Home 2023 Elections A Money Arms Race of Our Own General Assembly’s Making

A Money Arms Race of Our Own General Assembly’s Making

"Virginians Call for Candidates to Commit to Campaign Finance Reform"

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From BigMoneyOutVA:

Enough is enough! Virginians are tired of the escalating cost of our state election campaigns. For decades Virginia legislators have failed in their responsibility to clean up state campaign finance laws, which are rated as some of the nation’s weakest. Let’s make the 2023 election a forum on good governance, a concept that requires government officials to make laws for the benefit of all citizens, not just their wealthy donors.
November’s election is expected to be one of the most competitive in a generation because of recent voting district reforms and a record number of incumbent retirements.  Because of lax campaign finance laws, Virginia is now witnessing some of the most expensive races in the country, with the cost of the last Gubernatorial race in 2021 reaching over $140 million, more than races in California, Florida, and Texas. This year is unlikely to be an exception to this trend. The Virginia Public Access Project estimates that between January 1, 2022 and March 31, 2023 Virginia’s legislative candidates raised a collective $37 million. This is a 50% increase from 2019, the last election in which all 140 General Assembly seats were on the ballot. Sitting legislators continue to enjoy a huge advantage, but newcomers vying for open seats saw the biggest surge in donations.
Meanwhile, money is flooding into the war chests of political action committees (PACs). The Spirit of Virginia, Governor’s Youngkin’s PAC, has received donations totaling over $10 million since 2021. Contributions to Youngkin’s PAC often range between $100,000-$200,000 per individual, thanks to our General Assembly’s resistance to setting campaign limits. VPAP estimates that this is more than the combined contributions from our past three governors: McDonnell, McAuliffe, and Northam. Just this week, the Spirit of Virginia received $1 million from Florida billionaire GOP donor, Thomas Peterffy.
Meanwhile, Dominion Energy’s war chest of nearly $7 million is pumping money into the coffers of senior incumbent legislators while the $11 million of Clean Virginia, its founder, Michael Bills, and his wife, Sonjia Smith, are funding competing candidates. Winners of the million-dollar-candidate club, i.e. those incumbents who generated over a million dollars in donations over the past 15 months, can be found on VPAP. These contributions largely come from businesses/special interests, including Dominion Energy. Ask these candidates if they support campaign finance reform!
Most states don’t have “the sky is the limit” ground rules and the Virginia legislature can do better for its citizens. Thus far, over 50 candidates (16% of the 301 candidates running for office) have signed the BigMoneyOutVA pledge which endorses campaign finance reform and the passage of a state resolution supporting a U.S. Constitutional amendment allowing Congress and the states to again regulate election spending.
As Tim Anderson, Republican candidate for Virginia Senate from Virginia Beach states, “Most of the dysfunction of government comes from the undue influence of large campaign contributions. Virginia has no limits on donations and office holders are many times installed by millionaires.” Fairfax Democrat candidate, David Bulova added, “…the spiraling cost of campaigning serves as a strong barrier to otherwise qualified people running for public office. It is long past time to make meaningful campaign finance reforms.”
Because of the large candidate turnover in the 2023 election, citizens now have an opportunity and a role in making the politicians commit to taking action to get big money out of politics, thus allowing the voices of average citizens to be heard. Nearly 80% of Virginians, irrespective of party, want to curtail the influence of large campaign donors.  Those citizens should ask the candidates running for office in their new districts to sign this pledge, as have more than 50 of their colleagues.
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BigMoneyOutVA is a non-partisan group which champions good governance and transparency in Virginia, while promoting increased public discourse between citizens of the Commonwealth and their legislators. Follow us on Twitter: @MoneyOutVA
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