Category Archives: Money in politics

Suggestions to Ease Virginia’s Housing Crisis without Additional State Money


by James C. Sherlock

The Richmond Times-Dispatch, on cue, wrote in an editorial the other day that more state money was needed to fund local housing.


But that is not the first place to look.

The governor wants to condition development aid to local communities on their reforming land-use policies to permit more construction.

I have a few ideas along that line.

Proffers, also known as conditional zoning, are a recognition that real estate developments have impacts on other properties and on services provided by the local jurisdiction. Fair enough.

The money for roads, sewers and schools has to come from somewhere. Proffers make the developers and their customers pay for a share of capital improvements deemed necessary by city/county planners.

Wielded unpredictably, and sometimes unethically, they are also part of the problem. See the excellent article Politics and Proffers by Matt Ahern for the games played with proffers and their cost to the housing economy.

Then there is low-cost housing.

The Commonwealth by law permits but does not require localities to waive fees for low-cost housing. That law, originally and curiously restricted to only non-profit developers, was updated in 2019 to permit the same waivers to for-profit builders.

Send state housing funds only to jurisdictions that do so. Require in law a limit to the costs of proffers for low-cost housing.

Finally, tax Virginia’s astonishingly profitable non-profit hospitals to help them with their mission of caring for the disadvantaged — in this case in low-cost housing. Continue reading

Out-of-State Money Floods to Incumbent Democrats in Virginia’s Competitive Congressional Races

by James C. Sherlock

I have the utmost respect for political candidates as a class.

They are people who put themselves in the arena while most are spectators.

The American people I think agree.

But by huge margins we decry the amount of money in political campaigns.

  • We deplore the fact that the money required discourages many persons from running who cannot self-fund and refuse to dial for dollars;
  • Most consider vast donations of money to be inevitably corrupting. At a minimum, access by big donors is paid for and assured;
  • Finally, voters would prefer to hear the messages of candidates, directly. Not just the loudest ads amplified by money.

I have shared those views all of my life.

Virginia’s nearly unique problem is unlimited funding, including unlimited out-of-state funding. Most other states have restrictions on both.

Why not Virginia? Continue reading

More on Virginia Sheriffs

Governor Youngkin and incoming officers of Virginia Sheriffs Association  Photo Credit:  Virginia Sheriffs Association

by Dick Hall-Sizemore

This article is a follow-up to Jim McCarthy’s article on sheriffs.  My main purpose is to provide some details and more context to the discussion of the position of sheriff in Virginia.

The sheriff is a “constitutional officer.” Article VII, Section 4 of the state constitution directs that in each county and city there shall be elected, among other positions, a sheriff. The provision goes on to say, “The duties and compensation of such officers shall be prescribed by general law or special act.”

The general powers of a sheriff include law enforcement, jail operation, court security, and service of process. However, state law authorizes cities and towns to establish any departments set out in their charters. As a result, all cities and most towns have charter provisions allowing them to establish a police department. Therefore, sheriffs in cities are limited to administering the jail, providing security in the courts, and serving process papers. Continue reading

New Fed Policy Would Hide CMS Data on Patient Safety Records of Hospitals

by James C. Sherlock

One of the most disturbing commentaries I have read in a long time relating to federal efforts to improve hospital patient safety reports a major step backwards in that program.

I have written here many times of the power of the hospitals over Virginia’s politics. A proposed new federal rule shows that power at the federal level. It would negatively affect your ability to understand and compare the patient safety records of hospitals.

The Biden administration Centers for Medicare/Medicaid Services (CMS) proposes to hide from the public a CMS rating that helps consumers view relative patient safety grades of hospitals. As important to the hospitals, perhaps, no one would be able to report on that information.

It also proposes to waive $350 million in fines for hospitals that violated existing regulations.

CMS for the Secretary of Health and Human Services is, with this rule, exercising the extraordinary powers the Secretary gives himself by constantly extending the Declaration of Public Emergency for COVID.  And yes, that is legal.

Virginia Hospital and Healthcare Association (VHHA) submitted a 17-page letter of comment. It of course supported the waiver of fines.  On the issue of suppressing patient safety data, the VHHA wrote, unsurprisingly:

“VHHA and its members are supportive of the proposed suppression (of data) in the HVBP program.”

The letter also encouraged CMS to also suppress pneumonia mortality measure because of the potential overlap with COVID- related pneumonia.

The only way that could happen since CMS is already suppressing data with a primary or secondary COVID diagnosis is if there was no reported COVID indication in pneumonia cases.

The proposal itself represents a major scandal.  A total of 1,533 comments, now closed, were submitted on the proposed rule.

They comments from doctors and patient safety groups were unsupportive.  Hospitals were very supportive.  The Virginia Department of Health sent a short letter on the larger rule, but did not comment on data suppression.

The result: political healthcare rules courtesy of the Biden administration and the hospital lobby.

The following article is reprinted by permission of Kaiser Health News. Continue reading

Biden Mounts a Direct Attack on America’s Most Successful Schools for Poor Minority Children

by James C. Sherlock

This is pretty cringeworthy, even for the Biden administration.  

We have new rules for federal funding for new and expanded charter schools that are demonstrably racist. They uniquely disadvantage the poorest minority students because charter schools are proven to help them learn better than any other option.

But the rules are offerings to a higher power- – the teachers’ unions.  

The Biden administration Education Department’s new rules for use of federal charter school startup funding are virulently anti-charter and appear to directly violate the law they pretend to enforce.  

They regulate the distribution of federal funding — $400 million annually — under the charter schools startup support provisions of the 2015 Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) (the Act).

Those new rules are unambiguously aimed to stop the expansion of New York City’s Success Academy (S/A) and non-profit charter management organizations (CMOs) like it that focus their efforts on educating poor minority children in our inner cities.

But the new broom sweeps away pretty much every charter that might apply.

The CMOs have proven amazingly successful — embarrassingly so for the teachers’ unions that hate them for it. These rules are political payback.

Actions are required by Virginia’s Governor and Attorney General. Continue reading

A Different Tone

by Dick Hall-Sizemore

There have been some complaints lately about how the Richmond newspaper should be called the Richmond Times-Dominion, due to its biased coverage in favor of the utility. While I agree with a lot of the criticism about taking a Dominion news release, rewriting it and then publishing it as news, a sentence in a story in today’s RTD struck me because it is definitely not in the line of that narrative:

“Dominion has a history of being a top donor to Virginia politicians, who in turn write laws that help the utility earn extra profit at the expense of its customers.”

Of course, the reporter writing the story is Patrick Wilson, one of the newspaper’s best reporters.

Democrats Against Due Diligence

by Bill O’Keefe

In 2020, as we all know, the Democrat-controlled General Assembly passed the Virginia Clean Economy Act (VCEA) to eliminate fossil energy for electric power generation while simultaneously restricting the regulatory oversight of the State Corporation Commission (SCC). The effect of the legislation was, in effect, a license to pick the pockets of Dominion ratepayers.

Dominion likes to portray itself as a standup corporate citizen that provides low-cost energy to its customers while also excelling at environmental stewardship. If that were true, Dominion and its lobbyists would not have worked so hard to restrict the State Corporation Commission or defeat a proposed amendment to VCEA by Delegate Lee Ware, R-Powhatan, to remove the restrictions on the SCC and allow it to exercise due diligence over Dominion’s almost $10 billion offshore wind farm.

Dominion will use its PR machine to demonstrate that it is honorable and had no hand in defeating Delegate Ware’s amendment. That might be potentially believable were it not for Dominion’s lobbying history and its scandalous political contributions to a PAC — Accountability Virginia — to suppress Republican turnout in our recent election. When the donation became public knowledge, Dominion first attempted to defend its action and then apologize claiming that the contribution was an innocent mistake. While it was demanding a return of its $200,000, Dominion’s CEO and other top executives were making personal contributions to the vote suppressing PAC. Continue reading

Dominion’s Meddling In Governor’s Race More Despicable than Originally Revealed

by Paul Chesser

In October, Bacon’s Rebellion contributor Steve Haner outlined a “despicable act” perpetrated by Dominion Energy on Glenn Youngkin, by sending $200,000 to a mystery PAC created to suppress turnout for the Republican gubernatorial candidate.

But now, with further public disclosures, we see the devious actions by Dominion CEO (and former Democrat operative) Bob Blue and other top executives were more “despicable” than first thought.

The severity was greater partly because Dominion actually sent $250,000 to Accountability Virginia PAC, which posed as a right-leaning group in order to raise doubts about Youngkin’s 2nd Amendment credentials with rural voters. The political strategy was to diminish enthusiasm – and therefore turnout – for the now-governor.

But the degree of deceit has even more to do with the timeline of the contributions rather than the aggregate amount. Continue reading

Bills Reversing Green New Deal Advance, Stutter

The first 176 offshore wind turbines and transmission lines Dominion Energy has applied to build off Virginia Beach for a cost (expect increases) of $10 billion.

by Steve Haner

“To say that an electric stove is as good as a gas one is misunderstanding the art of cooking.”

That line was used by a restaurant industry lobbyist February 3 in a House of Delegates committee debate on a bill seeking to protect the use of natural gas in Virginia homes and businesses. He later claimed it originated with a chef in San Francisco, where local governments have been passing ordinances to ban gas use.

The bill, House Bill 1257, then went on to fail, with all nine Democrats on the House Commerce and Energy Committee voting against it. All the Republicans present voted for it, but three were out of the room and the vote tied 9-9. The same committee may take the bill up again Tuesday for another effort at passage.

That was the first of three votes Thursday on efforts to roll back the Virginia Clean Economy Act and related measures approved during the two years of Democratic hegemony. The Democrats’ package of legislation has the ultimate goal of ending use of fossil fuels pretty much anywhere in the Virginia economy in the next 25 years. Most voters remain unaware.

The same meeting where the right to natural gas bill could return should include two other bills which were approved on party-line votes in subcommittee Thursday night. The subcommittee voted 6-4 for House Bill 118 and House Bill 73, with opponents claiming they would mean the end of plans to build hundreds of giant generation turbines off the shore of Virginia Beach. Continue reading

Energy Reform Bills Due for Decisions Soon

by Steve Haner

First published this morning by the Thomas Jefferson Institute for Public Policy.

The highest priority on a Virginia energy reform agenda proposed a few weeks ago was restoring State Corporation Commission oversight over decisions on massive renewable energy investments. Under current law, the General Assembly has basically dictated billions of dollars in such future investments, responding too often to donor demands.

Several bills are pending at the 2022 General Assembly to accomplish that goal, some more comprehensive than others but all with merit. Many of the reform bullet points are checked off. The bills are in the House of Delegates and must be acted upon by February 15.  Continue reading

First Bill to Amend VCEA Buried by Committee

Failed bill may have given the SCC a path to refuse Dominion’s proposed offshore wind project.

by Steve Haner

The first of several pending bills to slow Virginia’s rush to an expensive energy future based on unreliable electricity just failed in a Republican-controlled committee. There is every reason to expect the same fate for two other pending measures with similar goals.

In past years energy bills have gone to a subcommittee, usually for consideration in concert with similar bills on the same topic. House Bill 839, sponsored by Delegate Tony Wilt, R-Harrisonburg, appeared by itself Tuesday on the docket of the full House Commerce and Energy Committee.  Continue reading

Hands Off My Donations!

Sen. Chap Petersen (D-Fairfax) Photo credit: Virginia Mercury

by Dick Hall-Sizemore

Virginia Senators wasted little time killing off an attempt to limit campaign contributions. On its first day of meetings, the Privileges and Elections Committee took up Senator Chap Petersen’s bill to place a $2o,000 cap on campaign contributions (SB 44). Voting to report the bill were five Democrats: Deeds (Bath), Ebbin (Alexandria), Mason (Williamsburg), McClellan (Richmond), and Boysko (Fairfax). The ten Senators voting to kill the bill included all seven Republicans on the committee: Vogel (Fauquier), Reeves (Spotsylvania), Ruff (Mecklenburg), Peake (Lynchburg), McDougle (Hanover), Bell (Loudoun), and Hackworth (Tazewell). Joining them were three Democrats: Howell (Fairfax), Spruill (Chesapeake), and Surovell (Fairfax).

This does not bode well for Petersen’s headliner campaign bill that would ban campaign contributions from public utilities (SB 45). The legislation is obviously aimed at Dominion Energy. Petersen has called on the Governor to support the bill. It will be instructive to see if (1) Youngkin comes out publicly in support of the bill and (2) if he does, whether that will be enough to sway enough senators, Democrats and Republicans, to vote for the bill.

Who Funded Voter Suppression in Rural Virginia?

by James A. Bacon

It caused quite the brouhaha when Axios published a story in September on how a Democratic PAC posed as a conservative outfit to depress Republican voter turnout in Southwest Virginia by raising questions about Glenn Youngkin’s commitment to gun rights. Dominion Energy had donated $200,000 to the effort, run by Accountability Virginia PAC. Two days after the news broke Dominion said it had failed to vet the group and wanted its money back. The furor died down, and little has been heard of it since. Until today.

Duane Yancey with Cardinal News checked the final filings for the  Accountability Virginia PAC, which weren’t reported until after the election. It turns out that Dominion had donated a total of $250,000 — $50,000 more than originally reported — while four Dominion executives had chipped in another $27,500. Between the corporation and its executives, Dominion accounted for 47.9% of the PAC’s total contributions.

There is no indication, says Yancey, that they got their money back.

Almost all the other donors were out-of-state venture capitalists and financiers known to be donors to Democratic politics. Read Yancey’s list for the full accounting, as well as his spin on the news: “Trying to discourage people from voting is wrong, no matter which side is trying to do it.”

It is possible that the blowback against Dominion has just begun. Continue reading

College Faculty Don’t “Think Like America”

by James A. Bacon

It has become a widespread conviction on Virginia’s colleges and universities that faculty and staff should “look like Virginia” in their demographic make-up. There is no comparable obsession with hiring faculty and staff that “think like Virginia.”

Employees of James Madison University — faculty, staff, and administrators — donated more than $148,000 to Democratic Party candidates and political committees between November 2018 and November 2020, according to research conducted by Campus Reform. In other words, 92.9% of all JMU employees who made political donations gave to Democratic candidates or Democratic-aligned organizations such as Act Blue and Biden for President. Conversely, only 7.90% of campus money went to right-leaning candidates and organizations.

And that makes JMU the most conservative of the three public universities researched.

Radford University employees donated $46,003 to the Left side of the political spectrum compared to $3,660 to the conservative side — 94.0% compared to 6.0%. Continue reading

Personnel is Policy On Future Energy Reform

SCC Commissioner Angela Navarro, whose term ends January 31, 2022.

by Steve Haner

Does Tuesday’s election result mean Virginia is going to move back towards a rational energy policy? Watch two key personnel decisions, both entirely matters for the next legislature to decide.

State Corporation Commissioner Angela Navarro was elected by the 2021 General Assembly to fill the unexpired term of Mark Christie, who moved to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. His SCC term was expiring January 31, 2022, so hers does too, putting her up for reconsideration immediately.

A former staff lawyer for the Southern Environmental Law Center, she was an architect and advocate for the 2020 Virginia Clean Economy Act. Key decisions on that are beginning to fill the SCC docket, the largest being the next Dominion integrated resource plan and the first tranche of offshore wind development.

Will the new Republican majority in the House of Delegates deny Navarro a full term and choose another judge less associated with that bill? Well, the oldest rule in the legislature is “what goes around comes around.” When the Democrats took full control of the Assembly in the 2020 session, former Commissioner Patricia West was seeking an extension on her partial SCC term that began in 2019.

She was denied that extension, and instead replaced by Jehmal T. Hudson, who had been serving at FERC in a staff position. Continue reading