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McAuliffe attacked by secretive group promoting Princess Blanding

McAauliffe behind podium gestures during rally
Former Gov. Terry McAuliffe speaks at a rally earlier this month. (Crixell Matthews/VPM News)

A mysterious political group is targeting Democrat Terry McAuliffe and promoting third-party candidate Princess Blanding as they seek to become Virginia’s next governor.

Polls show a dead heat between McAuliffe, who served as governor from 2014-2018, and Republican Glenn Youngkin. Blanding, an activist running heavily on criminal justice overhauls, is polling at about one percent. 

Our First Principles Fund sent out mailers attacking McAuliffe’s record on criminal justice reform and promoting Blanding. The mailers say “Terry McAuliffe is on the side of abusive police officers,” referring to his vague stance on changes to qualified immunity. The mailers were first reported by Virginia Scope.

Analysts said the move may be designed to peel away votes from McAuliffe.

“I’ve had both Dems and Republicans predict this was coming to try and bolster Blanding at the expense of McAuliffe,” Tweeted Jessica Taylor, senate and governors editor for the nonpartisan Cook Political Report.

The fund has almost no online presence, but spent heavily in the GOP nominating fight attacking Del. Kirk Cox (R-Colonial Heights), devoting its website to attacking his long legislative career. Medium Buying, a site focused on political ads, reported the group spent nearly $150,000 on TV and radio ads attacking Cox as of the end of March. 

The fund did not respond to a message left on its listed phone number. David Clemens, who was listed on previous federal filings as the group’s treasurer, did not respond to an email seeking comment. Blanding also did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The group registered as a corporation in Delaware in February but has not filed any of its spending with the Virginia Department of Election or Federal Election Commission. A political action committee with a similar name connected to Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis when he served in the House of Representatives was closed out in 2018.

Youngkin has faced similar attacks from secretive political groups. The Virginia Accountability PAC ran Facebook ads attacking Youngkin for not being endorsed by the National Rifle Association. Axios reported last month the group had ties to Democratic firms. Dominion Energy contributed at least $200,000 to the group, as first reported by Axios and the Richmond Times-Dispatch

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