Some of Democratic Gov. Terry McAuliffe’s latest appointments to posts at Virginia’s prestigious public universities have also donated generously to his political campaign — up to $130,000, in one case.

Of McAuliffe’s 65 appointees to university and college governing boards, about 17 percent of them had contributed a substantial sum to his campaign, and two more — former Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling and Virginia Beach Mayor Will Sessoms — broke ranks with Republicans to support McAuliffe’s campaign.

That’s nothing new, really. Many of Republican Gov. Bob McDonnell’s university appointees were also generous donors. Appointing donors to political positions — positions that aren’t subject to General Assembly approval — is business as usual.

Peter Quist, a research director with the Montana-based National Institute on Money in State Politics, said appointments should be scrutinized on a case-by-case basis. After all, donors can be highly qualified for their posts.

“The practice of appointing major contributors to politically appointed positions, whether or not that’s good or bad really depends on a case-by-case scenario of how qualified that person is for the position,” Quist told

In a state where the governor wields more political power than perhaps anywhere else in the nation, however, it isn’t easy to stay on top of scrutinizing the thousands of political appointments each term.

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