Updated: Va. legislators accepted more than $255,000 in gifts last year
Lobbyists, companies and trade associations gave Virginia legislators international trips, tickets to Redskins football games and the Richmond Ballet and meals last year, according to the Virginia Public Access Project, a nonpartisan tracker of money in politics.
Virginia Uranium, a company that is lobbying to mine what is thought to be the largest deposit of uranium in the United States, took four legislators to France. The American Turkish Friendship Association took 12 legislators, most accompanied by spouses, to Turkey. Three legislators got a trip to Taiwan, and one a jaunt to China.
In all, the 140 members of the General Assembly accepted 588 gifts worth $255,223, according to data released Thursday. That's up from $250,000 in 2009.
Many of the gifts were offered during last year's 60-day legislative session, when donors often lobby lawmakers after treating them to dinners, receptions and goody bags.
Many of last year's gifts came from the state's largest and most influential companies and groups.
Top givers by amount were American Turkish Friendship Association ($36,650); Virginia Uranium, ($27,489); Dominion Resources, which runs the largest electric company in the state ($22,673); the American Legislative Exchange Council, a pro-business, free-market group that ghostwrites bills on a variety on subjects that are pushed by its members ($16,764); and Virginia Public Safety Alliance ($16,422). Their most common gift, especially during the legislative session, was a meal at some of Richmond's priciest restaurants.
The top five recipients were: Sen. William C. Wampler Jr. (R-Bristol) $17,593.69; Sen. John C. Watkins (R-Chesterfield) $12,764.80; Del. R. Lee Ware Jr. (R-Powhatan) $10,362.92; Del. Riley E. Ingram (R-Hopewell) $10,028.13; and Del. Thomas A. "Tag" Greason (R-Loudoun) $9,860.95.
Eight legislators reported 10 or more gifts; 17 reported none.
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.
This post has been updated to reflect the correct group that paid for the trip to Turkey.
| February 3, 2011; 3:07 PM ET
Categories: Anita Kumar, General Assembly 2011, House of Delegates, State Senate
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