A Shocking Case of Lawful Behavior

by Stephen D. Haner

Sometimes the problem is fake news and sometimes the problem is non-news, and in a shocking non-news story it was revealed that (gasp) politicians are raising money. Just as they have for every year I can remember, General Assembly incumbents are filling mail and email inboxes with invitations to their usual spring and summer lobbyist shake-down events.

But you have to understand, these are Senate Republicans doing this, the very same Republicans who have not acted yet on a delayed state budget! They are now in a special session. Acting in total and clear compliance with state law, and conducting themselves in complete conformity with previous patterns of behavior…..wait, why is this news? Are not Democrats also holding fundraising events? Actually they are, while the story was light on those details.

Perhaps you think it okay for members of the House of Delegates – in both parties — to hold their standard spring events. Do you think they have done their duty by passing out another version of their budget, so they get no special scrutiny as they dun the lobbying corps and the various corporate donors? They also are in special session, if that is what offends.

Granted, very few Senate Democrats are as aggressively raising funds. They have always been less aggressive about raising funds. It is one reason they are, in case you missed it, not in the majority.

I am not going to defend the Senate GOP delay on starting the second budget conference. But the issues that caused the hang up are legitimate and sadly we are all getting used to this unfortunate game of budget chicken. It may lead to laws that prevent fundraising during special sessions as well as regular sessions, but those prohibitions are mainly for show. If money can affect their decisions in January, it works just as well in June.

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10 responses to “A Shocking Case of Lawful Behavior

  1. Actually – Steve opines about a behavior that virtually no ordinary citizens are really aware of… in no small part because they are not a part of those wonderful “events”…

    Oh… they KNOW there is money involved … but how the money flows and through what patterns and events… no clue… so this is another one of those “revelations” …. meh…. 😉

    let’s make clear – “lobby” folk are fine. They do very much bring valuable info that may be lacking – to the issues. But let’s also make clear – bringing that info wrapped in money is a whole different horse of a different odious color.

    • What most ordinary citizens don’t know is just how legally corrupt Virginia is vs the other states. Only four states place no limits on any campaign contribution. Virginia is one of them. While I don’t have the exact number yet, very few states have a free-for-all approach to how those campaign contributions are spent. Virginia is one of them.

      That’s a toxic combination. Tens of thousands per year from specific special interests to individual Virginia politicians. Then, the money is spent on private clubs and thousand dollar breakfasts. The spending requires no clear description of the expense and there is no attempt at auditing.

      This is legalized bribery, pure and simple.

      The prohibition against fund raising during the session is an attempt to restrict the most visible “an envelope of cash for your vote tomorrow, senator” kind of image. However, as Steve rightly points out, “If money can affect their decisions in January, it works just as well in June.”

      Virginia is America’s most corrupt state. Even beyond the campaign money there’s the off-year elections, the lack of citizen initiated referenda, the rampant jerrymandering in direct violation of the state constitution, the special tax breaks for special interests with no follow-up on efficacy, the huge number of signatures for independents to get on the ballot. The list goes on.

  2. I can’t address the “most corrupt” label because I have no experience anywhere else, and I think that the problems created by the free flow of money is hardly unique to Virginia. It’s time to set some limits. It is way past time to prohibit the expenditure of campaign donations for personal benefit. As somebody who has managed donations and made donations, that offends me. I also don’t think it is commonplace.

    It just struck me that by singling out the Senate Republicans the article seemed to be an effort to point the spotlight just at them. (Perhaps because of their stance on some particular issue?) I get the email and snail mail invitations and they are coming from all directions.

    • As long as Dick Saslaw is a an elected official any attempts to point fingers at Virginia’s Republicans will be no more than a slightly humorous absurdity.

      • Good thing you have a successful career DJR. You’d never make it as an editorial writer at the Post. Imagine holding Democrats and Republicans to the same standard. It must not be done.

  3. I don’t get the Dem vs GOP angst. Money in politics is an equal opportunity corruption. Where is the idea coming from that the Dems are “better”? I certainly don’t buy it.

    But here’s what I DO call BS on and that’s excusing what the GOP is doing because the media does not talk about the Dems same behavior. That’s a LAME mega load of bat guano especially when those say it then say “Oh well.. it can’t be fixed” because of the “media”…

    Both sides do it – and instead of talking about stopping it – we want to talk about whether one side does it more/better than the other side.

    Our politics has become so rancid – that we can not even talk about stopping corruption – which we now claim is “free speech”…

    • SCOTUS says it is free speech.

      • If I had a client looking at one of these events, and that client had a matter in the budget that was still up in the air, my strong advice would be to pass and wait for another opportunity. I suspect that is happening (as it did the last time the budget was delayed into the late spring.) I just threw this out there so you and DJ could have fun making your usual points. 🙂

        • Ha ha. Yes … even in Virginia running up to a politician about to vote on a budget that affects you with an envelope stuffed with cash is considered unseemly. Besides which, it makes cash flow planning for politicians looking for Bookbinders dinners in the thousands of dollars hard. Much better to provide a steady stream of payola throughout the year (and between election campaigns) to buy off Virginia’s politicians.

      • SCOTUS did not say campaign contributions are free speech. At least not in Citizens United. It said that independent expenditures for communications were free speech. 46 states and the federal government still have limits on campaign contributions that have not been affected by Citizens United v the FEC.

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