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Va. legislators accepted more than $250,000 in gifts last year

Anita Kumar

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.

By Anita Kumar  |  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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All of America's politicians appear to be well-provided for by special interest groups and lobbying firms with interests against those that voted these politicians in office. It appears to me there is more interest in politicians getting paid to do what BIG business wants and to let the voters hang in the wind. This is NOT a Washington DC problem it is a national problem. The Supreme Court says corporations are no different than individuals, when it comes to campaign finance but not taxes. Interesting. Why does the average taxpayer not get the tax breaks and business juice that the special interest and lobbying groups get out of our politicians. Oh yeah we vote them in office and the special interest groups buy their votes with trips, gifts, monies, vacations, etc. Screw the voter!

The Supreme Court may say this is all legal, but we the voters are going to revolt against politicians of ALL ilks shortly, perhaps we will stop paying taxes and request special tax breaks like corporations, banks, investments firms, etc., and perhaps we will cleans house, the entire HOUSE and SENATE, with TERM LIMITS of EIGHT YEARS. Lets see you get paid in that short time.

I know you politicians think the average American is STUPID, but we ALL can read and write, and we ALL get the news, and the news is bad and perhaps we need to set term limits for ALL politicians just like the President of the US, POTUS! Get the picture. Politicians are sell outs and low life's that take bribes, payouts, etc, no different than criminals.

Enjoy your vacations while we are all buried in snow!

Think of us while you are tanning on the beaches where most of us will never park our buts, ever!

Posted by: patmatthews | February 11, 2010 6:36 AM | Report abuse

Va.Senate Majority Leader Richard Saslaw and darling of the Washington Post is personal friends with the chief lobbyist for Dominion Resources and is often commenting about his close relationship. Until the residents of his district wake-up and start paying attention to his antics and "pay as you go" method of legislating, nothing will change in the Va.General assembly.

Posted by: miroffsupportsillegalaliens | February 11, 2010 9:33 AM | Report abuse

You know what the problem with this article is? It's not near election day!

Watch the Post at the end of October when we are making our choice on which Virginia legislators we want to vote for. These facts will be long forgotten, hidden in the archives along with their voting records, budget amendments and anything else of value that the voters should know.

The few articles on Virginia that the Post sees fit to print will only be about celebrity politicians, trivial tidbits of he-said, she-said stories and what it all means for *national* politics.

The legislature is in session *now*. We need more information about what changes are in the current bills and budget amendments, not the same-old, same-old puff we get here.

Posted by: thuff7 | February 11, 2010 1:17 PM | Report abuse

The reason there is such dissatisfaction with govenment, is because of things like this. Self preservation, greed, and 'living the good life.' Makes me sick.

Posted by: 123cartoon | February 11, 2010 1:56 PM | Report abuse

Anita, Altria is NOT the parent company of Kraft Foods. Altria divested it in 2007. And, Dominion does NOT run the "state's power company." Virginia doesn't have a state power company. There are, however, privately owned utilitiy companies, of which Dominion is the largest, providing gas/electric to areas of Virginia.

Posted by: rfredjohn | February 11, 2010 3:42 PM | Report abuse

Visit W3Schools!

Posted by: heyduh | February 12, 2010 1:03 PM | Report abuse

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