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Senate Blocks Ban on Fundraising at Mansion

Tim Craig

The Democratic-controlled Senate has failed to act on a bill that would outlaw fundraising for political candidates and causes at the Executive Mansion, which is the oldest occupied governor's mansion in the United States.

Two weeks ago, the House unanimously approved a bill by House Majority Leader H. Morgan Griffith (R-Salem) that banned the solicitation of funds at the mansion for any purpose "other than for charity."

Griffith put in the bill after The Farm Team, a political action committee formed to help Democratic women seek elected office, posted a solicitation on a liberal fundraising Web site last month seeking donations from $25 to $1,000 to attend a series of events in Richmond, including at the Governor's Mansion.

Officials at the Farm Team quickly admitted they made a mistake by posting the solicitation. They said they never intended to give off the appearance they planned to raise money at the mansion. Gov. Timothy M. Kaine (D) also said at the time he would never allow money to be raised at the mansion for a political committee.

But Griffith pushed for the bill anyway, saying it was time to put into law the long-standing practice of governors not using the mansion to raise money for political organizations.

Kaine supported by the bill, but the Senate Rules Committee refused to act on it Friday.

In an interview, Senate Majority Leader Richard L. Saslaw (D-Fairfax) said an official ban was not needed.

"It had never come up before," Saslaw said about fundraising at the mansion. "In fact, I have been here 33 years and that is the first time it has ever come up."

But House Republicans will likely use the Senate's decision as a political issue in the fall.

"Virginians rightly expect their elected leaders to continually seek out ways to run government in as ethical, efficient and effective manner as possible," said House Speaker William J. Howell (R-Stafford). "House Republicans advanced a strong reform agenda this session that accomplished those goals. It is disappointing that partisan politics has led defenders of the status quo to reject the common sense reforms championed by House Republicans."

By Tim Craig  |  February 23, 2009; 5:10 PM ET
Categories:  Tim Craig  
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