To the editor:
Recently I discovered that my beloved Virginia ranks in the bottom 10 in state campaign finance and disclosure laws, as there are no limits on campaign contributions and no restrictions on personal use of donations. We have increasing levels of dark money flowing into the state without any disclosure mechanism and limited oversight by the Department of Elections.
During the last election cycle, according to OpenSecrets, a nonprofit, bipartisan organization tracking money in politics, the cost of the 2021 Virginia gubernatorial race was nearly $188 million, one of the most expensive in the country. As the cost of elections has risen, so has the role of big donors. While you and I and most individuals give $200 or less, this is less than 10% of the money funding our elections. An eye-popping estimate by OpenSecrets reveals that nearly two-thirds of the money raised in 2021 by state candidates in Virginia came from large donors contributing more than $50,000.
The Virginia General Assembly in its current session is considering 13 common sense campaign finance bills. These include bills to establish caps on contributions, improve disclosure of dark money, prohibit foreign money in our elections and restrict the personal use of campaign donations, among others. Last year, similar bills were introduced, and they were all killed.
Meanwhile, it is noteworthy, since Jan. 21 was the 13th anniversary of Citizens United, a Supreme Court ruling that unleashed a torrent of money in our elections, that Delegate Vivian Watts has introduced a resolution that calls on Virginia’s House of Delegates to support an amendment to the U.S. Constitution allowing the states and Congress to regulate election spending.
I urge everyone to let their state senator and delegate know this is the time to reform Virginia’s lax election laws.
-Eugenia Burkes member, Big Money Out of Politics – Virginia