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New report: Virginia is one of the worst offenders when it comes to lax campaign finance laws

Virginia's lax campaign finance laws are once again in the spotlight for opening the door to corruption.

Virginia is the Wild West of campaign finance laws. Just about anything goes as long as you report it. And a new report from the Coalition for Integrity says that doesn't even apply to all the dark money that sloshes around Virginia.

"If you don't have any rules, and if you don't enforce any rules it's so much easier to be corrupt," explains Shruti Shah, president and CEO of the coalition.

Her group is issuing a new report this week that ranks Virginia 43rd among the states in its new State Campaign Finance Index. She says it's not just the lack of limits on campaign contributions. It's also that the state agency that oversees campaign finance has no authority to investigate or sanction.

"Virginia's State Board of Elections administers the campaign finance laws, but it does not have the authority to conduct its own investigations or hold public hearings or have subpoena power," Shah says. "It may request that the attorney general do so. But that means that any investigation is restricted to the most egregious cases."

The solution, she says, is pretty simple: the General Assembly should set limits on how much money individuals and corporations can contribute. While they're at it, she says, they should give the State Board of Elections the ability to investigate wrongdoing and issue sanctions to people who violate the law.

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.