When Glenn Youngkin was running for the Republican nomination in Virginia’s gubernatorial contest earlier this year, he refused to say whether Joe Biden had legitimately won the 2020 election. Then after he secured the nomination, he acknowledged on Fox that Biden indeed “was legitimately elected our president.” A few weeks ago, Youngkin even said that he would have voted to certify the election had he been a member of Congress. And when right-wing supporters of his campaign recently held a rally where they pledged allegiance to a flag flown at a pro-Trump demonstration in Washington, DC, on January 6 before the Capitol Hill riot, Youngkin called this act “weird and wrong” and denounced the violence of January 6.
But throughout the tight race that pits him against former Democratic Gov. Terry McAuliffe, Youngkin has been striving to have it both ways: come across as a reasonable Republican in a state Biden won by 10 points, while still embracing the endorsement he received from Donald Trump and playing footsie with Trump’s baseless claim the election was stolen by repeatedly calling for “election integrity.” Yet in one important aspect, Youngkin has signaled his full support for the Trump conspiracy crowd: he has funneled his own personal cash into the campaigns of Big Lie advocates and 1/6 apologists.
In August, Youngkin, the former CEO of the Carlyle Group, announced he would pump $1 million into Virginia Wins, a political action committee that supports down-ballot Republican candidates in the state. (Youngkin’s personal fortune is estimated at about $440 million, and he has loaned his campaign at least $16.5 million.) According to Virginia state campaign finance records, Youngkin kept his word: his million-dollar donation to the PAC accounts for almost all of the $1,043,500 the group had raised as of September 30. And a good chunk of this money has gone to Trump Republicans who echo Trump’s claim of fraud and who downplay the violent Trump-incited raid on Congress.
Here are a few recipients of Virginia Wins’ largesse:
Delegate Ronnie Campbell. Days after the 2020 election, Campbell began pushing the false claim that the results were fraudulent. “The Democrats are trying to steal this election,” he proclaimed on Facebook, while spreading disinformation about the results. In January, he and two other Republican delegates sent Vice President Mike Pence a letter requesting he nullify the state’s election certification, claiming that Virginia’s electors had been “unconstitutionally and fraudulently elected.” (Campbell and the other two were each stripped of one committee assignment for this stunt by the Democratic House speaker, who denounced this attempt to disenfranchise Virginia voters.) Virginia Wins has given Campbell $3,000.
Mike Cherry, House of Delegates candidate. In a Facebook post, Cherry noted his support for Campbell and the other two delegates who had sent the letter to Pence requesting he not accept Virginia’s electoral vote. Virginia Wins has donated at least $31,000 to Cherry.
Scott Pio, House of Delegates candidate. Pio is a full-fledged 2020 election denier. In January, he tweeted that Trump “didn’t lose the election” and cited “fraud.” Months later he issued this baseless call: “Throw everyone in jail who helped with the fraud.” Virginia Wins has supported him with a $3,000 contribution.
Delegate John McGuire III. McGuire, a prominent surrogate for Youngkin, says he attended the January 6 rally but insists he did not enter the Capitol. He has suggested that the 2020 election was not on the level because Trump was ahead in the early returns: “Republicans were leading everywhere, and then all of sudden, [Democrats] were way ahead.” He has also shared on his Facebook page disinformation about the election results, including the false charge that there were improper dumps of 300,000 votes in Virginia on Election Night. Virginia Wins has donated $3,000 to him.
Marshall Keene, chair of the Culpeper County Republican Committee and a deputy sheriff. Keene and his GOP committee chartered three busses to transport 120 people to the Stop the Steal rally in Washington, DC, on January 6. After the riot, he asserted, “Ninety-nine percent of the individuals expressed their views in an orderly fashion,..[T]hat 1 percent of bad actors who crossed the line does not represent what we believe as Republicans.” But Keene backed the view that the election had been stolen, noting that his fellow Culpepper Republicans and “like-minded conservatives throughout the country” had on January 6 expressed their “disdain for the apparent voter fraud that has infiltrated our election process.” Keene decided not to run for reelection to the county school board in order to take a position with a conservative political action committee. Prior to that decision, Virginia Wins contributed $2,000 to his campaign.
Tim Anderson, House of Delegate candidate. Anderson, a conservative lawyer, represented a Virginia couple, Joshua and Jessica Bustle, who were arrested for participating in the January 6 riot. In court, he claimed they merely had gotten caught up in the moment and broke minor laws. He said that arrestees like the Bustles “should not be labeled as ‘extremist’ or ‘domestic terrorists.’ They are normal, good and patriotic Americans that did not wake up on January 6, 2021, expecting to commit any crimes. However, the law is the law, and if you violate it, you must be held accountable.” Yet during the riot, Jessica Bustle, a fierce anti-vaxxer, had posted this message on social media: “Pence is a traitor. We stormed the capital. An unarmed peaceful woman down the hall from us was shot in neck by cops. It’s insane here.” In another post, she claimed that “ANTIFA puppets infiltrated the rally” and that “Trump supporters are loving, patriot and peaceful people.” In June, the Bustles pleaded guilty to misdemeanor charges and agreed to accept a federal criminal conviction and pay $500 in restitution. In August a federal judged sentenced Jessica to 60 days of home detention and Joshua to 30 days, declaring, “Patriots do not attack the operations of the government.” Virginia Wins handed Anderson $11,750.
The Youngkin-backed PAC has funded other local Republicans who have called for “election integrity”—a buzz phrase routinely used by 2020-deniers—as well as other Trumpy Republicans, including one who tweeted an anti-Semitic trope. Throughout this campaign, Youngkin has walked a tight wire, looking to rev up the GOP’s pro-Trump base without alienating more moderate voters. In return, McAuliffe has tried to depict Youngkin as a handmaid of Trump and the race a referendum on Trump. For his part, Youngkin has purposefully tried to confuse and obfuscate. (In July, he was caught on camera saying he wanted to hide his anti-abortion views until after the election.) Though it might be tough for voters to sort out Youngkin’s rhetorical twists and turns, it’s not hard to follow the money. In that regard, the story is clear: Youngkin is financing Republicans who are promoting the former president’s election lies and supporting Trump’s attack on American democracy. Which in today’s political climate makes Youngkin just another Republican.