Va. legislators accepted more than $250,000 in gifts last year
Lobbyists, companies and trade associations last year gave Virginia legislators trips, meals and tickets to University of Virginia and Redskins football games, NASCAR races and Wolf Trap concerts, according to the Virginia Public Access Project, a non-partisan tracker of money in politics.
In all, the 140 members of the General Assembly accepted hundreds of gifts worth about $250,000 in 2009, according to data released this morning.
Many of the gifts were offered during last year's 45-day legislative session, when donors often lobby lawmakers after treating them to dinners, receptions and goody bags.
Overall, the value of the gifts was down 25 percent compared to 2008. That's because many of the legislators were new and because of the sharp downturn in the economy.
Many of last year's gifts came from the state's largest and most influential companies and groups.
Top givers were Dominion Resources, which runs the state's power company; Altria, the parent company of Kraft Foods and tobacco firm Philip Morris; the University of Virginia; the Virginia Association of Broadcasters; and the Virginia League of Conservation Voters. Their most common gift, especially during the legislative session, was a meal at some of Richmond's priciest restaurants.
In Congress, lawmakers imposed a limit on gifts after a public corruption scandal involving lobbyist Jack Abramoff. Similar policies were put in place in Maryland in 2001 after two high-profile scandals there.
In Virginia, lawmakers have toughened disclosure requirements but have not limited gifts.
State law does not limit the gifts lawmakers can receive, but it requires that items valued at more than $50 be disclosed.
February 10, 2010; 12:00 PM ET
Categories: Anita Kumar , General Assembly 2008 , General Assembly 2009 , General Assembly 2010 , House of Delegates , State Senate
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