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Corruption & Corporate Greed Are The Soft White Underbelly Of Virginia State Politics

Meet Heidi Drauschak-- The Antidote

Heidi Drauschak has spent her career taking on corrupt special interests and corporate lobbyists in Richmond, Virginia. She's the latest candidate to the legislature endorsed by Blue America. She's been fighting relentlessly to get big money out of politics and to implement comprehensive campaign finance reform. She's running to represent the newly-drawn District 35 in the Virginia Senate, a Fairfax County district centered on Springfield and Annandale. It's a blue district where Youngkin only managed to win 34% of the vote and where Hillary took 66.2% against Trump's 27.3% in 2016. Her opponent is Dave Marsden, beagle killer and a hack establishment Democrat.

I asked Heidi to introduce herself by explaining why she's running. She told me that "Growing up in the suburbs of Philadelphia, I was raised by small business owners and an immigrant mother. Early on, I learned that if you want to

make change, you have to take things into your own hands. While attending American University in Washington, DC for my undergrad, I worked in the Obama White House, where I experienced firsthand the power of government to change people’s lives for the better." Please consider chipping in to Heidi's campaign on this ActBlue page which includes all of the Blue America endorsed candidates running this year in Virginia.

It's Time To Change My Tactics

-by Heidi Drauschak

After my time in the White House, I moved to Virginia to attend the University of Richmond, where I received my law degree and MBA. I then started my career in state politics in Richmond, with the goal of making progress on environmental and educational issues. On one hand, I fell in love. I saw great power in watching constituents meet directly with their elected officials to advocate for the causes they believed in. On the other, I quickly discovered that there was an underbelly to Virginia state politics. In fact, Richmond is a hotbed for corruption and corporate greed. With a short legislative session, unlimited campaign contributions (from individuals and corporations), unmitigated corporate lobbying, and outdated campaign finance laws, it became quickly apparent that progress on any issue would be extremely difficult unless we first addressed the underlying systemic corruption.

As a result of the corporate interests in Richmond, working families in Virginia have fallen behind. How can we bring down drug prices when Big Pharma is pressuring legislators to oppose common sense measures? How can we expand workers’ rights, abolish Virginia’s “right to work” provisions, and establish a Paid Family & Medical Leave program when corporations like Amazon and Walmart are directing legislators to vote down such legislation? How can we protect our planet and address climate change when our electric utility monopoly has funded the campaigns of a majority of our legislators from both parties? Finally, how can we hold the payday loan industry accountable for its predatory practices when they are bribing legislators on both sides of the aisle?

I asked myself all of these questions and decided to found CrowdLobby-- an organization dedicated to giving everyday people access to lobbyists through crowdfunded campaigns. If Amazon can spend $10,000 lobbying legislators to vote against data privacy laws, shouldn’t 2,500 people be able to pay $4 each to hire that same lobbyist to advocate for Paid Family and Medical Leave? I still run CrowdLobby to this day as a passion project. In further pursuit of this mission, I helped found and run a non-partisan good governance organization focused on campaign finance reform, government transparency, and increased citizen engagement in Virginia. And, I spend my free time participating as an executive committee member at BigMoneyOutVA, which advocates for campaign finance reform in Virginia.

Due to the hard work of countless volunteers, we have elevated the issue of campaign finance reform within the public discourse of Virginia politics and I believe the tide is turning. I was the lead organizer of this year’s Democracy Day in Richmond, where we brought together a coalition of 10 organizations and over 75 volunteers to lobby legislators for pro-democratic reforms, such as ranked-choice voting, campaign contribution limitations, a personal use ban for campaign expenditures, and a constitutional amendment overturning the Citizens United ruling.

While we have made great progress in mobilizing citizens, our elected officials have unfortunately been less receptive. During the 2022 General Assembly, we watched as 21 of our 24 campaign finance reform bills died in committee, with the only bills passing being minor procedural changes. This was the catalyzing moment when I realized I needed to change my tactics. For years, legislators had repeatedly told me that campaign finance reform and anti-corruption measures were not priorities. Meanwhile, these same legislators opened their doors to lobbyists from big tobacco, big tech, and big pharma. And so, I decided that it was time to seek change from within the legislature itself, by seeking election to Virginia’s 35th Senate District.

Due to redistricting, Virginia’s 35th District is now an open seat. The district includes the localities of Springfield, Fairfax, Annandale, Burke, Falls Church, and Alexandria. I’m proud to call Springfield home, along with our two dogs and cat. We’re also expecting our first child-to-be in April. My husband and I are so excited to raise our son in this community, which also reinforces my desire and commitment to serving our district. Although it can be physically challenging to knock on doors while 7 months pregnant, I am motivated to speak directly with the voters of our district.

I believe the residents of SD 35 deserve representatives that represent and listen to them, not corporate interests, or lobbyists. I believe I can be that representative. I’ve seen firsthand how corporate and special interests have made it difficult for residents of this district to afford their electric bills, struggle to pay for prescription drugs, lack access to affordable child care (or the paid time off to care for loved ones), or find affordable housing. I’ll also make it a priority to find solutions to our climate crisis NOW, instead of 2050. I’ll make it my job to find solutions to these problems and work with others in the legislature to enact real change.

I believe in a transparent and fair democracy that seeks to represent and elevate ALL its citizens, regardless of race, gender, economic status, or zip code. To that end, I have pledged to reject all corporate contributions and the influence of corporate lobbyists. Instead, I’m running a grassroots, people-powered campaign to bring together and uplift the people of SD 35.

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