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Campaign funds reform bill in Virginia advances with bipartisan support

(Photo courtesy - Capital News Service)
(Photo courtesy - Capital News Service)

One-time New York Representative George Santos may be out of Congress, but the allegations of his use of campaign funds for personal spending continues to reverberate through the Virginia General Assembly.

“It’s a new day in Virginia, alright,” said Newport News-area Democratic Delegate Cia Price after her committee passed a  bill to tighten Virginia’s campaign finance laws with bipartisan support Friday morning.

This story was reported and written by Radio IQ

The Commonwealth is unique for having a personal use exception for campaign funds. That means if an elected official spends money on fancy shoes or a mortgage, it’s technically legal.

But such spending is illegal pretty much everywhere else, including the U.S. Congress, which led to former rep George Santos facing multiple federal charges. Santos has since pleaded not guilty to the claims.

Fairfax-area Democratic Delegate Marcus Simon has been fighting to close the Virginia loophole for years, and his argument was buttressed by a campaign finance reform  report from 2015 which suggested the fix.

The bill would bring Virginia in line with federal election laws on campaign use, including a measure that would allow for spending on childcare. But it goes beyond that carveout to also include coverage for someone who is a dependent.

“If you’re required to supplement their care, hire somebody to look after them, only because you have to go to campaign events, only because you have to attend a debate, only because of your office holding; you can use campaign funds to pay for that,” Simon said.

The bill’s bipartisan support in the House speaks well for the reform effort that reemerged after over $111 million was spent during the 2023 election cycle, a new record for Virginia campaign spending.

But Democrats in the majority of the state’s Senate  killed the bill in recent years. Whether or not post-redistricting seat changes will see that opposition overruled may be divined in the coming weeks.