The owner of one of Northern Virginia's largest towing companies spent several thousand dollars to try to stave off a veto by Gov. Terry McAuliffe on legislation loosening towing regulations, newly filed lobbying and campaign finance records show.
John O'Neill, the owner of Advanced Towing, hired two of McAuliffe's longtime friends as lobbyists for $5,000 each and made a $1,500 campaign contribution to a Democratic state senator who initially opposed the bill but who McAuliffe said was later a key advocate in convincing him to sign it.
Those involved, including McAuliffe, said O'Neill's spending was pointless, as it was a full-court press by Democratic senators and the business community that convinced the governor to back the bill.
Advanced Towing is the dominant towing company in Arlington County and has frequently been the subject of unflattering reports of its business practices. News4 reported that the company was the subject of 155 complaints to police from 2012 to 2014.
The company was in the news in April 2015 after ESPN reporter Britt McHenry was caught on video berating an Advanced Towing employee after McHenry's car was towed.
Last year the Arlington County Board of Supervisors approved new rules designed to crack down on what supporters said were "predatory'' practices by towing companies. The most significant change was that businesses would have to approve each individual tow during business hours rather than giving towing companies blanket authorization, a change known as the "second signature'' provision.
Arlington is a dense urban area where parking spots are costly and often hard to come by.