By Calling The Shenandoah Valley 'Podunk,' Hung Cao Shows His True Colors As A Coward And A Condescending Elitist

Government and Politics

May 22, 2024

Richmond, VA – A new damaging report from the Staunton News Leader highlights how Hung Cao not only failed to answer questions about his scam PAC but also how he insulted the Shenandoah Valley by calling the newspaper that first reported the story “podunk.”  

The report highlighted that this isn’t the first time Cao has neglected the Shenandoah Valley. Earlier this month, Cao skipped a candidate forum in Augusta County, turning his nose up at a chance for voters to hear about his campaign and hold him accountable. 

And this certainly isn’t the first time Cao has been caught lying about his scam PAC. The report notes that Cao “repeated an earlier stated falsehood” on the Alec Lace Show, that he was out of the super PAC by May of 2023, when he in fact left the PAC in June 2023. Cao also lied and said he didn’t promise to donate the money from the PAC to other candidates despite “multiple recordings available online show Cao saying otherwise.” And Cao once again lied about federal super PACs being unable to donate to in-state candidates, which the super PAC could have Cao just chose not to keep his promise and donate to local candidates.  

Instead of answering for his string of inconsistencies, Hung Cao lashed out at the Shenandoah Valley, creating a whole new slew of problems for his campaign.

“Hung Cao has no one to blame for his scam PAC but himself, and insulting Shenandoah Valley won’t change that fact,” said DPVA Chairwoman Susan Swecker. “"I've been reading the Staunton News Leader since I was a 6-years-old young Democrat with my daddy in Highland County. If he thinks we're all ‘podunk,’ I challenge Hung Cao to come down to the Shenandoah Valley and say that to our face. Coward, pick a time and place."

Read more below:  

Staunton News Leader: 'Podunk': GOP hopeful for U.S. Senate denigrates small town paper rather than answering questions about Super PAC
Elizabeth Beyer  
May 22, 2024

    • Republican candidate for U.S. Senate Hung Cao again failed to address critical questions about spending by the Unleash America super PAC when asked by a conservative talk show host on Tuesday, May 21.

    • But he did continue his attacks on the story that prompted critiques from members of his own party.

    • Instead of explaining why the money raised by the super PAC did not go to Virginia Republican candidates for state office in 2023, Cao again called the report that prompted the allegations a “hit job” and referred to the Staunton News Leader, which reported the story, as a “podunk local newspaper” on an episode of the Alec Lace show Tuesday.

    • That report was published in USA Today as well as The News Leader. The reporter is part of the USA Today Network's Elections team, covering Virginia elections for the network's two commonwealth papers, The News Leader in Staunton and The Progress-Index in Petersburg. The story was published in nine other Gannett newspapers across the country.

    • Skipped out on a local candidate forum, misremembered dates and promises

    • Cao did not attend a Senate candidate forum last Friday morning, which took place in Augusta County just outside of Staunton, home of the Staunton News Leader. Staunton is in the Shenandoah Valley, a reliably red part of the commonwealth for Republican legislators in both state and federal offices.

    • Cao repeated an earlier stated falsehood on the Alec Lace Show, that he was out of the super PAC by May of 2023. In fact, a memo from his Senate campaign legal counsel said that Cao resigned from the PAC on June 15, 2023.

    • Cao told Lace that he didn’t promise to donate money raised by Unleash America to Republican candidates in Virginia’s 2023 elections. Multiple recordings available online show Cao saying otherwise on conservative talk shows and in newspapers in early 2023.

    • Cao also told Lace that federal super PACs, such as Unleash America, cannot donate to state-level candidates. In fact, Virginia has no limits on campaign contributions.  

    • A different interview, and a different story

    • When Cao launched Unleash America in February 2023, the super PAC had one stated goal: To get Republicans elected during Virginia’s 2023 statehouse contests to support Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s agenda, as reported by the Staunton News Leader and USA Today.

    • The PAC raised $103,489 in individual contributions from around the country, which Cao called a “minimal amount” in an earlier interview with John Fredericks, another conservative talkshow host. Cao’s principal U.S. Senate campaign committee, Hung Cao for Virginia, contributed $45,000 to the super PAC, for a total of $148,489 raised by Unleash America between January and December 2023.  

    • After Republicans lost the House of Delegates in Virginia and failed to flip the Senate, analysis of Unleash America’s expenditures showed no support of any kind, in-kind or otherwise, for Virginia’s Republican candidates.

    • In that earlier interview with Fredericks, Cao said “a lot of the money was reimbursed.” However, according to Federal Election Commission filings, money raised by Unleash America was paid to people who worked on Cao’s failed 2022 Congressional campaign as well as his current bid for the U.S. Senate.

    • "Start up costs a lot, you have to have lawyers, you have to have compliance people, you have to have start up fees, so a lot of the money was moved over from the old campaign to keep it alive," Cao told Fredericks, apparently referring to the cost to launch his bid for the U.S. Senate.

    • Where did the money go?

    • About $12,500 of the money donated to Unleash America was spent on legal fees, according to FEC filings.

    • Another $37,514 from the super PAC was paid to John Ryan O’Rourke. O’Rourke is Cao’s 2024 Senate campaign manager and was his campaign manager during his 2022 bid for Congress. In the same year that O’Rourke received payment from Unleash America, he also received $96,168 from Hung Cao for Virginia, Cao’s Senate campaign committee.

    • Another $22,867 of Unleash America’s money went to K2 & Co., a communications firm Cao had employed during his 2022 Congressional campaign and also during his 2024 Senate campaign. K2 & Co. was paid $15,000 by Cao’s Senate campaign on October 3, 2023.

    • The super PAC also paid $29,403 for list rentals, $18,576 for digital fundraising, $6,398 in meeting and lodging expenses as well as bank fees and $3,904 in earmark fees to WinRed, a fundraising arm of the Republican Party.

  • Federal Election Commission filings show that Unleash America did not contribute any of the $148,489 it raised to Virginia’s Republican candidates in 2023.