I frequently visit VPAP.org for information on campaign and lobbying expenditures; data that is required to be filed with the state and which the Virginia Public Access Project (VPAP.org) then puts up on its user friendly website.
When I looked for lobbying expenditure data on the VPAP website the end last year, perennial top spender Dominion VA Power had been bumped from the #1 position in 2014 by the Koch Bros’ Americans for Prosperity which was out to kill “Obamacare.”
If you visit VPAP.org today that data is gone, and the only lobbying related data provided is for gifts and entertainment lavished on our legislators. The total cost of lobbying programs is no longer up on the site, even though this data is reported to Office of the Secretary of the Commonwealth.
When I inquired with VPAP about the absence of this data, their response was: “We made a decision to no longer include the total expenditure numbers on the site. They are essentially meaningless because of inconsistencies in the way lobbyist compensation is reported.” In other words, the law is so poor that data is not reliable.
After seeing our immediate past Governor convicted of corruption, another way to look at it is that Virginia is so corrupt that it is no longer worth keeping score.
However flawed the data, it is what the registered lobbyists report to the Secretary of Commerce, and that data deserves to be accessible.
At least for now, campaign expenditures are still reported on VPAP.org. And Virginia’s largest polluter, Dominion Virginia Power, remains the #1 non-political party affiliated spender at over $1.2 million for 2014– over 5 times more than the next largest contributor–coal giant Alpha Natural Resources at $224,000 and cancer facilitator Altria at $220,000.
I’m not sure how we’ll fill the data gap now that VPAP has stopped reporting lobbying expenditures. At least for the dirty energy polluters like Dominion and Alpha, Sierra Club will be pulling the reports from the office of the Secretary of the Commonwealth and putting the data on our website. Look for that data on our website in the near future.