Jan 5, 2023 - Politics

Virginia lawmakers blow off campaign finance study again

Illustration of a melting ice cream cone, but the cone is a dollar bill.

Illustration: Maura Losch/Axios

They had one job.

What's happening: A state committee tasked with undertaking a comprehensive look at Virginia's notoriously lax campaign finance laws never convened for a single meeting last year, the Virginia Mercury's Graham Moomaw reports.

  • It's the second year in a row the committee failed to produce a report looking at options for reform — its sole reason for existing.

Why it matters: Virginia's campaign finance laws are unusually permissive, allowing unlimited contributions to politicians, who can spend the money they get on almost anything — be it for campaign or personal use.

What they're saying: "I had no idea I was on it," Sen. Lionell Spruill, a Democrat from Chesapeake who co-chairs the committee, told the Mercury.

  • He says unbeknownst to him, the job came with his chairmanship of the Senate's committee on elections.
  • People with ideas for reform are still welcome to "bring them to the table," Del. Margaret Ransone, a Republican from Westmoreland who co-chairs the committee with Spruill, told the Mercury.

Catch up fast: Lawmakers created the committee in an attempt to find consensus on what has been a sticky issue.

  • The General Assembly resolution noted "spiraling campaign costs," with candidates spending more than $1 million in 30 state legislative races in 2019.

The other side: Opponents of reforming Virginia's system argue that an existing requirement that politicians disclose any donations over $100 is enough to guard against ethical lapses.

What's next: When the committee missed its deadline last year, the legislature gave it another year.

  • It will be up to lawmakers to decide whether to try again or scrap the initiative when they convene next week.

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