ICYMI: Opaque and antiquated disclosure laws

dollar-signMy latest op-ed, title above, appeared in The Virginian-Pilot Thursday. No, it’s not about Bob McDonnell. Rather, it’s about the lack of transparency in financial reporting for those running for local offices.

When I prepared the post on the 7/15 financial reports, it had been my intention to do one on the contested races in the localities for which I had done a Who’s Running post, namely Chesapeake, Norfolk, Portsmouth, Suffolk and Virginia Beach. All of these cities have constitutional offices on the November ballot. It quickly became clear that I was not going to be able to do this, because not all of the candidates were filing electronically. Without that, I’d have to go to each locality to pick up – and pay for – copies of the reports.

This is one area where the otherwise excellent Virginia Public Access Project has almost no coverage. They report on all of the state races as well as the local races in 34 of Virginia’s 134 localities. The five constitutional offices, while elected locally, are neither state races nor local races. A shortage of resources makes it impossible for VPAP to track the finances in all but two of these contests. (Note that the cities in Virginia elect constitutional offices in odd years, while the counties elect them on even years. That’s why Hampton Roads cities have these on the ballot, while the counties do not.)

I’ve said before that electronic filing of financial reports should be mandatory. With no other alternative than to visit the local elections offices to get the data, there ends up being no real oversight of the contests for these well-paid constitutional office positions. And we all know how the Byrd Machine used these positions to control things for a very long time. If they are going to exist – and I think they mostly need to be eliminated – then we must have the ability to see who is funding these campaigns.

This is a no-brainer. The legislature should take this up on the first day of session.

My column appears in The Virginian-Pilot every week, usually on Thursdays. You can see the columns as they are published here, or navigate to them from the PilotOnline.com homepage by clicking on Opinion and then choosing my name at the bottom of the dropdown list. You can also see the columns by liking my Facebook page. Although my column appears weekly, I am not and have never been an employee of The Virginian-Pilot.

2 thoughts on “ICYMI: Opaque and antiquated disclosure laws

  1. It is truly a sad state of circumstances when those of whom we entrust are government cannot live up to expected ethical conduct without the necessity of laws, disclosures, and check-lists. Not withstanding, it appears that the formal documentation targets appear to be the limits of integrity to stay within; rather than the trust that should be deserved by adhering to expected ethical principals irrespective of legislative guidelines.

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