the Carlyle Group. Those investments are now worth north of $350 million. 

Youngkin’s wealth sets up a possible battle with another well-connected Northern Virginia millionaire: Former Democratic Gov. Terry McAuliffe.  

"Youngkin is a blank slate,” said Mark Rozell, dean of George Mason University’s school of public policy. “He needs substantial resources to introduce himself to the voters and establish his own reputation in Virginia before the Democrats are able to do so.” 

In a statement, McAuliffe boasted of his own $13 million haul since he launched his campaign. He claimed Youngkin was out to “buy the governor's office” using $75 million of his personal wealth. A spokesperson for Youngkin denied the accuracy of that figure, which was sourced from a  Tweet by University of Virginia political scientist Larry Sabato

Youngkin leveraged his wealth to boost his name recognition from relative obscurity ahead of the May 8 GOP convention. He spent roughly $8.9 million ahead of the convention including heavy investments on TV ads. That money was directed toward a small audience;  10,318 Republican voters cast their ballots for Youngkin in the first round of the ranked-choice run-off. 

In a statement, Youngkin noted he’d received contributions from all 131 cities and counties in Virginia. 

“Unlike Terry McAuliffe, I’m a political outsider and real business leader,” he said. 

For proponents of campaign finance reform, self-financing candidates represent an obstacle. A  1976 Supreme Court decision effectively barred limitations on self-spending. Nancy Morgan, Virginia organizer for American Promise, said she’d talked to lawmakers who said those restrictions make it less likely they would support other caps on contributions because they could disadvantage candidates facing wealthy opponents who can self-finance.  

“It's a race to the bottom,” Morgan said. 

Lawmakers  passed a resolution earlier this year that will create a commission to study campaign finance reform. It’s not clear when that body will begin meeting.  

Ben Paviour covers courts and criminal justice for VPM News with a focus on accountability.
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