Most recent newsletter: VA chapter of American Promise

Nancy Morgan, American Promise
 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Image

What's happening with getting money out of politics in Virginia?

An update from the VA chapter of America Promise

Dear Friend,

Boy, a challenging General Assembly if your goal is to get money out of politics!  Our American Promise group in Virginia worked so hard to raise visibility about the corrosive impact of money on our elections, our officials, and our public policies.  While we succeeded in raising awareness with a number of legislators, we were unable to find a champion for a state resolution supporting overturning Citizens United and ALL campaign finance bills were killed in the Privileges and Elections committees of the Virginia Senate and House of Delegates. 

Even so, we joined members of our new partnership dialogue platform on democracy reform in Virginia,  the "Virginia Swamp Busters", which consists of nearly two dozen grassroots democracy reform groups, in celebrating the passage of many "pro-democracy reform" bills passed such as "no excuse" early absentee voting. We are delighted that HB506 and HB1103 on ranked choice voting passed in the Senate and are now going to the Governor's desk. These bills propose options for localities to adopt ranked choice voting for town councils and board of supervisors. Others, such as the  Redistricting Constitutional Amendment, SJ18., are still in play, having been passed by the Senate but not the House. 

Joining 20 other states to introduce a resolution endorsing overturning Citizens United

We hoped to have Virginia become the 21st state to pass a resolution supporting an amendment to the U.S. Constitution which would effectively invalidate the 2010 Supreme Court's Citizens United ruling by authorizing Congress to put in place campaign finance rules. Yet, this year, we couldn't find a champion to introduce the resolution. Along with our Wolfpac colleagues, we discussed the introduction of such a bill with Del Sam Rasoul who had previously introduced a binding resolution, i.e. linked to an Article 5 convention. We contacted other Delegates, including Del Dan Helmer (40th District), Del. Elizabeth Guzman (District 31), and Del Shelley Simonds (District 94) about championing the resolution without any luck.  But the effort continues, so if you have ideas on possible champions, let us know. We are non-partisan and would love to identify Republican potential sponsors. 

Status of campaign finance bills

Virginia is a state, unique in our country, where officials are bound by no limits on campaign contributions which they can then put to personal use. Historically, this situation has allowed business and special interest to dictate state pipeline policies, under-fund schools, and keep tobacco taxes low while payday interest rates remain  high.  

There were good campaign finance bills introduced into the General Assembly this year which ranged from limitations on campaign contributions, banning donations from public service corporations, improving disclosure of donors, restricting personal use of contributions and allowing localities to implement public financing of elections.

The only two campaign finance bills which actually were discussed and came to a vote in the Senate Privileges  and Elections Committee (see below) died an early death.  The House of Delegates had a number of  good bills which never came to a vote because of the early demise of bills in the Senate. 

 

1) Sen Peterson's bill (SB488) put $20,000 limits on campaign contributions. This bill rolled in other bills with lower contribution limits, such as that of Sen Ebbin (SB889).  In order to get a discussion on the bill, Senator Peterson had to raise the contribution limits to twice the level proposed in his original bill. $20,000 is about 5 times the national average and it exceeds the national record of $13,200 (Ohio).

 

The bill was defeated 9-6 with 3 Democrats voting with Republicans to kill the bill. (YEAS--Deeds, Ebbin, Surovell, Mason, McClellan, Boysko--6; NAYS--Howell, Vogel, Reeves, Chafin, Ruff, Spruill, Peake, McDougle, Bell--9).

2) Another bill patroned by Sen. Peterson (SB25)  banned contributions from public service corporations.  After considerable testimony supporting the bill, it was voted down 10-5. It is quite noteworthy that all of the 10 legislators who voted against the bill all received quite substantial contributions from Dominion Energy.

 

This bill had a companion bill (HB111) in the House of Delegates (patroned by Del Joshua Cole). Neither this bill, nor another excellent bill (HB895, patroned by Del Mark Levine) which would limit campaign finance contributions, were reviewed by the sub-committee on campaign finance.  

 

But we worked hard to build our visibility, developed partnerships and learned some good lessons!

 

Building Awareness is the Entry Point for Action

Over the past year, we organized more than 15 outreach events around northern Virginia and beyond which included:

The showing of the documentary Dark Money in Arlington, Winchester, Staunton, and Madison. We will show the film in Winchester on March 26th.

Documenting success stories: Two events were organized with Hedrick Smith; we showed his "People Power" videos and more recently, in collaboration with Transparent GMU at George Mason University,  his PBS documentary "Democracy Rebellion".

Image
Image

We got over 10 letters to the editor published, including the following which were published on the 10th anniversary of Citizens United:  

 

Building partnerships is critical.

Our newly-created "Virginia Swamp Busters" platform, a "democracy reform" dialogue platform for grassroots groups around Virginia, proved a useful tool for sharing information on the status of bills being introduced in the General Assembly, thus strengthening our advocacy efforts.

We used it to organize a "democracy reform" evening in Richmond with our partners, including RepresentUS, Clean Money Squad, and others. The airing of a new documentary "UnRepresented" was held on January 28th (one week after the 10th anniversary of Citizens United) at Virginia Commonwealth University. It  was followed by a panel of discussants, including Jeff Thomas, the author of the Virginia Way,  Del Sam Rasoul (District 11, Roanoke), American PromiseVirginia 2021, and FairVote. The discussion was chaired by Andrew Rodney, the executive director of the documentary. 

Image

We participated in events highlighting the need for campaign finance reform on the 10th anniversary of Citizens United. In addition, we organized learning sessions with organizations such as the Campaign Legal Center and the Coalition for Integrity while drawing on knowledge from APAs in other states, such as Minnesota and Michigan.

 

letter- writing platform was designed to facilitate messaging between constituents and their Virginia legislators on the issue of getting big money out of politics.  Over 120 letters were sent in support of priority campaign finance bills and the need for a Virginia resolution to "get big money out of politics" through a constitutional amendment. 

Image
 

Members of our group also participated in the House hearing, held in mid-February, by the Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Civil Liberties. Written and oral testimony was shared, including from American Promise, on the need for amending the Constitution to allow for regulating campaign financing.

 

Building  Linkages with Legislators and their Staff Generates Champions.

 

Over the past six months, we organized around 15 meetings with Virginia legislators.  Then, in October, between 15-20 Virginians, including 4 high school students,  attended the annual America Promise conference during which we met with our 2 Senators and 5 Representatives in Congress to discuss supporting  the House Resolution 2.  This resolution proposes a constitutional amendment to authorize limits on campaign finance. There are currently 214 House co-sponsors, including 6 of the 11 Representatives from Virginia. Our thanks to Reps. Beyer, Connolly, Wexton, McEachin. Scott, Spanberger for their support.

 

 

Image

On January 29th, we visited with our legislators in Richmond to emphasize the importance of passing the various campaign finance bills currently in-committee. We brought attention to our message by distributing cupcakes and dollar bill shaped sugar cookies.

 

Of course, our campaign finance champions in the House of Delegates and the Senate, such as Del Marcus Simon (see photo below), Sen Chap Peterson, Del Sam Rasoul, Del Mark Levine, and Sen Adam Ebbin got extra cookies! 

Meeting with Del Marcus Simon
Image

We delivered petitions supporting campaign finance reform and the passage of a resolution to get big money out of politics. These petitions, signed by over 400 Virginia citizens, were delivered to Governor Northum as well as the chairpersons of the Privileges and Elections committees in both the Senate and the House.

Image

And we enjoyed the camaraderie while lobbying with our colleagues from RepresentUS such as David Denham (Roanoke) and Rick Kenski (Northern Neck). 

Image
 

JOIN US FOR "ROUND TWO" IN THE FIGHT TO GET BIG MONEY OUT OF VIRGINIA POLITICS.

WHAT CAN YOU DO?

1)    SEND A MESSAGE TO YOUR VIRGINIA LEGISLATORS EXPRESSING YOUR DISAPPOINTMENT ON THE LACK OF SUPPORT FOR CAMPAIGN FINANCE REFORM.    CLICK HERE   TO USE OUR LETTER WRITING PLATFORM.

2) ATTEND LOCAL TOWN HALLS AND BRING UP THE NEED FOR CAMPAIGN FINANCE REFORM.  USE OUR TALKING POINTS.

3)    CONTACT US TO GET MORE INFORMATION ABOUT OUR GROUP: AMERICANPROMISEVA@...

4)    JOIN OUR VIRGINIA SWAMP BUSTERS SITE TO ENGAGE IN ADVOCACY ON DEMOCRACY REFORM INITIATIVES IN VIRGINIA.

 

5)    SEND A MESSAGE TO YOUR REPRESENTATIVES IN THE U.S. CONGRESS TO ASK THEM TO SUPPORT THE AMENDMENT PROPOSAL (HJR2).

 
Image
 

Want more information?  Join our FACEBOOK or the Virginia Swamp Busters

Send us an email at americanpromiseva@...

Sent Via ActionNetwork.org. To update your email address, change your name or address, or to stop receiving emails from American Promise VA, please click here.

Join main@VirginiaSwampBusters.groups.io to automatically receive all group messages.