Republican Running for Virginia Governor Took Cash From Lobbyists Tied to “Woke” Coca-Cola

Though millionaire Pete Snyder is mostly self-funded, he accepted donations from current and former Coke lobbyists.

Candidate for Lt. Governor of Virginia, Pete Snyder, center, gestures as he talks to delegates during the opening of the Virginia Republican convention in Richmond, Va., on May 17, 2013.
Pete Snyder, center, gestures as he talks to delegates during the opening of the Virginia Republican Convention in Richmond, Va., on May 17, 2013. Photo: Steve Helber/AP

Virginia Republican Pete Snyder has been positioning himself in the state’s gubernatorial primary as a fearless enemy of “cancel culture” and “woke companies,” heaping particular scorn on entities such as Coca-Cola that dared criticize Georgia’s recent election law. The controversial measure — which, among other things, restricts ballot access in urban and suburban counties, shortens the period to request an absentee ballot, and criminalizes offering water to voters standing in line — has come in for criticism from an increasing number of CEOs, a rare corporate intervention into election law reforms. Despite his harsh words, Snyder’s recent campaign donations suggest that he’s willing to look past his own objections to so-called corporate activism.

After Republican Gov. Brian Kemp signed the law on March 25, the MLB announced that it would be relocating the league’s All-Star Game in protest. CEOs from Delta Air Lines and Coca-Cola also blasted the new voting law as too restrictive.

Snyder condemned the MLB immediately, calling its leadership “embarrassing” and pledging to “Never cave to the #Woke Mob.” (He’s not alone: In a Wall Street Journal op-ed published last week, Sen. Ted Cruz criticized Coca-Cola CEO and Chair James Quincey and other “watch-me-woke-it-up CEOs” who are “parroting the radical left’s talking points.”)

In an interview with Breitbart that Snyder gave a few weeks later, the candidate took specific aim at Coca-Cola and Delta. “We can no longer be supporting companies that take this type of stance. … I have zero sympathy and zero patience for these kowtowing corporations and brands.”

Yet on the same day that Quincey issued his statement, which condemned Georgia’s new voting law and pledged to support federal legislation to tackle voter suppression, Snyder received thousands of dollars in campaign contributions from lobbyists with long ties Coca-Cola.

On the same day that Quincey issued his statement, Snyder received thousands of dollars in campaign contributions from lobbyists with long ties Coca-Cola.

The donations, from veteran Coca-Cola lobbyists Brian Diffell and Jack Steven Hart, the latter of whom the Sunlight Foundation once referred to as part of “an elite stratum of lobbyists,” amounted to $3,500 collectively, according to records from the Virginia Public Access Project. Diffell represents Coca-Cola at his lobbying firm, the Washington Tax & Public Policy Group. Senate lobbying disclosures show that he has been paid $30,000 by the company since January alone. Hart lobbied for Coca-Cola between 1999 and 2018, per disclosures.

Diffell’s contributions came on March 24, and Hart’s on March 27. They were likely connected to a fundraiser organized on April 1 by a group of prominent K Street lobbyists. The headliner for the event, at Vola’s Dockside Grill in Alexandria, Virginia, was Republican Sen. Roy Blunt of Missouri. Diffell served as Blunt’s former legislative director. Lobbyists typically pay for fundraisers ahead of time so that their contribution appears in the first quarter fundraising totals.

Snyder did not return a request for comment on the donations. Snyder, who insists that he’s running an “outsider campaign,” also founded New Media Strategies in 1999, an online marketing firm that he ran through 2011. Coca-Cola was one of the firm’s biggest clients.

As Virginia Republicans gear up for their gubernatorial nominating convention this Saturday, seven candidates are vying to advance to the general election. No clear front-runner exists, but Snyder and former private equity CEO Glenn Youngkin are considered competitive contenders, largely due to the fact that they both self-funded their campaigns to the tune of millions of dollars. (Then-President Donald Trump personally thanked Youngkin in January 2020 when Trump signed a new trade deal with China.)

According to campaign finance reports, Snyder took in $6.8 million between January 1 and March 31, with $5.2 million coming from Snyder and his wife. Youngkin raised $7.6 million during that period, contributing $5.5 million himself.

On the Democratic side, former Gov. Terry McAuliffe has emerged with a strong lead in the primary, according to a poll released in April by Christopher Newport University. Roughly 47 percent of registered voters planning to vote in the June 8 primary backed McAuliffe, the poll found, with about a quarter of voters undecided. Gov. Ralph Northam, who maintains strong approval ratings, endorsed McAuliffe in early April.

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