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The Growing Cost of Virginia Elections


This year’s election for the House of Delegates was the most expensive ever.

It seems like every election is the most expensive ever, and this year’s campaign for the House of Delegates is no exception. It was another record breaking year: more than $66 million spent overall. That’s according to numbers posted to the Virginia Public Access Project.

"Now, of course, the bill comes due in January," says Stephen Farnsworth at the University of Mary Washington. “People who invest in politicians want a return on their investment, and so expect aggressive lobbying as the new legislature debates the new policies of 2020.”

Since the mid-1990s, campaign spending has doubled. And then it doubled again.

David Ramadan at George Mason University says the rising influence of outside money now guides how lawmakers think about their time in office. 

He explains that, "anybody who had benefited from these incredible amount of donations from these national groups has got to be asking himself or herself, ‘What do I have to do over the next two years in order to get that same amount of money or more?’”

Next year, the new Democratic majority will consider restrictions on campaign cash from big corporations and regulated utilities.

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.