Kirk departs: Contribs to politicians exceeded gifts to UVA
Billionaire Randal J. Kirk, member of the "Forbes 400" and one of the key opponents of University of Virginia President Teresa Sullivan, has left the Board of Visitors with a terse resignation letter submitted to Governor Bob McDonnell.
"I am honored to have served," Kirk tells McDonnell in his October 18 letter. "However, as I now reside in Florida, it is not practical for me to continue in this role."
The resignation was first reported by the Washington Post and subsequently by the Daily Progress, the latter of which revealed that Kirk was in the habit of missing meetings, attending just 9 of the 23 for which he was eligible and demonstrating the lowest attendance rate of any of the panel’s 17 voting members.
Kirk does, however, have a penchant for making money– and then giving chunks of it to governors. While a summertime Freedom of Information request found that Kirk had donated $60,000 to UVA, his donations to governors far surpass that.
According to data from the Virginia Public Access project, Kirk and his companies gave $940,000 to the man who appointed him, Tim Kaine. The data show that he gave $300,000 to McDonnell, who could have reappointed him to a second four-year-term next summer.
A native of southwest Virginia who made a fortune in a company called New River Pharmaceuticals Inc. and who previously served on the board of his undergraduate alma mater, Radford University, Kirk is such a savvy biotech investor that he now has a net worth, according to Forbes, of $2.4 billion, making him the 190th richest person in America.
In a September email to a reporter, Kirk insisted that he was still on the UVA board but simply missed some meetings due to "personal" reasons that he communicated to the Rector.
His communications with Rector Helen Dragas were some of the highlights of the post-reinstatement press cycle. In one email, he denigrated the talents of some unnamed fellow board members as he encouraged the Rector to move forward on the presidential ouster. In another, he credited his own college-age work at selling cars as a precursor to his later success. And he noted that one of his nannies has two UVA degrees. He did not reply to a recent Hook email seeking clarification on such matters.
While the UVA Board has been criticized for conducting too much of its business behind closed doors, and while Kirk's opinions may be hard to find in the official minutes, Dragas reportedly told the Post that Kirk's "candor and intellect were invaluable.”
Kirk Fedexed his resignation letter to the governor just a day before the Board's most recent meeting, and he suggested that his out-of-state move might have made him ineligible.
However, according to interim UVA spokesperson McGregor McCance, the legal maximum on out-of-state Board members is five. Kirk's resignation leaves just three out-of-state members: A. McDonald Caputo of Connecticut, Ed Miller of Maryland, and John Nau of Texas.
The governor's office has made no official statement on a replacement board member. The UVA board next meets in Charlottesville on November 14.
After this story went to the printing press at 5pm on Monday the 29th of October, the Washington Post released another report on Kirk, this one letting Kirk make the disputed claim that Sullivan was an interim president and revealing that he took a dim view of her leadership skills while holding a sunny view of Dragas' skills. “The press so rapidly fell victim to the idea that there has to be a hero and a victim in every story,” Kirk is quoted. “There is no victim. And there’s only one hero, and that’s Helen Dragas.”Attached Documents: