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Legislators in Virginia defeat a bill that would limit the use of campaign funds for personal use



Richmond, Virginia – Legislators in Virginia defeated legislation on Wednesday that would have banned public officials from using political contributions for personal expenses like mortgages, vacations, or gym memberships for another year.

As a national anomaly for not having such a ban, Virginia permits unrestricted contributions from people, businesses, and special interest groups. Proponents at the General Assembly have been attempting to impose personal use limitations on candidates’ spending for more than ten years.

As that provision was the final personal use restriction still in existence, their expectations that a bill would reach GOP Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s desk this year ended with Wednesday’s unrecorded voice vote in a House Appropriations Committee. Due to a lack of hearing, a different version was killed in the House of Delegates earlier in the session.

Democratic House Speaker Don Scott and Democratic Appropriations Committee Chair Del. Luke Torian expressed their desire for the bill to be passed the next year. He did not explain the wait.

“So this is going to be one of the priorities that will be before us during the 2025 session,” he said.

Representative Mark Sickles, a Democrat, made a “reluctant” motion to move the bill to the next year.

Legislators have frequently stated that they wish to address the problem but are putting off taking action. Youngkin’s office has stated merely that he will consider any legislation that comes over his desk; he has not publicly commented on the matter.

Senator Jennifer Boysko, a Democrat, was the sponsor of the defeated bill that would have prohibited candidates from using their campaign funds “to personal use,” which is defined as using them for a “commitment, obligation, or expense” that would exist “irrespective of the person’s seeking, holding, or maintaining public office.”

At the moment, politicians are only prohibited from using their campaign cash for personal expenses once they have closed their accounts. Certain lawmakers often used their campaign accounts to pay for expensive meals and lodging in addition to personal expenses, according to an Associated Press evaluation of the state’s campaign finance system conducted in 2016.

A list of costs that are prohibited is included in the bill, including country club memberships, vacations, apparel, non-campaign vehicles, and mortgages and rent. Child care expenses incurred directly from running for or holding public office are considered allowable expenses.
The bill would give the State Board of Elections the authority to look into complaints and, in certain cases, impose a civil penalty.

Republican Del. Paul Milde, a recently elected member of the House, stated during a prior hearing that he didn’t see why the bill was having problems.

“The only rationale I could see for some of us resisting this after 10 years is because they … want to have the flexibility to buy things that really aren’t campaign-related things. And I just can’t believe we can’t get together on this,” he said.

Boysko was unavailable for comment at the time of writing. His bill was approved by the Senate 35 to 4.

The failure of the measure coincides with two avenues that MPs have been pushing for commissioning assessments of their pay and recommendations for raises.



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