Want to know whose wallets are opening for Eugene P. Trani's new Richmond's Future think tank? Don't bother asking.
The former president of Virginia Commonwealth University has put questions about the group's $150,000 annual budget off-limits. Trani's group, first reported in Style Weekly on June 8, is intended to research and provide in-depth solutions to the region's pressing problems.
Trani has assembled about 70 directors, advisers and researchers for his group, drawn heavily from Richmond's business elite and the university's faculty. Included are such heavyweights as Richard Cullen, chairman of law firm McGuireWoods; Dominion's Thomas Farrell; MeadWestvaco Chief Executive John Luke; and Tom Silvestri, publisher of the Richmond Times-Dispatch and rising pooh-bah-in-chief of the Greater Richmond Chamber of Commerce board of directors.
The mix of the group has drawn criticism from Richmond Mayor Dwight C. Jones, who laments that Trani's band of leaders fails to include grass-roots groups.
As for the money behind the group, Trani declines to offer details.
“I am raising funding and I'm not prepared to comment on it,” Trani says. “I am doing well.”
The lack of transparency about money raises eyebrows. One possible source is the Community Foundation of Richmond. A spokesman says he's heard of Trani's group but didn't know if the foundation officially had been asked for money.