A $100,000 donation from a businessman who’s been accused of price-gouging and using political connections to secure state contracts could raise eyebrows for Democratic Virginia gubernatorial candidate Terry McAuliffe.
One of the McAuliffe campaign’s top donors is Hillsboro 56 LLC, a group linked to Randy Perkins, founder and chairman of AshBritt Environmental, a Florida-based company.
AshBritt specializes in post-disaster cleanup and has worked with states after Hurricane Katrina in Missisippi, Hurricane Sandy in New Jersey and Hurricane Irma in Florida. AshBritt now manages a number of coronavirus vaccination sites in Virginia.
“From a pure business standpoint, it’s my job to know every governor in this country – not just know them; they’ve got to know me,” Perkins said in 2016 according to the Palm Beach Post. He has donated to McAuliffe before, according to the Palm Beach Post.
Accusations that AshBritt Environmental, whose lobbyists have included former Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour, over-charged the government have followed the company from state to state. Former Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi served AshBritt with a subpoena in 2017 over “reports that AshBritt attempted to revise contracts by withholding performance until and unless governments paid increased rates,” she wrote in a complaint according to Courthouse News Service.
AshBritt has made billions of dollars by getting states to sign “disaster recovery” deals and leveraging connections to politicians, including former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, according to NJ.com.
Competitors complained that AshBritt gets contracts even when other companies offer to do the same work at a lower price. For example, AshBritt’s state contract in New Jersey allowed municipalities to hire AshBritt without a competitive bidding process and waived certain fees and environmental regulations, according to NJ.com. Critics pointed to then-Gov. Chris Christie’s close relationship with Barbour.
“The contract, which we basically co-opted from Connecticut, was to have a capable and large company on the ground to help deal with the destruction in the immediate aftermath of Hurricane Sandy,” a Christie spokesman said at the time. “We wanted towns to have the option, not the obligation.”
AshBritt defended itself from such accusations in 2016.
“AshBritt has been, is and will continue to be the leader in our industry. We have done more disaster cleanup work than any other company in our industry over the last five years and we are responsible for the largest cleanup ever done by a single company after Hurricane Katrina devastated the state of Mississippi,” Jared Moskowitz, who was AshBritt’s general counsel at the time, told Politico.
“AshBritt, as well as any company, will use every available resource to stay competitive. We are proud of the work we do,” said Moskowitz, who is now the director of Florida’s Division of Emergency Management.
Perkins unsuccessfully ran for Congress in Florida as a Democrat in 2016, but he took heat for his history of donating to both political parties. While Perkins has donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to Democrats, he also donated to several Republican politicians, calling them a “business expense in Florida and other states.”
Some of the Republicans he donated to a decade or more ago include: Reps. Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., and Steve Scalise, R-La., Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, and the presidential campaigns of John McCain and Rick Perry,
During the 2020 election cycle, Perkins donated $100,000 to the Biden Action Fund, $97,200 to the Democratic National Committee, and $20,000 to the Pelosi-aligned House Majority PAC super PAC. He also donated $100,000 to Trump Victory in 2019.
McAuliffe’s Republican rivals were quick to pounce.
“Terry McAuliffe is back and so is the stink of corruption and self-dealing to special interests,” gubernatorial candidate Pete Snyder said in a statement to Fox News. “Nearly everything under eight years of McAuliffe-Northam rule has been politicized, even criminal justice reform and the COVID response. Under the current regime, Virginia was last in the nation for the vaccine rollout and it endangered the lives of Virginians.”
“We need new leadership that prioritizes problem-solving over corrupt politics and perks for political donors,” he said.
“Terry McAuliffe has shady donors who want state government contracts? That’s not surprising. He literally wrote in his book that giving out state contracts was one of the best parts of being governor. The difference this year is that Virginians are fed up with a culture of corruption with Democrats, and that’s part of the reason why they’ll be electing Kirk Cox as our next governor in November,” Cox campaign spokeswoman Elizabeth Gregory told Fox News.
Fox News’ inquiries to AshBritt and McAuliffe’s campaign were not returned at the time of publication.