James Madison would be disappointed

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James Madison would be disappointed
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To the editor:

National Sunshine Week, which is from March 10 to March 16, was established to honor James Madison’s birthday and the importance of state open records laws. This event brings together journalists, civil society organizations, local government groups and the private sector to highlight the importance of government transparency.

Yet, secrecy was at the forefront of our last General Assembly when all of the common-sense campaign finance bills introduced died in darkness. Four out of five Virginians, irrespective of party, as revealed by 2021 Wason Center polling, believe that large donors have too much influence in our elections.

Recognizing that Virginia is one out of five states which has no limits on campaign contributions and is ranked 46 out of 50 in the 2020 SWAMP Index, they support capping donations while nearly 90% of voters agree with the need for total disclosure of contributions.

They say “yes” to forcing disclosure of dark money election advertising, banning contributions from state-regulated utilities and restricting the personal use of campaign funds. Yet the bills introduced this session languished in committee. A limits bill wasn’t even allowed a hearing while bills linked to Dominion Energy, which specifically ban contributions from public utilities, died without votes.

James Madison would agree with Virginians that all citizens deserve to have the ability to see who is funding all of their elected officials. The “democracy dies in darkness” techniques used this session to kill these bills is disgraceful.

Our founding fathers who recognized the perils of political parties would be disappointed by our legislators’ lack of transparency to voters. Yet in Virginia, reform is impossible when big donors pull all the strings while powerful legislators who receive large donations kill bills that would build voter confidence in our democratic system.

Tell your legislators that you support the “sunshine” factor.

-Nancy Morgan, Alexandria

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