Home Virginia Politics Fishy Business: GOP state Senator files bill to aid contributor’s seafood company

Fishy Business: GOP state Senator files bill to aid contributor’s seafood company

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[cross-posted at DLCC.org]

The day after we noted Virginia GOP state Senator Tommy Norment’s connection to ongoing pay-for-play scandals among Republican state legislators, Jon Cawley of the Hampton Roads Daily Press noted an odd piece of legislation filed by Senator Norment – seemingly for the benefit of a single individual:
At issue is Senate Bill 1190 that Norment introduced Wednesday. The bill, that has been referred to the Committee on Agriculture, Conservation and Natural Resources, would introduce new regulations regarding aquaculture and silviculture.
 
But that's not the rub. Some residents and at least one county official contend the bill benefits a particular York County resident — Greg Garrett.
 
In part, the bill states that “no locality may restrict shellfish aquaculture operations on privately-owned riparian land…”
 
But what's that have to do with Garrett? (…)
 
“Upfront, I must say that Bill 1190 appears to be an unnecessary intrusion into local government,” [county Supervisor Tom] Shepperd wrote, in an e-mail to Norment. “Also of concern is, why this bill now? It follows on the heels of a York County rejected special use permit, which can easily be interpreted as a slap in the face of local government and a special action for a single resident.”
That permit had been requested by – you guessed it – Greg Garrett. But that doesn’t answer Supervisor Shepperd’s question, “why this bill now?” We decided to find out.
 
A quick check of campaign finance reports reveals that Sen. Norment received a campaign contribution from Mr. Garrett just three weeks before Norment filed the bill to allow Garrett to circumvent the judgment of his local zoning officials.
 
What’s more, we quickly discovered that Garrett has actually donated to Norment’s campaigns for years. There were at least four other donations over the course of the 2007 cycle, as well. And since the campaign finance reports covering January of 2011 are not yet due, it’s possible that Norment took more money from Mr. Garrett even closer to the date he introduced this legislation.
 
Senator Norment is quickly becoming the Virginia Senate’s most ethically-challenged member. He’s already been caught taking a $160,000 salary from the College of William & Mary and then trying (and failing) to send the school $20 million in taxpayer money, despite written warnings from then-Attorney General Bob McDonnell that the law required him to stay out of those discussions. Now there’s evidence that he may be using his office to do special favors for longtime campaign contributors.
 
At what point will the stench of corruption surrounding Senator Norment be too much for Virginia voters to tolerate?