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
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
Posted in Children and families, Efficiency in government, ethics, Ethics, General Assembly, Governance, Government Oversight, Health Care, Long Term Care and Nursing Homes, Money in politics, Public safety & health, Uncategorized
Tagged James Sherlock
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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