Bill to reform campaign spending advances in Virginia House of Delegates

January 19, 2024
 |
Virginia Capitol Building

BY SARAH RANKIN

Updated 10:26 AM EST, January 17, 2024

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — Virginia elected officials would be prohibited from spending their campaign funds on personal expenses such as mortgages, vacations or gym memberships under a bill a House subcommittee advanced on a bipartisan basis Wednesday.

Virginia is a national outlier for lacking such a law already. It’s something good governance advocates have long sought but lawmakers at the General Assembly have killed over and over for more than a decade, despite a bipartisan insistence that they want to find compromise on a reform.

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“This is a simple guardrail to build trust and confidence,” said Nancy Morgan, an advocate with BigMoneyOutVA, a group that has advocated for a range of campaign finance and transparency reforms.

Morgan pleaded with the panel to “please” advance the bill “so we as citizens don’t have to come back year after year requesting its passage.”

The bill includes a list of expenses that would be prohibited, such as home mortgages, rent, clothing, a non-campaign vehicle expense, a country club membership or a vacation. It also enumerates allowable expenses, which would include child care costs incurred as a direct result of the person seeking, holding or maintaining public office.

The State Board of Elections would investigate complaints and may require repayment if it finds a violation that it determines was not willful. If the board found a willful violation, it would be required to direct the candidate to repay the “amount unlawfully converted” and may assess a civil penalty that would be capped at $10,000, according to the text of the bill.

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