The money behind neo-Confederate Corey Stewart's U.S. Senate campaign
Depending on how they're counted, about a dozen people have run for elected office across the U.S. this year with campaigns that explicitly promote racism, anti-Semitism, and/or white nationalism.
In North Carolina, the Republican Party has withdrawn its support for state House nominee Russell Walker, who has said God is a white supremacist and Jews are descended from Satan. In Illinois, declared Nazi Arthur Jones won the GOP nomination to represent a Chicago-area congressional district. And in this week's Republican primary for retiring U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan's seat in Wisconsin, Paul Nehlen — who has made numerous derogatory remarks about Jews, appeared on white-supremacist David Duke's radio show, and called for immigrants approaching the southern U.S. border to be shot — lost but still managed to capture over 10 percent of the vote to finish third out of six candidates.
But the nation's highest-level 2018 contest to emphasize themes of white power is Virginia's U.S. Senate race. Republican Corey Stewart — a private-practice attorney specializing in international trade, chair of the Prince William County Board of Supervisors, and co-chair of Trump's 2016 state campaign — won his party's nomination in June and will face incumbent Democratic Sen. Tim Kaine in November. Stewart, who like Kaine is a Minnesota native, captured almost 45 percent of the vote in a three-person primary and has pledged to run the "most vicious, ruthless campaign."
Stewart is a far-right conservative whose Senate platform calls for cutting taxes, cracking down on illegal immigration, providing public money to private schools, protecting gun rights, repealing the Affordable Care Act, banning all abortions from the moment of conception, and extracting more fossil fuels domestically. He has also exploited a prominent campaign theme from his failed 2017 gubernatorial primary bid: the defense of the Confederacy and its symbols.
Last year during his run for governor, for example, Stewart attended the "Old South Ball" in Danville, Virginia, where he gave a speech calling it the state of "Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson" and said the Confederate flag "is our heritage, it's what makes us Virginia, and if you take that away, we lose our identity." At another campaign event that year sponsored by a Southern secessionist who took part in the deadly 2017 Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, he again defended the Confederacy. "Virginians, we think for ourselves. And if the established order is wrong, we rebel," he said. "We did that in the Revolution, we did it in the Civil War, and we're doing it today. We're doing it today because they're trying to rob us of everything that we hold dear: our history, our heritage, our culture." He even took part in a protest with Unite the Right rally organizer and white nationalist Jason Kessler calling for removal of a Charlottesville city official who wanted the city's statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee taken down.
Stewart has continued to champion the Confederacy during his Senate bid. In a TV interview last month, for example, he bucked the consensus among reputable historians — and provided revisionist red meat for Confederate apologists and other white nationalists — when he declared, "I don't believe that the Civil War was ultimately fought over the issue of slavery." Meanwhile, he hired as a top campaign consultant and spokesperson a man with a history of making racially incendiary statements, including attacks on noted civil rights leaders. Stewart also endorsed Nehlen, the anti-Semite who lost the Wisconsin congressional primary.
Stewart's approach doesn't appear to be going over well with Virginians: A poll released last week found that he trails Kaine by 23 percentage points. But his campaign has still managed to collect over $1 million in direct contributions, according to the Federal Election Commission (FEC). That amount is dwarfed by the over $18 million raised by Kaine's campaign to date.
Who's funding Stewart's Senate run? These are the companies whose principals together have contributed at least $10,000 so far to elect Stewart to the U.S. Senate, according to FEC data and an analysis of that data by the Center for Responsive Politics' OpenSecrets.org database:
- IDI Group Companies ($21,600). The largest developer of condominium complexes in the Washington, D.C., metro area, IDI Group also develops commercial products including hotels and shopping centers. President and CEO Giuseppe Cecchi — the original developer of the politically infamous Watergate complex — contributed $8,100 to Stewart's campaign while his wife, Mercedes Cecchi, donated another $8,100; their son John, also a principal with the firm, gave $5,400. The contributions came as the company was completing a $95 million development in Prince William County, where Stewart chairs the supervisors.
- Potomac Nationals ($20,000). The minor league baseball team is currently based in Prince William County's Woodbridge community. Team owner Arthur Silber of Maryland has personally contributed $10,800 to Stewart's U.S. Senate campaign, according to OpenSecrets.org; his wife, Lynn Silber, donated another $9,200. Why might a self-described "Jewish kid from Brooklyn" support an anti-Semite-praising neo-Confederate? The Silbers' contributions to Stewart's campaign were made last year when Prince William County supervisors were considering whether to extend the team's lease agreement. In the end, they voted to do so by 5-3; Stewart cast his vote with the majority.
- Nicewonder Group ($15,000). This is a privately-owned accounting firm in Bristol, Virginia. Four members of the owning Nicewonder family — J.J., Don, Kevin, and Kenneth — made a total of six contributions of $2,500 each to Stewart's campaign through June of this year.
- Herb Campbell Investments ($10,800). All of that money came from Herb Campbell himself, a resident of the Prince William County town of Dumfries. Though there's little public information about his limited liability company, which was formed in 2004, Campbell appears to have been involved in real-estate development. Real estate has been the top industry contributor to Stewart's campaign.
- Holtzman Oil ($10,000). The entire amount came from William Holtzman, the owner and president of the company, which distributes petroleum fuels in Virginia, West Virginia, and Maryland and is one of the largest employers in Virginia's Shenandoah County. Holtzman is the father of Jill Holtzman Vogel, a Republican state senator in Virginia who last year ran for lieutenant governor and lost in campaign in which she engaged in what many viewed as a racially-tinged attack on her African-American Democratic opponent; meanwhile, her law firm is implicated in a scheme to create the impression of widespread voter fraud by Democrats in North Carolina's 2016 gubernatorial race when there was none.
Other companies whose principals have contributed at least $5,000 to Stewart's campaign, according to OpenSecrets.org, are Ekstrom Properties, a Florida-based real-estate company ($8,100); the real-estate brokerage H&R Retail ($8,100); waste-disposal firm Republic Services ($7,700); immigration law firm Just Law International ($5,425); JK Enterprise Landscape Supply, a mulch delivery service ($5,400); L&M Body Shop of Springfield ($5,400); Rappaport Companies, a commercial real estate firm ($5,400); Rer Madison Square, a mixed-use real estate development in Prince William County ($5,400); Brookfield Management Washington, a residential real estate firm based in Fairfax, Virginia ($5,000); Paramount Land, a real estate title service agency ($5,000); and SunCap, a commercial real-estate development firm headquartered in Charlotte, North Carolina ($5,000).
Sue is the editorial director of Facing South and the Institute for Southern Studies.