WASHINGTON (CNN) – For those who might doubt that bashing AIG equals good politics, look no further than the commonwealth of Virginia.
In the span of just one hour on Thursday, all three of Virginia's Democratic candidates for governor released harshly-worded online petitions demanding that the insurance giant return $146 million in bonuses to the federal government.
"It's time we fight back," read an e-mail to supporters from former House member Brian Moran, whose campaign has already adopted a populist pitch. "Tell AIG executives that this is wrong. Tell them to return the money."
A similar e-mail from Creigh Deeds hit inboxes minutes later. The state senator took the step of attacking AIG CEO Edward Liddy directly, urging supporters to sign a petition that tells Liddy: "I don't think you get it."
"Where I'm from, your boss gives you a bonus when you work hard and your business succeeds," said the Deeds e-mail.
The third Democratic hopeful, former Democratic National Committee chairman Terry McAuliffe, followed suit with an outraged missive of his own, entitled "Nonsense."
"I supported this administration's plan to inject capital into the marketplace, but like the president, I believe that there needs to be accountability," he said.
McAuliffe, the wealthiest candidate in the race, tried to one-up his opponents with an audacious pledge: to donate his entire salary as governor to build a school gymnasium. He also promised not to accept donations from companies receiving bailout money.
Of course, all of these online petitions have an added benefit for the candidates, who will use the petition e-mail addresses to enhance and refine their voter contact information, which will be crucial resources as the Democrats battle their way to the June 9 primary.
An aide to the Republican candidate in the race - former Virginia Attorney General Bob McDonnell - did not respond when asked if he would be releasing a petition of his own.
UPDATE: Tucker Martin, a spokesman for McDonnell, responds to the flurry of Democratic e-mails:
"Bob McDonnell is outraged by these bonuses, they are unacceptable and should offend every taxpayer," he said. "However, we will not attempt to use this outrage to try to capture email addresses. We're focused on how to bring new jobs to every region of Virginia."