A new version of the “S.W.A.M.P” (“States With Anti-Corruption Measures for Public Officials) Index is now available, and Virginia comes off looking…not good, to put it mildly. [note: h/t to RTD reporter Patrick Wilson for tweeting about this] The index is “a comparative scorecard which rates 50 States and the District of Columbia based on the laws and regulations governing ethics and transparency in the executive and legislative branches.” So how did Virginia fare this year? Check it out:
- First, here’s the national map, which has Virginia at a pathetic #46, between Georgia and Utah, with a score of 33. That compares to a score of 80 for Washington State, 78 for Rhode Island, 75 for California, 74 for Kansas, etc. Heck even Alabama’s at 46 – not great, but 13 points better than Virginia! Embarrassing.
- But wait, you say, surely things must be getting better in Virginia, right? As you can see from the following chart…nope, they are most definitely NOT getting better, with an overall decline of two points from 2018, including a 1.5-point drop on “Are elected and appointed executive branch officials and legislators prohibited from accepting gifts from high-risk sources (lobbyists, lobbyists’ principals, government contractors) in an aggregate of $250 or more?” Not cool at all.
- Now, for the gory details about Virginia’s pathetically weak ethics and transparency situation…see below and also click here for the full report.
- Among other problems, Virginia is one of only four states that have ethics agencies which “have no ability to sanction or impose fines.” Powerless, in other words. Why even bother having an ethics agency if it doesn’t have enforcement powers? Total joke.
- More on this: “Michigan, Utah, Vermont and Virginia have no power to sanction ethical violations. Vermont and Virginia do not even have the power to investigate complaints.” Pathetic.
- Even more of a joke: “Eight states with independent ethics agencies did not have statutory protections from removal without cause for their members (Alabama, Colorado, Connecticut, Georgia, Indiana, Nevada, Oregon and Virginia).” Ugh.
- Also bad: “North Dakota and Virginia scored zero because they do not require entities making independent expenditures to report any information about their contributors.”
- This is utterly ridiculous as well: “Nine states (Arizona, Idaho, Kentucky, Michigan, Missouri, North Carolina, Virginia, West Virginia and Wisconsin) require disclosure of funders of political advertisements in print media, radio and television, but not over the Internet.“
- The bottom line: Virginia has sucked for decades – under “Byrd Machine” and Republican misrule, plus some Dems (e.g., Senate Majority Leader Dick Saslaw, who thinks we don’t need no stinkin’ ethics laws!) – when it comes to ethics and transparency (and campaign finance law, etc.), and these problems aren’t likely to be resolved overnight. But…c’mon folks, we’ve got to do better than this!