Yesterday, we posted on the new report which finds that Virginia is deep in the “S.W.A.M.P.” – appallingly, we’re one of the worst states in the country when it comes to ethics and transparency in government. There are many examples of how this lack of ethics and transparency play out, and none of them are good. Here’s just one example.
- Tommy Norment (R) is Virginia Senate Minority Leader, having also served as Senate Majority prior to January 2020. Just a reminder about who this guy is: Norment won’t discuss lobbyist relationship; Virginia’s ethical vacuum (“Norment accepted seven hunting trips worth about $19,000 between 2001 and 2007, and, since then, 12 trips that he described only as “travel,” worth $29,688. Three of those trips were each valued at more than $6,000.”); Five Reasons Why Virginia Senate Majority Leader Tommy Norment Hates News Media (“An affair, conflicts of interest and corporate donations dog him.”); etc. Slimy.
- Also note that Norment, in addition to his State Senator paycheck over the years, also earned a high salary from William & Mary (a public university, by the way): “[Norment] was a lecturer, taught government in the fall and worked with internship programs in the spring at a salary of $35,000”; “He previously also served as an adviser to President Taylor Reveley, earning $60,000, which The Daily Press newspaper reported in 2017 made Norment the highest-paid adjunct professor at William & Mary.”; “A decade ago, Norment drew scrutiny over a $160,000 salary he received from William & Mary to teach and be a legal adviser. His role as legal adviser was dropped, and his pay was reduced to $60,000.”
- And, as if all *that* weren’t enough, check this out from the February 22, 2015 Daily Press (bolding added by me for emphasis): “Senate Majority Leader Tommy Norment is commissioner of accounts for Williamsburg and James City County. Sen. Ryan McDougle, chairman of the Senate Republican caucus, is assistant commissioner of accounts for Hanover County. Commissioners of accounts and their assistants oversee the disposition of estates. The system relies heavily on public disclosure of officials’ personal finances, including income, debt, business interests and stock holdings. Yet when The Associated Press submitted open-records requests to Norment and McDougle asking how much they earned last year from their additional state jobs, they both declined to reveal the numbers…In the past, Norment has reported earning as much as $120,000 a year as commissioner of accounts…Commissioners’ fees are set by the judges who appoint them. The fees are paid by the heirs of the estate being settled…Norment and McDougle were appointed by local circuit judges whom they helped put on the bench in their role as lawmakers. The judges who appoint commissioners of accounts are appointed by the General Assembly. Norment and McDougle both sit on the Senate Courts of Justice Committee, which interviews and certifies candidates for judgeships.”
- To sum up what I just quoted and boldfaced: Virginia Senate Minority Leader Tommy Norment (R) – and also Sen. Ryan McDougle (R) – both have played a major role in interviewing/certifying judges who then appointed them and decided how much money Norment and McDougle would be paid to settle estates, as part of their jobs as commissioners of accounts.
- Does this all sound a bit odd to you? Sorta “S.W.A.M.P.”-like? Yep. And, sadly, this is just one of myriad examples of what a lack of transparency, ethics and oversight – plus, of course, unlimited campaign contributions from powerful corporations and wealthy individuals, basically unlimited lobbying by special interests, a part-time “citizen legislature” that doesn’t have nearly the resources that the wealthy individuals and corporations do, etc, etc. – can lead to. Time for some serious changes to Virginia’s ethics laws? Uhhh…yeah, ya think?!?