Documents on Campaign Finance Reform in Virginia
We are a group of grassroots advocates in Virginia, affiliated with the nonpartisan group, American Promise, and dedicated to getting big money out politics. At the national level, our Virginia chapter of America Promise is working to pass an amendment to the U.S. Constitution allowing Congress and the states to regulate election spending. This action is needed to permanently reverse the damaging effects of the 2010 Citizens United v. the FEC ruling that equated money with free speech and that unleashed a torrent of money into our country’s elections.
At the same time, under a broader “MoneyOutVA” umbrella, we are also focused on getting big money out of Virginia politics. One of only five states that has no limits on campaign contributions, the Commonwealth has earned the reputation as a “pay-to-play” state where the lobbying influence of special interests historically has held sway over our public policies more than voters’ priorities.
To achieve both the national and state goals, we are working to 1) see Virginia become the 21st state to pass a resolution recommending a constitutional amendment that authorizes Congress and the states to regulate election spending; and 2) promote the passage of election finance laws by the 2021 Virginia Assembly that regulate campaign contributions. In view of the damage that big money is inflicting on our state and national elections and legislation, we are encouraging dialogue among grassroots organizations around the Commonwealth in order to identify ways of working together to build awareness of and support for urgently-needed campaign finance reform.
WHY VIRGINIA AND WHY BIG MONEY?
In swing states, such as Virginia, where the power and influence of huge donations can determine electoral outcomes, the cost of elections has jumped almost twofold in the last decade. In 2011, the Senate and House of Delegates’ campaigns together raised $68.7 million, whereas total contributions in 2019 jumped to $121.5 million, with nearly $25 million coming from outside the state. Virginia is one of the only states that has not set legal standards for both individual and public/private sector political contributions.
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BIG MONEY OUT SHOULD BE A LEGISLATIVE PRIORITY IN VIRGINIA
Virginia’s inadequate ethics regime is reflected in its showing in two recent reports by the Coalition for Integrity. The state scored in the bottom ten of the S.W.A.M.P. Index, an analysis of laws and regulations related to ethics issues.Virginia fared poorly due to its lack of ethics enforcement powers, lack of protections from removal of ethics agency members and weak financial disclosure laws.
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