Kaine liberal appeal muted by energy ties, abortion concerns


WASHINGTON (AP) — Hillary Clinton and running mate Tim Kaine are closely aligned on many issues, but Kaine’s cautious, left-leaning political profile in a closely contested state is blurred by his ties to energy industry interests and his personal qualms over abortion.

The Virginia senator is regarded as a careful, earnest politician who has navigated the rough-and-tumble of his state’s hard-fought electoral landscape with few ethical missteps. Minor controversies have flared over paid travel and gifts he received during his stints as governor and senator.

A Harvard-trained lawyer who prospered as Richmond’s mayor before moving on to higher office, Kaine endorsed Clinton early in her presidential run, in contrast to 2008 when he backed Barack Obama over Clinton early on.

In sync on a number of issues, Kaine and Clinton back a no-fly zone over Syria despite the Obama administration’s reluctance.

Kaine, who was governor when a gunman with a history of mental illness fatally shot 32 people at Virginia Tech before killing himself, shares Clinton’s support for gun control. He supports restricting the sale of magazines carrying more than 10 bullets; Clinton wants to ban military-style guns she calls “weapons of war.”

Both share similar concerns on education, health care and a tax overhaul.

Clinton came out against offshore oil drilling while campaigning in 2015 and expressed approval this year when President Barack Obama blocked all exploration off the Eastern Seaboard in the Atlantic Ocean. Kaine consistently has sponsored legislation that would have opened Virginia’s coast to drilling.

As governor, Kaine said in 2008: “We’re not going to drill our way out of the long-term energy crisis facing this nation.” But in 2013, he and Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., sponsored legislation that would have set a five-year leasing plan allowing oil drilling off Virginia’s coast and providing at least 35 percent of revenues to the state. In 2015, Kaine again joined Warner and a group of East Coast senators pushing an offshore drilling plan.

Oil and gas interests rank with law firms and investment and technology companies among Kaine’s strong campaign financiers.

Oil and gas companies donated nearly $60,000 to Kaine for his 2011 campaign, including $35,000 from Dominion Resources Inc., the Richmond-based utility that supplies electricity and natural gas to Virginia and other neighboring and eastern states.

Dominion donated more than $250,000 to Kaine’s statewide political campaigns and inaugurations between 2001 and 2008, according to the Virginia Public Access Project, a nonpartisan open government group.

Some state environmentalists said Kaine, as governor, helped undermine clean-coal and other anti-pollution efforts in Virginia. Vivian Elizabeth Thomson, a University of Virginia professor who served on the state’s Air Pollution Control Board under Kaine, said his administration undercut their efforts to impose tough standards on a coal-fired Dominion power plant in Wise, Virginia.

David Botkins, a Dominion spokesman, said Kaine “has supported the development of affordable, cleaner energy sources in Virginia and throughout the United States.”

Leaders of two national environmental groups, the League of Conservation Voters and the Sierra Club, voiced approval of Clinton’s choice of Kaine, who backs Obama on climate change and opposed construction of the Keystone XL pipeline.

Tiernan Sittenfeld, an official with the league’s political action fund, said Kaine had an “impressive” record of support for the group’s issues. League members were also among Kaine’s top funders in his 2012 Senate election.

Clinton and Kaine are avowed champions of women’s’ reproductive rights. But as a self-described “traditional Catholic,” Kaine has long said he personally opposes abortion, a stance that drew criticism from women’s groups. His personal qualms could cause complications later in the campaign when he debates Republican rival Mike Pence, an anti-abortion crusader.

During his 2005 race for governor, Kaine said he would promote adoption and abstinence education — programs long stressed by anti-abortion forces. Once in office, he infuriated Planned Parenthood and other reproductive rights groups by allowing the sale of “Choose Life” license plates. Portions of proceeds went to pregnancy centers and adoption programs.

Since 2012, Kaine has had a 100 percent voting record from NARAL Pro-Choice America, a political group opposing restrictions on abortion. In an appearance on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” Kaine acknowledged the public contortion of his stance even as he was being considered by the Clinton campaign as a possible running mate.

“I’ve got a personal feeling about abortion, but the right role for government is to let women make their own decisions,” Kaine said.

Despite their occasional policy discordancy, Kaine and Clinton have hired some of the same staffers in recent years. Kaine’s Senate chief of staff, Mike Henry, was deputy campaign manager for Clinton’s 2008 presidential run. Kaine’s former Senate press secretary, Sarah Peck, is already working as Clinton’s Virginia campaign spokeswoman.

Kaine’s most recent Senate financial disclosure shows that his net worth is between $647,000 and $1.9 million. Between $130,000 and $300,000 of his investments, listed as owned by one of his children, are in energy corporations, among them Duke Energy Corp., Chevron Corp. and Exxon Mobil Corp.

In June, Kaine acknowledged he failed to disclose that his stay at a Spanish resort was paid by a nonprofit tied to a lobbying firm. Kaine had helped organize and attended a conference in September 2014 hosted by the U.S.-Spain Council, a group that works to cement political and business ties between the two nations.

Kaine, who is the nonprofit’s honorary chairman, later told The Associated Press that Senate ethics staffers advised his own staff that the council should cover his costs.

As governor, Kaine accepted more than $160,000 in gifts and paid travel, according to state reports. The gifts were legal under the state’s permissive ethics rules, but his willingness to accept them could become an issue during the presidential campaign.

Among those gifts was $2,000 in travel paid by Dominion for meetings of two national governors’ conferences and to watch George Mason University’s basketball team play in the NCAA Final Four in 2006.

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Associated Press writers Matthew Daly in Philadelphia and Alan Suderman in Richmond, Virginia, contributed to this story.

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