Chap’s Take on The Homestead

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    I’ve already given my reasons why I think NLS’ “The Homestead” story matters. Now, one of the people I respect the most in Virginia politics, Sen. Chap Petersen (D-34th), has weighed in with his thoughts as well. Chap’s main points are:

    *He doesn’t believe The Homestead is “a precise fit (to put it mildly) with the Democratic brand which is giving a voice to working people.”

    *He “largely agree[s] with the criticisms” made “on the liberal blogs” (note: do we ever see criticism of Republican schmoozefests with corporate lobbyists on the Republican blogs?  Hmmmm.)

    *Overall, activities at The Homestead were “pretty mundane” – cocktail parties, skeet shooting, wild orgies. OK, that last one is a joke, which is pretty much Chap’s entire point, that this thing isn’t really as nefarious as it sounds on the surface. That’s fine, but I’m still not sure why we all shouldn’t be uncomfortable about our elected officials hobnobbing for several days at a swanky resort with corporate lobbyists, in the absence of any media “sunshine” on the whole thing.

    *Finally, Chap repeats his call to reform Virginia’s lax campaign finance “laws that permit unlimited donations, both personal and corporate.” Unfortunately, Chap points out, as long as the system remains intact, he has little choice but to operate within it. Which is exactly why we need reform, such as a system of public financing, for our electoral process. In short, we need to separate our elected officials from the powerful and the wealthy, so that they respond proportionally more to the “regular people” rather than those who can afford to buy access.  Even if there are many good politicians, like Chap Petersen and Donald McEachin out there, who are ethical despite the system, that doesn’t mean everyone else is like Chap and Donald.  Regardless, we should change the system so that we get rid of even the appearance of impropriety.  We should do this, but I’m not holding my breath that we will, at least anytime soon, in Virginia. Sigh.

    • Dan Sullivan

      are hailed as evidence of achievement. The new gold standard in Virginia is becoming a lobbyist. Just look at Terri Suit who climbed that ladder through the General Assembly to a position of real influence.

    • Peter 2010

      A retreat for an entire branch of our state legislature from which the press and the public are barred is wrong. Regrettably, these retreats have become a habit for our Democratic legislators. These retreats are symbols of the “old Virginia”. Kudos to Chap Petersen for his call to end these cultural artifacts of an era best left behind.

    • TomPaine

      some sanity about the political realities of campaign financing!

      Sometimes one has to consider the source of political muckraking, particularly when the source is a well-know dsiaffected Democrat whose financial supporter in the muckraking venture is a far right-wing organization.

    • kindler

      …when you’re in the system of which they are a part. That’s how it works — the lobbyist becomes your buddy, offers you a ride, goes out drinking with you and suddenly he’s not the paid representative of the payday lending industry anymore — he’s my pal Joe!

      And that’s when it’s most effective for the lobbyists — when the lines become so blurred that the special interests and the pols just become one big happy family.

      The way VA politics is currently structured, it’s almost unavoidable. You need a thoroughly uncorruptible reformer to get in there and change this system, until which time it’s just a hopeless swamp.  But as I said before, such a reformer would really stand out and could be a force to reckon with — if and when we find such a person.  

    • TomPaine

      No, we need a miracle!

      There are a lot of good ethical legislators in Virginia, even a few Republicans, but there are not a majority in either house!  

      Nothing will ever be done to solve this problem until Santa Clara, Buckley v. Valeo and Citizen’s United are overruled by the Supreme Court or by a constitutional amendment. The die has been cast by those decisions.  

    • Peter 2010

      The U.S. Supreme Court’s ill-considered campaign finance decisions, and the difficulty in overturning them, actually make the case stronger for doing away with the Democratic legislative retreats at the Homestead. Virginia’a Democratic leadership doesn’t need a federal Constitutional amendment to end this vestigial practice. Just say STOP!