Something tells me we won’t be hearing Virginia politicians touting Virginia’s pathetically low ranking in terms of “corruption risk”, as they love to do with the supposed ranking of Virginia as the “best managed state in the country,” blah blah blah. To the stark contrary, this report finds that Virginia ranks #47 out of 50 states in terms of “corruption risk.” Why is this this the case?
The Old Dominion is one of nine states with no statewide ethics commission, one of four states with no campaign finance limits and one of only two states (South Carolina is the other) where the part-time legislators handpick the judges before whom many of them practice law.
With 8.1 million residents, Virginia is the 12th most populous state in the union. But its part-time lawmakers have one of the shortest meeting schedules in the country – 30 days in odd-numbered years and 60 days in even-numbered years. At that speed, lobbyists of necessity have been elevated from influence peddlers to trusted advisors and authors of laws, according to some veteran observers of the legislative process.
As an example of its shortcomings, lawmakers have exempted a key institution, the State Corporation Commission – which regulates businesses, utilities, financial institutions, insurance, railroads – from Virginia’s Freedom of Information Act. The Act does not apply to so-called “constitutional officers,” such as sheriffs, and its 31,000 prison inmates also are forbidden to make requests under the Act.
A couple more examples? How about Air Virginia Uranium, in which “legislators accepted a nearly $10,000 first-class junket to France from the uranium industry and are calling it a ‘fact-finding mission.'” As I wrote back in June 2011, this type of trip wouldn’t be kosher in almost any other state, as well it shouldn’t be. But here in Virginia? Enjoy the wine and cheese in gay Paris!
Another example: the huge sums of money given by Dominion Power to legislators and candidates of both parties for many years now. The result? Today, Virginia has no mandatory Renewable Portfolio Standard, no net metering, no serious energy efficiency standards or demand side management requirements, you name it.
Another example: as the state integrity investigation found, the right-wing extremist group ALEC – funded by the super-rich Koch brothers and other wealthy corporations – is busy wooing our legislators and writing our laws. Believe it or not, “Speaker William Howell is a member of ALEC’s national leadership team,” and “Over 50 bills drawn from ALEC sources have been introduced in the Virginia General Assembly in the past few years.”
That’s called “corruption” almost any way you want to look at it. No wonder why Virginia ranks #47 out of 50 states in “corruption risk.” Also, not coincidentally, do you think this might have just a wee bit to do with Virginia’s rank as one of the most “business friendly” (translation: letting corporations get away with murder, while screwing over workers) states in the country? Hmmmm.
P.S. Fortunately, we have a strong Attorney General focused on fighting for the people, for good/clean/open government, etc. Oh wait, we don’t have any of those things; instead, we have Ken Kookinelli letting corporations run amok. Someone please remind me, why did Virginians elect this tool over Steve Shannon?