And now, from our You Can’t Make This Stuff Up Department, come two Richmond lobbyists providing strong evidence that the money really does have strings and you only get it if you play along. We had no idea, right?
First, see the story on Blue Virginia, with newly-elected Del. Dawn Adams, D-Henrico, sharing a recent email response from a representative of Verizon. In response to a solicitation to attend her lobbyist shakedown soiree the Verizon employee said nope, she didn’t vote for a bill we wanted so no money. Most of us around the Capitol have a very good idea who would write that. But it is only a guess.
Second, read in this morning’s Times-Dispatch about a recent message from legal mega-firm Hunton Andrews Kurth (formerly Hunton & Williams) to any legislator who declines a campaign contribution from its client Appalachian Power. If you refuse to accept APCO money, the firm will refuse to send you money from its own accounts.
The head of the government affairs team, former legislator Whitt Clement, was quite open about it but added: “This matter has not been thoroughly vetted in view of our other clients. So I think it is safe to say that we will continue to evaluate our position.” Given that this story hit the T-D website yesterday afternoon, it may be that policy has already been dumped. That isn’t going to help their other clients and potentially does them harm.
Years ago one of Clement’s colleagues in that firm advised me on what not to say in written or even spoken communications with legislators on behalf of my then-employer. I guess that advice was only for external consumption. Or perhaps the new Texas partners have brought a new tone to Richmond’s Main Street.
The business entities most subject to state regulation are logically among the largest state donors. High on that list would be the public service corporations, the public utilities and transportation companies. Clearly it is a threat to their influence if a subset of legislators refuses to take their money and makes it an issue, pressuring their peers to follow suit.
There can be a good case made for refusing public service corporation money. If the legislators are going to take that stand it needs to be consistent. If you decline APCO money you should decline Hunton Andrews Kurth money. There is no difference between Verizon and Dominion except that Verizon no longer enjoys a monopoly. It is still providing a necessity and is thus regulated, and it does come to the General Assembly seeking to set rules for the regulators or to give it advantages. The purity of the stance is also eroded by the acceptance of money from a party or caucus committee being funded heavily by regulated entities. (Just as the high-and-mighty stance by the law firm is also just a posture if it continues to support the parties.)
The bottom line is all the money, including money from people on any side of various issues, is intended to influence the process and usually does. Rather than everybody pontificating about what money is evil and what money is clean, it is time to start the conversation in Virginia about placing some reasonable limits on the amount of money any candidate or party committee can take from any person or corporation. Limit the money, limit the influence.There are currently no comments highlighted.