VIRGINIA BEACH — Negative ads directed at City Councilman John Moss, which were orchestrated by two local political action committees, were funded in part by developer Bruce Thompson.
That’s according to campaign finance reports.
The Hampton Roads Chamber’s political action committee, known as “HR Biz PAC,” and the Virginia Beach Education Association, collected money mainly from local developers, which then paid a firm to create the ads, according to the reports.
Thompson donated $9,950 to both PACs — just shy of the $10,000 mark that would have required donors be publicly identified within 24 hours.
Other donors included Armada-Hoffler, Michael Sifen of Sifen Inc., and local real estate investor Douglas Ellis.
Moss has been open in his opposition to development projects involving many of the donors who funded the ads against him.
“I was not surprised that Bruce Thompson was one of the people behind this,” Moss said. “There were certainly some surprise players though.”
The HR Biz PAC ad claimed that Moss “voted against Town Center every step of the way,” and Moss also voted to eliminate increases in stormwater funding.
An ad created by the VBEA claimed Moss denied money to schools for full-day kindergarten, new buildings, and teacher salary increases.
Moss did vote against the City of Virginia Beach’s 2018-2019 operating budget, which included increases in stormwater funding.
“Their ad was technically correct,” Moss said. “I did vote against the operating budget. But so did Bobby Dyer and so did Jessica Abbott.”
Moss said he, Dyer, and Abbott voted against the budget for reasons unrelated to stormwater or full-day kindergarten
“We voted against that operating budget because we were raising real estate taxes unnecessarily, independent of what your opinion was on full-day kindergarten,” Moss said. “We weren’t voting on full-day kindergarten — that’s the school board’s proposition. We were voting on a tax increase.”
Contributors to the PACs were able to avoid almost immediate disclosure of their identities because their donations are under $10,000, Moss said, citing his understanding of campaign finance laws. Those contributing $9,999 or less to PACs do not need to report that information to the state election board until January.
Moss also stressed his belief the people involved didn’t break the law.
“But the content of the ads does say something about their lack of civic morality,” Moss said.
Moss said he was disappointed that prominent people in the greater business community, who did not support HR Biz PAC, did not publicly rebuke the ads. Moss believes the ads, which failed to lead to his defeat — Moss beat challenger Dee Oliver by 341 votes — have taken some credibility away from the Hampton Roads Chamber
“I think the ads have tarnished its reputation to some degree,” Moss said. “I can’t tell you to what degree, but I do believe it’s been tarnished.”
Moss said those who donated to the PACs have no need to worry about how the ads affected their images “because to the general public, those people already have tarnished reputations.”
Thompson did not immediately respond to Southside Daily’s request for comment.