Virginia’s House GOP Members Defend Campaign Finance Reform Defeat

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RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — Republican lawmakers in the Virginia House have sought to explain why they rejected a ban on using campaign donations for things like home mortgages, vacations and country club memberships, even though the chamber only unanimously approved such a ban last year.

Too soon, not enough and not necessary were some of the reasons they gave after the Associated Press asked why they killed the legislation in a party vote without debating the substance.

The legislation looked like passed the house Last year. He met an unexpected ending with the 5-3 subcommittee vote last week that introduced bills by a Republican and a Democrat after lawyers testified.

Nancy Morgan, the coordinator of a grassroots group advocating for campaign finance reform, was stunned, given the House’s support for such a ban before the Senate doped that last year.

“It’s the lowest fruit,” she said.

Virginia is a national exception for its loose campaign finance laws. All federal candidates and candidates in most other states are prohibited from spending campaign money on personal business.

Currently, Virginia officials only face such a ban when they close a campaign account, and disclosure depends on an honor system, without regular audits like in some other jurisdictions.

Republicans who voted to kill the measure had varying concerns.

Of the. Otto Wachsmann, R-Sussex, said he was not entirely sure how the bill would change existing law and noted that a campaign finance reform committee set up after the Senate doped last year’s bill had not finished its work.

This bipartisan panel, however, submitted a draft report which recommended a ban on personal use.

Of the. Israel O’Quinn, R-Washington, who chairs the subcommittee and backed a ban last year, reflected on the uncertainty of legislating in a chamber where the 100 seats were on the 2021 ballot and the makeup of the various signs had changed since the last election of the year.

“Sometimes the things that pass don’t pass, and sometimes the things that never pass all of a sudden do,” he said, adding that he doesn’t know anyone who uses his campaign money. for his personal expenses.

Of the. Wren Williams, R-Patrick, said he was against a provision allowing campaign money to be used for certain childcare expenses, saying it should only apply during the events of the countryside.

Williams, a first-year member, offered to table the bills. He also said he saw no abuse and believed members were held accountable by their electronic disclosure requirements and the Virginia Public Access Project, a nonpartisan money-in-politics tracker.

“Any dollar we spend, we have to report it,” he said.

An associated press review of the state’s campaign finance system in 2016 found that some lawmakers frequently used campaign accounts to pay for expensive meals and hotels, as well as personal expenses such as gas and cellphone bills.

Of the. Accomack’s Rob Bloxom, who also backed the ban last year, said he preferred comprehensive campaign finance legislation.

“By doing it piecemeal, as far as I’m concerned, we’re starting to set some traps for ourselves,” he said.

Of the. Kim Taylor, R-Dinwiddie, declined to comment.

Democratic MP Marcus Simon, who has been pressing the issue for years and sponsored one of the measures killed last week, offered his thoughts on the outcome in a floor speech.

“I think we realized that this year, if we pass it, it could become law,” he said.

This year’s legislation would have prohibited anyone from using contributions to a candidate or campaign committee to cover an expense that exists whether or not the person holds office. The legislation listed examples such as mortgage or rent payments, clothing purchases, country club membership, vacations, household food, and school fees.

It allowed contributions to be used for child care expenses incurred as a direct result of the person seeking, occupying or maintaining a charge.

A Different Personal Use Prohibition Invoice is still alive in the Senate, where he walked out of a committee on Tuesday after lawmakers from both parties raised concerns, including whether hypothetical pancake breakfasts with voters could create a problem.

“If it’s campaign related, it wouldn’t be considered a violation,” said the bill’s sponsor, Democratic Sen. John Bell.

Other senators have expressed concern that the measure as written could be used to file frivolous ethics complaints that could be amplified by the media.

The same Senate panel also on Tuesday rejected a measure by GOP Sen. David Suetterlein that would have tightened some reporting requirements for pre-election donations and banned fundraising during special sessions.

“It’s very frustrating,” said Suetterlein, who said he wants to block lawmakers from using a special session as leverage to raise funds. He cited the 2020 case of a Democratic delegate who participated in a virtual floor session while hosting a fundraiser.

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