Virginia lawmakers, who are unclear in the country for their ability to spend money donated to their companies on virtually anything, have once again halted efforts to set basic restrictions on how those funds can be used.
RICHMAND, Va use these tools.
A Republican-controlled subcommittee of the House of Representatives on Wednesday rejected a bill that would ban spending on what its sponsor called “low-hanging fruit, things that are most outrageous.”
Democratic Sen. John Bell said he had reduced his ambitions after running into concerns from other lawmakers that spending money in front of the campaign on things like pizza at election events or election T-shirts could lead to frivolous, politically motivated complaints.
His measure, which elected Senate 37-3, did not apply to food or clothing, but prohibited the use of donations for items such as mortgages, membership in a country club, recreation, tickets to sporting events, or fees for entertainment clubs.
“Honestly, when a candidate or an elected official does one of these most outrageous things and it gets on paper, it makes us all bad. And I think it hurts the trust that people have, because people need to know that we’re here to serve … not to enrich ourselves, ”Bell said.
After about 15 minutes of discussion, the board voted 5-3 to reject the bill.
The same subcommittee voted against similar bills banning personal use by sponsors of the House of Representatives earlier in this year’s legislative session. In contrast, last year the ban unanimously cleared the Democrat-controlled House of Representatives, only to die in the Democrat-controlled Senate. The November election has since changed part of the House of Representatives, transferring control of the Republican Party.
After the defeat of last year’s bill, a bipartisan board was set up to study the issue. Although the group has not completed its work, it has published a draft report calling for a ban on personal use, which is faced by federal candidates and candidates in most other states.
Bell’s measure was the only remaining bill on personal use, so his defeat almost certainly completes consideration of the issue during this year’s regular legislative session, which concludes this month.
Clean Virginia, a advocacy group for good governance and energy policy reform, noted that in 2015, the Ethics Commission recommended a ban on personal use in response to the gift scandal and the conviction of former Republican Gov. Bob McDonnell for bribery. The verdict was overturned by the US Supreme Court.
“Currently, nothing is stopping a political candidate in Virginia from using unlimited funds for a campaign, for which there are no restrictions in Virginia, to buy a vacation home or membership in a posh country club,” Clean Virginia CEO Brennan Gilmore said in a statement. “It is not surprising that the public’s trust in our elected officials is at a historically low level. This legalization of theft is very embarrassing for Virginia. “
A 2016 Associated Press survey of the state’s campaign finance system found that some lawmakers often use company bills to pay for expensive meals and hotels, as well as personal expenses such as gas and cell phone bills.
Nancy Morgan, coordinator of a mass group advocating for campaign finance reform, said “Commonwealth citizens lost” after Wednesday’s rally.
During the discussion of the bill, lawmakers expressed a number of problems, as before, when the AP asked for comment on the defeat of previous measures.
The Republican delegation Kim Taylor objected to a provision that would allow for the cost of some childcare costs. Bell agreed to waive the provision when the committee agreed to promote the bill, but noted that under current law, any costs are already allowed.
“Again, we have nothing today. Nothing prevents, to be honest, to do whatever you want for these funds, “he said.
Bell’s bill would create a procedure for campaign donors or voters to file a complaint with the Department of Elections, which could result in a civil fine of up to $ 10,000.
Several other funding measures of the company are still alive.
One of the Democrats, David Bulau, would tighten the requirements for keeping the record and check the financial documents of the election committee by the Department of Elections. Currently, the disclosure of information is actually carried out under a system of honor without state-funded verification.
“I can’t believe we don’t have that yet,” he said of the demands to keep the record, speaking to a Senate group that promoted the measure Wednesday morning.
Another measure by Bulav would expand the work of a two-party commission to study campaign finance reform.
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