Revealed: Obama Campaign Bundler Helping Fund Libertarian in Tight Va. Gubernatorial Race
major Democratic Party benefactor and Obama campaign bundler helped pay for professional petition circulators responsible for getting Virginia Libertarian gubernatorial candidate Robert C. Sarvis on the ballot - a move that could split conservative votes in a tight race.
Campaign finance records show the Libertarian Booster PAC has made the largest independent contribution to Sarvis' campaign, helping to pay for professional petition circulators who collected signatures necessary to get Sarvis' name on Tuesday's statewide ballot.
Austin, Texas, software billionaire Joe Liemandt is the Libertarian Booster PAC's major benefactor. He's also a top bundler for President Barack Obama. This revelation comes as Virginia voters head to the polls Tuesday in an election where some observers say the third-party gubernatorial candidate could be a spoiler for Republican Ken Cuccinelli.
A Sarvis campaign bumper sticker, "Paid for by the Libertarian Booster PAC." (Image: Robert Sarvis/Facebook)
A spokesman for Sarvis provided no direct answers late Monday when TheBlaze asked about Liemandt's Democrat ties and whether Sarvis had been recruited to split conservative votes as a way to aid Democrat Terry McAuliffe.
"We're coordinating Sarvis interviews with Richmond, Norfolk and Charlottesville TV news teams to reach Virginia voters - our first priority - on Election Eve," John Vaught LaBeaume, Sarvis communications director and strategist, responded in an email to TheBlaze.
According to Virginia election filings posted by the Virginia Public Access Project, Liemandt contributed $150,000 of the Texas-based Libertarian Booster PAC's $229,000 revenue. The Libertarian Booster PAC reported providing $11,454 to pay for signature collection, yard signs and campaign materials for Sarvis and another $4,690 for four Libertarian candidates running for the Virginia state legislature.
$10,000 of the Libertarian Booster PAC's $11,454 in-kind donations to Sarvis went to secure a spot on the ballot. (Image: Screengrab/VPAP)
Liemandt's Democratic Ties
In March 2012, ABC News reported Liemandt was among three dozen of the Obama campaign's largest bundlers invited to a state dinner honoring British Prime Minister David Cameron. ABC News reported the invited bundlers, who also included Vogue editor Anna Wintour and Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein, were responsible for at least $10.7 million of the $250 million the campaign had collected to that point.
Liemandt and his wife Andra have also been contributors to the Libertarian National Committee, but their largess has been mostly focused on the Democratic Party.
In March '12, ABC News says Liemandt was among 3 dozen Obama bundlers invited to a state dinner.
Donations linked to Liemandt's company, Trilogy, also has split its political giving between libertarian third-party efforts and liberal Democrats. During the 2012 election cycle, Trilogy poured $100,000 into another libertarian group - Libertarian Action Super PAC - while simultaneously making generous contributions to the Democratic National Committee ($92,400), the Democratic Party of Ohio ($12,453) and Barack Obama ($10,000), as well as more than $25,000 for Democrat Party organizations in Florida, Wisconsin, Iowa, Nevada and New Hampshire.
The Liemandts have some other friends in common with the Obamas. The couple and some friends flew to New York to have dinner with Berkshire Hathaway billionaire Warren Buffet in October 2011.
On Sunday, the Danville Register & Bee, a Virginia newspaper owned by Berkshire Hathaway, announced that, for the first time in its history, it would back a Libertarian for public office. It endorsed Sarvis, a political neophyte, saying he "offers a real alternative this year, a break from the two-party paradigm that has not served us well."
According to campaign finance reports, the Libertarian Booster PAC focused the vast majority of its spending on getting Sarvis on the ballot, paying for people to circulate the petitions to collect nominating petitions for Sarvis.
News reports indicate the Sarvis campaign turned in 18,000 signatures, well above the 10,000 necessary to get his name on the statewide ballot.
But that didn't come without a court fight. Virginia election law says people circulating nominating petitions for a third-party candidate must be legal state residents. Court records show Darryl Bonner, a Pennsylvania resident who has been hired to circulate petitions in other states' elections, joined with the Libertarian Party of Virginia to argue that rule violated the First Amendment right to petition.
The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals struck down the Virginia residency requirement last spring in an action where the American Civil Liberties Union of Virginia represented the Libertarian Party and Bonner. The State of Virginia indicated in October it would appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Sarvis' Positions Questioned
Some political observers have questioned Sarvis' libertarian chops, pointing to some decidedly un-libertarian views on issues ranging from the economy and tax cuts to climate change. Conservative radio host Glenn Beck touched on Sarvis' policy positions during his broadcast Monday morning, urging Virginia voters to educate themselves before heading the polls Tuesday.
"Terry McAuliffe looks like he may win in Virginia, if conservatives don't come out in droves. If you don't do everything you need to do," Beck said. McAuliffe's Republican opponent, Cuccinelli, gained favorability with Virginia conservatives as attorney general after leading the state's legal charge against Obamacare, but a victory in Tuesday's election is anything but certain.
"And so the first litigator against it you would think would be a shoo-in but, no, not necessarily," Beck added. "And here's why: Because you got this libertarian who has taken nine points off, but he's not really a libertarian ... Do not be fooled... Libertarians, if you indeed are voting for this guy, you need to know who he is, at least what he's saying because he doesn't sound like any libertarian I have ever met."
WATCH, via TheBlaze TV:
In addition, it was Cuccinelli and not Sarvis who won the endorsement of former congressman and noted libertarian Ron Paul and his son, Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul - two conservatives who share Beck's concerns.
So why should a Texan with such extensive ties to big-government Democrats pour money into a Virginia libertarian gubernatorial campaign that has virtually no chance to win?
The Center for Public Integrity offers insight on the power and strategy of PACs: "Super PACs are allowed to collect unlimited contributions from individuals, unions and corporations to produce political advertisements that are not coordinated with any candidate," it says. "They were made possible in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court's Citizens United decision."
CPI illustrated the potential impact of strategic third-party candidates in the 2012 presidential race. Republican-turned-Libertarian Gary Johnson could potentially peel away some Republican votes in a tight Obama-Romney race. And Virgil Goode, nominated by the conservative Constitution Party in Virginia could have been a key to hurting Romney enough in that swing state to give its electoral votes to Obama.
With a divide between the Republican Establishment in Washington and its conservative grassroots base widening, could strategically leveraging a third-party be Democrats' ace in the hole?