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One Group Wants Virginia Candidates to Disclose Where Their Contributions Come From

NPR

One watchdog group is worried about government ethics in Virginia. And, it’s challenging candidates for the General Assembly to do something about it.

So far, 24 General Assembly candidates have taken the Virginia Integrity Challenge. That’s the name of an effort by the Coalition for Integrity challenging candidates to post their campaign finance records and gift disclosures to their websites.

Shruti Shah at the Coalition for Integrity says candidates who have signed up are also vowing to support legislation to give Virginia ethics agencies the power to investigate and sanction.

“If you are in charge of enforcing ethics rules, you kind of need powers such as investigative powers and sanctioning powers," Shah says. "And without those things, it’s really almost impossible to ensure compliance with the rules.”

And yet that’s how things work now, which is why she describes Virginia’s ethics agencies as “toothless.”

Stephen Farnsworth at the University of Mary Washington says any effort to increase transparency would be good for Virginia politics. 

“Well certainly if organizations are out there pushing lawmakers to do things, they may end up being successful," he explains. "But this is a pretty tough slog to try to convince lawmakers to support a tougher ethics regimen that would make their own lives more difficult.”

The topic of ethics in government has been a concern in Virginia since former Governor Bob McDonnell was convicted for selling his office – a sentence that was later overturned by the Supreme Court.

This report, provided by Virginia Public Radio, was made possible with support from the Virginia Education Association.

Michael Pope is an author and journalist who lives in Old Town Alexandria.