Legislation Closing Campaign Finance Loophole Moving Forward in Richmond

Feb 10, 2021

Virginia lawmakers may be on the verge of closing one of the most notorious campaign finance loopholes in the country.

Here's a dirty secret of campaign finance laws in Virginia. As long as candidates aren't closing out a campaign account, they can use the money for anything. A new car, a trip to Paris, a diamond ring – it’s all legal under Virginia law.

That's why Delegate Marcus Simon introduced a bill to prevent candidates from using campaign cash for personal use.

"We're not looking to trap anybody," Simon says. "This isn't going after any particular delegate or particular activity. This is really about closing up a loophole that was created I believe unintentionally by the General Assembly.”

Virginia has no limits on who can contribute or how much they can contribute. So this new law would be a first step at creating some guardrails.

Janet Boyd with the League of Women Voters says she's particularly excited about the exemption that would allow campaign money to be used for child care.

"This rule would encourage a greater diversity of Virginia candidates, particularly women, who with younger children otherwise would not have an opportunity to run for elective office," Boyd explains.

Prohibiting personal use would open up many new questions. If campaign logos were on combs, for example, could candidates use them to comb their hair? The bill directs the attorney general to provide guidance on what qualifies as personal use. Simon's bill has already passed the House and is now under consideration in the Senate.

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