Senate Won't Close Campaign Cash Loophole

Feb 23, 2021

Lawmakers are rejecting an effort to create new rules for how lawmakers are able to spend campaign cash.

One of the reasons that Virginia always ranks so low for ethics and transparency is because there are so few rules on fundraising.

Delegate Marcus Simon is a Democrat from Fairfax County who hoped to close one of those loopholes, the one that allows lawmakers to spend campaign cash on anything they want.  "It does add to the impression that we've got a fairly freewheeling campaign finance system in Virginia," Simon explained. "I mean in Virginia currently, there's no limit on how much you can contribute, on who can contribute and now also on what you can spend that money on."

Senators rejected Simon’s bill creating new limitations on what they could spend their campaign cash on, referring it to a committee that won't meet again this year. They did that during a special session when they're not even playing by the usual rules, which prevent them from fundraising during the session.

Shruti Shah at the Coalition for Integrity says their willingness to move forward without those guardrails is outrageous.  "By doing so I think our legislators are going against the spirit of the law because while you’re not technically prohibited from taking money during the special session it doesn't mean you should."

The one bright spot of Virginia laws is disclosure. Any campaign contributions that lawmakers took while making laws will eventually become part of the public record.

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