Joint Subcommittee on Campaign Finance Reform
June 27, 2001, Richmond
At its first meeting this interim, staff reviewed the subcommittee's recommended legislation to the 2001 session and the actions taken by the General Assembly. In sum, the legislature passed the resolution to continue the study, increased penalties for disclosure violations, authorized the State Board and local boards to review disclosure forms for obvious errors, required Internet posting of filing violations, and tightened the disclosure provisions on credit card expenditures and filing deadlines. The legislature turned down subcommittee recommendations to reduce the number of handwritten reports, mandate electronic filings in most General Assembly contests, and initiate a compliance review process for disclosure reports.
The State Board of Elections presented a list of requested revisions and clarifications in the Campaign Finance Disclosure Act, which the subcommittee took under advisement.
The subcommittee agreed to conduct four public hearings throughout the state in the Roanoke, Tidewater, Northern Virginia and Richmond areas. Two of the hearings (Tidewater and Richmond) will be combined with subcommittee work sessions.
July 25, 2001, Roanoke
Representatives of the League of Women Voters, American Association of University Women, Common Cause, the Virginia Network for Campaign Reform and several citizens spoke at the joint subcommittee's public hearing in support of campaign contribution and spending limits. Each cited studies, polls, or their personal belief that the present lack of limits undermines voter confidence. Voters are convinced that large contributions buy access or even legislative votes.
A speaker suggested that the donor community (i.e., campaign contributors) should be represented on the joint subcommittee because of their concerns with the pressure to make frequent, large contributions.
One speaker observed that Virginia has taken steps to regulate push-polls, eliminate out-of-state operations to launder campaign funds in Virginia, and improve the campaign finance disclosure process. He cited the need for revisions to clarify the Campaign Finance Disclosure Act and adequate resources for the State Board of Elections to administer present campaign finance laws and any additional responsibilities associated with further needed reforms.
Another speaker advocated reductions in the paperwork for local candidates and criticized the volume and complexity of the disclosure reporting requirements, especially for small campaigns staffed by volunteers.