NPR: Committee Rejects Ban on Public Utility Campaign Contributions

By Saraya Wintersmith

The Senate committee that deals with elections and conflicts of interest has voted down a measure that would’ve blocked campaign donations from public service corporations. The bill, SB 10, was a second attempt by Fairfax Senator Chap Petersen. When rolling out his legislative agenda last May, he said the donation ban would be a priority issue or him for this session.

“We need to step back and look at how much power and influence is being wielded by these monopolies,” he said. Back then, Petersen stressed that even-though Dominion Energy is often cited in talks about the issue because of its frequent, bi-partisan political campaign contributions, he doesn’t mean to bad-mouth the company or its employees.

“Let me dispel any inference – ANY inference – that Dominion or the people that work for Dominion is a bad company or that they’re doing anything nefarious. It’s not true. They’re following the law and their lobbyists are representing their clients’ interests and that’s exactly what they’re supposed to do and my hat is off to them for the great work that they’re doing. My problem is with the system that gives them too much power.”

According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, Virginia is one of 6 states that allows corporations to contribute an unlimited amount of money to state campaigns. 22 states bar corporations from contributing to political campaigns, and another 22 impose the same limits for individual and corporate contributions.

During the 2017 campaign season, more than a dozen House of Delegates candidates pledged not to take money from Dominion or Appalachian Power. 13 of those candidates won their races. Additionally, then-candidate Ralph Northam called for a ban on corporate campaign contributions in Virginia and a $10,000 cap on individual donations. Petersen echoed those thoughts when he presented the bill to the Senate Privileges and Elections Committee Tuesday evening. He bought no witnesses and said he didn’t expect the bill to pass.

“But I’m here today to tell you that I think this is an important issue and I’d appreciate your consideration,” he said. “If you could poke holes in this bill saying there are ways to get around it, you are absolutely correct – absolutely correct. I will also say that, are there first amendment issues? I’m sure someone’s going to bring that argument up, I’d say we have limits on contributions in every state, as well as at the federal level – we had someone who just ran for governor talking about prohibiting ALL corporate contributions, okay. I’m not looking to do that, I am looking at prohibiting contributions from this class of companies.”

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http://ideastations.org/radio/news/assembly-2018-committee-rejects-ban-public-utility-campaign-contributions

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