Category Archives: ethics

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

Northam’s Good Move: End Executions

The Martinsville Seven

By Peter Galuszka

Governor Ralph Northam will propose legislation to ban executions in the state. The move could end decades of systemic racism in the criminal justice system.

“I’ve strongly about this for a long time,” he was quoted as saying. The bill will be taken up by the General Assembly, which met in its 2021 session today.

If the bill passes, it would make Virginia the only Southern state to ban executions.

According to the Richmond Times Dispatch, 113 executions have been conducted in the state since the U.S. Supreme Court allowed executions to resume in 1976. Virginia’s vigorous efforts to kill those convicted of capital crimes gave it the dishonorable distinction of being No. 2 in the country after Texas which had 570 executions in that time frame.

Historically, African Americans have been executed at rates that exceed their numbers in the general population. Continue reading

Sen. Lucas’ Record Shows No Concern for Poor Health of Her Constituents

by James C. Sherlock

Senator Louise Lucas

I mentioned Sen. Louise Lucas, D-Portsmouth, prominently in my essay yesterday in which I criticized the Virginia Legislative Black Caucus.

To illustrate the point, I have reviewed Sen. Lucas’ sponsorship of bills concerning health care that came before the Senate Education and Health Committee of which she was Chairwoman in 2020 and a senior member in 2019, 2018 and 2017.

The list is missing something — a show of concern for the health of her constituents.

Continue reading

Virginia’s Government – a Critique

by James C. Sherlock

At the age of 75 with a life of experience in and with government, I will offer here my assessment of the current structural problems in our state government that make that government significantly less efficient and effective than it should be.  

You will note that these comments generally do not point fingers at either party, but rather at the sum of their efforts or lack of same. 

I grew up the son of a federal worker. Most of the men in our Falls Church neighborhood were WW II veterans and after the war most of them were civilian employees of the federal government. I spent nearly 30 years in the Navy and ten more as a government contractor. I dealt with Congress a lot.

In retirement, I took up causes for improving my state. I have spent a lot of time over 15 years dealing with the General Assembly, the Governor and the state administration.

So those are the bases for my perspectives. You will note that my experience dealing with the federal government informs my critique of the government of Virginia. Continue reading

Lost Absentees, Found Roll Call, Missing Statues

By Steve Haner

Faulty Absentee Ballot Tracker Still Losing Track

Complaints continue about an absentee ballot tracking system on the Virginia Department of Elections website. Someone with a problem similar to what I encountered in September reached out to Richmond’s WTVR-TV 6 News, which reported that the problem lies with the United States Postal Service. The tracking system is provided by an outside vendor.

Jessenia Eliza, the Director of Government Initiatives at Democracy Works (the outside vendor), told CBS 6 the issue the Duszaks were facing was as a result of their ballot barcodes not being scanned by USPS.

“Ballot Scout relies entirely on USPS data in the state of Virginia. How it works is that as the intelligent mail barcode on ballots are scanned, that information is sent to our tool, and it updates the associated voter record,” explained Eliza. “We’re seeing this here and there with ballots that aren’t moving beyond that ‘in-transit’ status. That typically means just that the USPS didn’t scan it further, not necessarily that the ballot isn’t moving.”

The reporter then spoke with somebody at the state, who said: Continue reading