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Legislation would ban political donations from public utilities

Petersen Ware
Michael Pope
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Senator Chap Petersen, left, and Delegate Lee Ware appear at a press conference to announce their bill banning campaign contributions from public utilities.

Dominion Energy has been a major force in Virginia politics for years, although some lawmakers are uncomfortable with the idea that a utility monopoly that's regulated by the state is able to spend campaign cash to secure influence.

Delegate Lee Ware is a Republican from Powhatan who says it's time to prohibit lawmakers from taking money from any public utility. "They need to be responsible to the State Corporation Commission and not use massive lobbying monies and a large lobbying corps to get around and get what they want from the assembly," Ware told a Monday news conference.

Senator Chap Petersen is a Democrat from Fairfax City, and he's unsuccessfully introduced bills to prohibit campaign contributions from public utilities for many years. But this year might be different. "I can get a portion of my caucus. I can't get them all. I certainly can't get the ones who are more senior in leadership," Petersen said. "But I can get a portion of my caucus. But I need -- we need , the Commonwealth needs -- the new governor to take a firm stand on this issue and my hope is that will change the dynamic."

On the campaign trail, Glenn Youngkin said that he would disrupt entrenched interests in Richmond. Now that he's in the Executive Mansion, the governor may have an opportunity to disrupt how some entrenched interests do business.

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. He has reported for NPR, the New York Daily News and the Alexandria Gazette Packet. He has a master's degree in American Studies from Florida State University, and he is a former adjunct professor at Tallahassee Community College. He is the author of four books.