The Virginia Senate GOP is questioning General Assembly Democrats’ commitment to campaign finance reform after the inaugural meeting of the Joint Subcommittee on Campaign Finance Reform was rescheduled from Monday morning while a Democratic fundraiser breakfast went forward.
“Evidently, Democrats are very enthusiastic about limiting campaign donations to politicians who aren’t Democrats,” Senate Minority Leader Thomas Norment, Jr. (R-James City) said in a Monday press release. “Today’s cancellation is a reminder of their true priorities related to campaign funding: raising as much money as possible to elect Democrats.”
According to a flyer, the Democratic Caucus’ Commonwealth Victory Fund breakfast was scheduled to run from 8 a.m. to 9:30 a.m., and tickets started at $500. Emails shared by the Senate GOP show that the meeting was originally scheduled for 9:30 a.m. Monday. On Friday, Delegate Marcus Simon (D-Fairfax) sent a follow-up email.
“So as not to interfere with the special session schedule, we will not have the Campaign Finance Reform Subcommittee on Monday August 2nd,” Simon wrote.
“Showing an epic lack of self-awareness and zero sense of irony, Democrats cancelled the Campaign Finance Reform Subcommittee meeting without referencing the scheduled fundraiser. Make no mistake, Democrats continue to prioritize their ability to collect donations above their publicly expressed support of ‘reform,’ Norment said.
Senator Creigh Deeds (D-Bath) is the chair of the Senate Committee on Privileges and Elections. He and Norment are both members of the finance reform subcommittee. Deed has pushed for campaign finance reform. He said the breakfast has been a regular part of Democratic Caucus fundraising for years.
“You don’t have to start from where the press release did,” Deeds told The Virginia Star. “Look at the voting records. See who’s voted to limit campaign finance contributions. I’ve voted for restrictions for years. I’ve voted for things that those folks have not, including limiting contributions from utilities, to regulate monopolies. They’ve not done that.”
The subcommittee was established with the passage of Delegate David Bulova’s (D-Fairfax) HJ 526 in February. The subcommittee will study the costs of campaigning in Virginia, effectiveness of current disclosure law, and possible future reforms to promote integrity in campaign finance. Its first meeting has been rescheduled for August 23.
Bills to regulate campaign finance have struggled in recent General Assembly sessions, often killed in committee. Republicans and Democrats alike regularly accept large donations from utilities like Dominion Energy, despite a progressive push to end the practice.
“Campaign finance reform in Virginia is like the movie ‘Groundhog Day,'” said Nancy Morgan, coordinator of the Virginia chapter of American Promise, progressive watchdog Sludge reported in March. “Bills are introduced, but they never get out of subcommittee.”
According to VPAP data, in 2021 more Democrats than Republicans introduced reform bills, but most died in committee in the Democrat-controlled legislature. Still, a study like the one the finance reform committee will produce is often the first step to enacting legislation.
Deeds said, “I guess it’s kind of like you put your money where your mouth is, not necessarily where you say it is. Do the analysis. Look at the votes.”