RICHMOND — A campaign finance reform bill passed two legislative committees with unanimous support, but appears to be dying without a vote in the House Appropriations Committee.
The bill, introduced by Rep. Marcus Simon, D-Fairfax, would prohibit politicians from using campaign funds for personal expenses such as mortgage or rent payments, clothing or tuition. The bill passed the House Privileges and Elections subcommittee and the full committee with unanimous support and was referred to the Appropriations Committee on January 30, where it has not received a hearing or a vote.
“I think we’re all pretty surprised,” said BigMoneyOutVA coordinator Nancy Morgan. “It’s disrespectful to the voters. It’s disingenuous and it’s opaque. If they don’t want this bill, don’t introduce it and vote for it.”
The bill cannot be considered in the House because it is stuck in the Appropriations Committee. Crossover day is Tuesday. This means that bills that have not been passed by their respective chambers by that date cannot advance to the other body.
Sen. Jennifer Boysko (D-Fairfax) has introduced an identical bill. The bill passed the Senate for a third time on Tuesday on a 35-4 vote and will now move on to other chambers. But the House bill’s stalled momentum means Mr. Boisko’s bill could face a similar fate if it goes beyond that.
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Rep. Luke Torian, a Dumfries Democrat and chairman of the Appropriations Committee, did not respond to a request for comment Friday.
The bill has 26 co-sponsors in the House, including Democrats Phil Hernandez of Norfolk, Shelley Simmons of Newport News and Nadarius Clark of Suffolk. Republican Mike Cherry of Colonial Heights and Democrat Kelly Convilles Fowler of Virginia Beach are the lead co-sponsors.
“I am disappointed that this policy did not make it through the legislative process,” Converse Fowler said Friday.
Virginia’s campaign finance rules are among the laxest in the nation. Politicians can legally use campaign contributions for basically anything they want, and there are no restrictions on who they can donate to or how much they can donate. Candidates report their spending, but reporting requirements are vague, often making it unclear what specific items were purchased and how they relate to their campaigns. .
Bills to tighten the rules have been in the General Assembly for more than a decade, but never made it to the governor’s desk.
Morgan said BigMoneyOutVA, a nonpartisan organization that advocates for government transparency and funding cuts, feels optimistic this year after the strong support shown in the committee.
“Everyone is disappointed. We want to know from members of Congress why this bill is not moving forward (to a vote),” she said. “The people want campaign finance reform.”
A 2021 poll conducted by Christopher Newport University’s Wayson Center for Civic Leadership found that 73% of those surveyed in Virginia support banning the private use of campaign funds.
Janet Boyd, director of voter services for the League of Women Voters of Virginia, said her organization is also disappointed. The League is a nonpartisan organization that works to protect democracy and the right to vote.
“We were in support of it, but we’re very frustrated about the whole thing,” she said. “The Senate has moved further, so maybe we can still do something.”
In recent years, some opponents of tighter regulation have argued that it could confuse well-meaning lawmakers. Some said donors should trust the politicians they choose to support.
According to data posted on the National Conference of State Legislatures website, 44 states have regulations governing the use of campaign funds, with most states allowing funds to be used only for expenditures reasonably related to election activities. ing.
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