Category Archives: ethics

Dueling Fiscal Impact Statements

Del. Marcus Simon (D-Falls Church) Photo credit: Falls Church News-Press

by Dick Hall-Sizemore

Providing a fiscal impact statement (FIS) for legislation is a positive aspect of the legislative process. The statement can alert the legislators to the possible fiscal implications of a bill under consideration and its estimated cost. Thus, legislators are in a position to make a more informed decision about supporting the bill.

The process for preparing FISs has been described and discussed in detail in an earlier post on this blog. There is a bill currently under consideration that nicely illustrates the ways in which fiscal impact statements can be misused. Before going into specifics, it would be useful to review how that happens.

As with many things intended to be positive, FISs have a negative aspect, as well. For example, legislators can hide behind them. Subject-matter committees are supposed to make the policy decision on a bill and, if it is approved, refer it to the House Appropriations Committee or the Senate Finance and Appropriations Committee, as applicable, for the consideration of the fiscal impact. The money committees, in theory, are supposed to limit their consideration to whether the projected fiscal impact can be handled in the budget. In reality, however, those committees also take the policy aspects of those bills into consideration. As a result, legislators on the subject-matter committees who may think a bill is bad for any of several reasons, but do not want to oppose it for political reasons, can vote for it, knowing it will be referred to the money committee, which will likely kill it. Continue reading

Legacy Media Play Catch-Up in Hashmi Case

by Kerry Dougherty

Just as I predicted: The corporate media could no longer ignore the election controversy brewing in Virginia’s bright blue 15th Senate District and were finally forced to cover the uncomfortable topic of election “irregularities”.

The Daily Wire’s Luke Rosiak – the best reporter in Virginia – broke the story last weekend. The Richmond Times-Dispatch followed up on Tuesday.

That Senate race was won in a landslide last week by Ghazala Hashmi, a Democrat. Trouble is, it appears she actually lives in the 12th District – a GOP stronghold – and rented an apartment in the Democrat-friendly 15th to have an address there.

If that’s what happened, Hashmi wouldn’t be the first candidate to rent a little pied-a-terre to use occasionally and claim as a dwelling place to meet residency requirements. This sort of chicanery has happened before.

Of course it deprives citizens of having a representative who actually lives in their district, but no one cares about the peons. It’s all about winning.

But on her official forms – which Hashmi signed – she did not declare the home she’s owned in Midlothian since 1999. The form said a primary residence didn’t have to be declared.

So which is it, Senator? Is the Midlothian house your residence or do you actually live in the apartment you rented? Continue reading

Anyone Know Where Sen. Ghazala Hashmi Lives?

by Kerry Dougherty

mmm. Looks like things just got interesting — instead of merely horrifying — in last Tuesday’s election.

If Luke Rosiak of The Daily Wire is correct, one Democrat member of the Virginia State Senate may be fighting to stay out of jail rather than taking her seat in the Capitol come January.

In a story headlined “Virginia Dems Could Lose Control of State Senate Because One Of Its Members May Have Lied About Her Residence,” Rosiak claims that Ghazala Hashmi may not live in the 15th Senate District, rendering her ineligible to occupy the seat she won just last week.

Worse, Rosiak reports that Hashmi may have lied on the Certificate of Candidacy Qualifications that she signed last March. In it, she claimed to live in an apartment in Chesterfield while she may have been living in the $600,000 home in Midlothian where she has resided for decades. If these accusations are true, Hashmi could be facing a maximum fine of $2,500, up to 10 years in prison and she could lose the right to vote.

Rosiak reports that, before redistricting, Hashmi’s Midlothian home was in District 10. She represented that district when she was elected in 2020. When the boundaries moved, however, Hashmi found herself living in District 12. Oddly enough, instead of running for that seat, Hashmi entered the race for District 15 and listed an apartment there as her dwelling place.

As it happens, District 12, where Hashmi reportedly DOES live, is a GOP stronghold, which was won by Republican Glen Sturtevant, who garnered 54% of the vote. Continue reading

Delegate Won’t Correct False Accusation About Israel

Sam Rasoul

by Scott Dreyer

On October 17, around noon Virginia time, a missile allegedly hit a Baptist hospital in Gaza. Almost immediately, many US mainstream news outlets blamed Israel for the attack and claimed “over 500” had been killed.

As reported here, about four hours after the blast, Del. Salam “Sam” Rasoul (D-Roanoke) posted to X, formerly known as Twitter, “Today Israel bombed a hospital and a UN school. War crimes it will never be held accountable for. Over 1000 children dead in 10 days. Sickening.”

Within hours, though, as more evidence came in and was examined, it became clear that the blast was not from an Israeli rocket strike, but from a failed Palestinian missile that dropped on Palestinian territory, hitting the hospital’s parking lot. On October 18, Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA), who has access to classified information as a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, tweeted “we feel confident that the explosion was the result of a failed rocket launch by militant terrorists and not the result of an Israeli airstrike.” Continue reading

The Impact of Virginia’s Certificate of Public Need Laws on Nursing Home and Home Health Care Availability and Expenditures

by James C. Sherlock

I have come across a major study in the National Institute of Health’s National Library of Medicine that made a point that I have not explored sufficiently to this point.

It discusses the intersection of nursing homes, home health care, CON laws like Virginia’s Certificate of Public Need (COPN) law, and Medicaid expenditures.

I have shown over time in a series of columns how bad many of Virginia’s nursing homes are.

Antitrust authorities at the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and at the US Department of Justice (DOJ) have long taken the position that CON laws are anticompetitive.

This study, conducted prior to COVID, indicates that COPN administration will ensure that nursing facilities not only have little competition from other facilities, which it was designed to do, but also will limit home health care expansion, which the COPN law does not mention.

That is very good for the Virginia nursing home industry.

It is bad for every other Virginian, every one of whom may need at least post-operative recovery and rehabilitation if not long term care.

Some will need it in a dedicated facility, others can be better served at home.

The study indicated that COPN will tend to make home health care less available and potentially raise total Medicaid spending. It also showed that market forces unconstrained by CON laws like COPN will tend to reverse those trends.

So this article is dedicated to our politicians and their constituents.

You. Continue reading

Dems Nominated an Online Porn Star for House of Delegates

by Kerry Dougherty

I can’t decide which is more shocking: that Virginia Democrats nominated a porn star for the House of Delegates or that The Washington Post committed an act of journalism that hurt a Democrat.

Shoot, we know what to expect of Democrats. This news doesn’t register on the political shock-o-meter. What’s truly stunning is that The Post published a story that reflects badly on someone they normally would have endorsed.

The adjective “blockbuster” is overused when describing big news stories.

Not this time.

On Monday, The Post had an actual blockbuster: The paper revealed that Susanna Gibson, a 40-year-old nurse practitioner, married mother of two and the Democrats’ choice for the open 57th District House of Delegates seat, has been engaging in smutty online sex with her husband.

The couple begs for tips before performing requested lewd acts.

Classy. Continue reading

Corruption, Ignorance Turn Deadly in the General Assembly

by James C. Sherlock

Virginia Department of Health inspectors, on page 11 of 66 of a statement of deficiencies dated June 21, 2021, wrote of a gut-wrenching discovery.

They found an incontinent patient at Autumn Care of Suffolk, a stroke victim unable to talk, tied to her bed by a staffer. She was terrified and humiliated.

The investigation resulted in lots of finger pointing but failed to pinpoint responsibility. Adult Protective Services found that the patient had been abused. The facility promised better training.

Autumn Care of Suffolk last quarter offered 17 minutes of registered nurse (RN) time per resident per weekday vs. a national average of 39 minutes. It provided five minutes of RN staffing per resident per day on weekends vs. a 26-minute national average. It is currently open and accepting new patients.

This article is for that poor woman.

And it is for the nurses, heroines and heroes of the pandemic, who consider nursing a vocation as well as a job. There was a shortage of RNs going into the pandemic. It is worse now because of burnout. Continue reading

No New Law or Regulation is Needed for VDH to Sanction Bad Nursing Homes

By James C. Sherlock

This is Part 2 of this series.  Part 1 is here.

I will offer here a deeper sense of Virginia’s bad nursing homes.  And of the historic lack of adequate regulation by the state.

Start with the fact that even the worst of them are still open.

Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) conduct and update at least quarterly a system of nursing home (and other facilities) assessments that is worthy of your trust.  I am cautious with all things government, but it has earned mine.

Nationally, 20% of nursing homes are rated one star overall by CMS.  In Virginia, 34% of nursing homes have that rating.

Don’t be mollified by the official designation of such facilities as “well below average.”  Many are places persons as vulnerable as nursing home residents should not be permitted to reside.

We are disgraced by having let that happen.   Virginians, through our state government, need to assure it does not continue.

Continue reading

Public Corruption Transacted in Public

by James C. Sherlock

Want that country club membership but don’t want to write the check for the initial membership fee?

How about the down payment on a vacation home?

Run for office in Virginia. Pay for it with campaign money. You don’t even have to win as long as you spend it during the campaign.

And it’s legal.  Because it’s not illegal.  Just claim that both are meant to host campaign strategy sessions.  Donor confabs.  Anything.

If you win, especially in one of Virginia’s single-party-dominated districts, you can do it every time you run.


Virginia is the only state that allows candidates to raise unlimited funds and spend that money on personal expenses. The only one.

General Assembly Democrats and Republicans take turns killing legislation to change the law. Bipartisan at last.

That is public corruption transacted in public.

And they don’t care. Continue reading

More Proof Virginia Disclosure Laws are Crap

Former Sen. John Watkins, R-Powhatan

by Steve Haner

In 2020, according to documents filed with the State Corporation Commission, Dominion Energy Virginia paid former state Senator John Watkins $92,297 for lobbying services. At the end of the reporting period, it officially claimed spending only $1,641 for him to influence the legislative process.

In a similar manner, former Fairfax Delegate John Rust was retained over four years for a combined $265,000. But for his services in 2020, the year of the massive Virginia Clean Economy Act, Dominion’s lobbying expense disclosure listed his fee at $7,679.

The full payments to both former Republican legislators, all perfectly legal, are the subject of an online article on the Richmond Times Dispatch website, probably awaiting print publication. It also focuses on large payments made to a Hampton Roads journalist and former Democratic gubernatorial aide, which Dominion never had to disclose on any state report since buying friendly editorials isn’t covered by disclosure laws.

Add up the reported payments to all the other outside law and lobbying firms Dominion hired, compare them to the official disclosures, and a similar pattern of under reporting will be evident. The reporter missed the best part of this story — that information gap.

What do we learn here?  Anything we didn’t know? Continue reading

Virginia’s Self-Inflicted Nursing Home Crisis – Part 1

by James C. Sherlock

None of us ever knows when we will need a nursing home for ourselves, our parents or our kids. Yes, kids.

While long-term nursing care is mostly for older patients, skilled nursing facilities are needed for patients of all ages, including children, for shorter term post-op treatment and recovery.

The patients in many of Virginia’s nursing homes suffer greatly from a combination of known bad facilities and a lack of government inspections. The health and safety of patients in those facilities are very poorly protected by the state.  

In this series of reports I am going to point out some nursing homes (and chains) whose records will anger you. Government data show some have been horrible for a very long time in virtually every region in the state.

Those same records show that Virginia is years behind on important, federally mandated health and safety inspections.

VDH’s Office of Licensure and Certification doesn’t have enough inspectors — not even close. And the government of Virginia — officially based on budget data — not only does not care but is directly and consciously responsible.

When I am done reporting on my research I suspect you will demand more inspectors.

You will also  reasonably ask why the worst of them are still in business when the Health Commissioner has the authority to shut them down.

Good question. Continue reading

Panhandling Politicos Hobnob with Richmond Lobbyists

by Kerry Dougherty

File this under “Virginia Democrats have no shame.”

On second thought, perhaps it should be filed under “Patrick Wilson is the best newspaper reporter in Virginia.”

Wilson, some of you may remember, was an ace reporter at The Virginian-Pilot for many years until the Richmond Times-Dispatch stole him away. I know Wilson and he’s an absolutely tenacious investigator who can sniff out impropriety in government and report fairly on it.

For instance, during the past year he’s provided Virginia with shocking details about the Parole Board scandal — you know, the gang that “waved its magic wand of freedom“ over murderers and set them free — that other news outlets were too lazy to dig up or report.

Now, in classic Wilson style, he’s reporting on the small-but-telling hypocrisies that pop up whenever the General Assembly is in session. Continue reading

Baby Steps Toward Campaign Finance Reform

Del. Marcus Simon
Photo credit: Bob Brown/AP

By Dick Hall-Sizemore

Virginia law prohibits a candidate for public office from converting “excess” campaign funds to her personal use when closing out her campaign finance account. However, there is nothing to prevent a candidate from using campaign funds for personal, non-campaign related, purposes during a campaign.

Ever since his first General Assembly session (2014), Del. Marcus Simon, D-Falls Church, has introduced legislation to prohibit any personal use of campaign funds. Year after year, the bill died, with no recorded vote, until the 2019 session, when subcommittee votes were required to be recorded. That year, the bill died, 4-3, in subcommittee, with the four votes against it cast by Republicans. Last year, the bill was carried over again. Continue reading

Business as Usual in the Virginia Senate – “Dominion Dick” Saslaw Delivers

Sen. Dick Saslaw (D)

by James C. Sherlock

Associate Press headline Feb. 15: “Virginia Senate Democrats kill electric rate reform bills.”

Fish gotta swim, Senator Richard L. “Dominion Dick” Saslaw gotta be Senate Majority Leader and Chairman of the Virginia Senate Commerce and Labor Committee.

Saslaw has received nearly a half million dollars in campaign donations from Dominion Energy and its previous CEO, Thomas Farrell. The Chairman literally would be cheap at ten times the price.

From the AP:

“The Senate Commerce and Labor Committee on Monday swiftly killed the last of more than half a dozen bills this session that aimed to reform Virginia’s system of electric utility rate review, which is seen by Wall Street investors as favorable to the utilities and by critics as an example of legislative capture by companies with an outsize influence over the General Assembly.”

Dominion sweeping all before it actually gives some sense of stability to the General Assembly.

Below is a list of campaign donations by Dominion Energy and Tom Farrell to the Senators who voted with Dominion on the closest vote, 8-7 to table Virginia HB1132 Electric utility regulation; initial triennial review, requirements, sponsored by Del. Jay Jones (D). Continue reading

Dominion $$ Overwhelm Clean VA’s in Committees

Click for clear view. Dominion Energy Virginia donations to legislators on the House Labor and Commerce Committee, compiled by Energy and Policy Institute from VPAP reports.

by Steve Haner

The first major showdown over last-ditch efforts to change the rules on the coming Dominion Energy Virginia rate case occurs Monday in a subcommittee where six delegates received a total of $80,000 from the utility in 2020, and four received $67,500 from its self-appointed watchdog Clean Virginia.

The chair of the subcommittee, Del. Richard “Rip” Sullivan of Arlington, received $15,000 from Clean Virginia, but the chair of the full Labor and Commerce Committee, Del. Jeion Ward of Newport News, might sit in the meeting, as is within her authority. Dominion contributed $50,000 to her campaign in 2020. Both are Democrats. (If Ward is there, the total Dominion donations in the room will reach $130,000.)  Continue reading