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Limiting campaign donations met with resistance in the Virginia Senate

Members of the state Senate are rejecting limits to campaign contributions.

Virginia is the Wild West when it comes to campaign contributions. There are no limits to how much money donors can give to candidates. That's a problem says Senator Chap Petersen – a Democrat from Fairfax City. He says lawmakers should consider some kind of limit, and he suggests $20,000 a year might be appropriate.

"My point is only that I don't believe that supersized donations, particularly in local races. I'm less concerned about our races but local races," Petersen says. "I've seen where supersized donations have really tilted the playing field and it's not really in keeping with the democratic traditions of this state or this nation."

But he could not get his colleagues to agree. He presented the bill to a Senate committee, which cast a bipartisan vote to reject it.

Senator Jill Vogel is a Republican from Fauquier County.

"Contributions are speech, and when you set up artificial barriers to speech, people find ways around it," Vogel explains. "And I think sunlight is the best way."

Sunlight as in disclosure. One of the arguments against setting limits on campaign contributions in Virginia is that all those donations are required to be reported to the public.

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.