VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) - A newly-formed fundraising group, operating through a PAC named Move Hampton Roads, raised $300,000 for the Virginia Beach light rail referendum.
The PAC was created years ago by the Hampton Roads Partnership.
"Our purpose is to educate the public," leader of the PAC fundraising effort Audrey Layne said. "We should explore all options, and light rail being one of them, in terms of where we put our transportation dollars."
Layne says the money will be used for advertising and education. The goal is to convince residents to vote for a light rail study. At this time, 'yes' votes are purely for the study, not to bring the Tide to the beach.
Layne is also a Hampton Roads representative on the Commonwealth Transportation Board.
Attorney and former councilman William Harrison , Jr. confirmed to WAVY.com he is also part of the fundraising team.
But it's not clear who is giving thousands of dollars to the PAC.
Towne Bank is the only reported donor so far. The bank gave around $25,000. Layne tells WAVY.com at least two other entities are in talks to donate twice that amount.
The Towne Bank connection makes opponents like Robert Dean suspicious because it is also Mayor Will Sessoms' employer. Sessoms has publicly voiced his support for light rail.
Layne says Sessoms had nothing to do with Towne Bank's decision to donate.
"As far as Towne Bank, [Sessoms] was not involved in that solicitation," Layne said "I can confirm that. I think it was just happenstance that they got their money in first."
Dean, a longtime light rail opponent, says the city simply cannot afford the project. He believes voters will decide not to move forward with the study.
"What we have on our side is the truth," Dean said. "They have to spend the big money to promote their propaganda, which is full of lies. They still, to this date, will not tell you how many people are going to ride it, how many cars it's going to take off the highway, what the capital cost to build it is going to be, and what are the operating expenses, which will go on forever."
Dean says it is time to rally against the Move Hampton Roads and its message. He knows the potential power of campaign advertisements.
"The poor unsuspecting public will think its the truth, because if you tell it often enough, it becomes the truth in their minds," Dean said.
The Virginia Public Access Project website says the PAC will file a quarterly report July 16. The report will have a list of donations that have been finalized.
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