Politics

Virginia Governor Candidate Announces Huge Campaign Finance Overhaul Plan

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Phillip Stucky Political Reporter

Virginia Republican candidate for governor Ed Gillespie announced a new plan for a series of executive orders Thursday that will target campaign finance in the state, according to a press release.

Gillespie announced a massive campaign designed to increase the public’s trust in elected officials after the ethics investigation into former Gov. Bob McDonnell last year.

Although the plan was far-reaching, and includes accountability rules and further strengthens the cap on gifts that elected officials can receive, a core component of the plan will change how campaigns spend and raise money.

The most interesting part of the plan involves prohibiting candidates from using funds raised for one office to run for another office, a practice Gillespie calls “Bait and Switch” campaign finance practices.

“Ed’s plan will prohibit ‘bait and switch’ campaign finance practices that give sitting elected office holders unfair advantage over unelected citizens,” press director Abbi Sigler told The Daily Caller News Foundation about the plan. Gillespie believes this will remove a barrier that prevents good people from running for office.”

“Ed believes this will remove a barrier that prevents good people from running for office,” she said.

Two of the three Republicans running for office, Chairman of the Prince William County Board of Supervisors Cory Stewart and State Sen. Frank Wagner, have significant transfers from their prior campaign committees.

Stewart declared $504,904 in campaign donations through Dec. 31, 2016, and 75 percent of those donations, $378,000, came from Stewart’s committees from previous runs for chair of the board of supervisors.

Wagner declared $450,979 as of Dec. 31 of 2016, and his committee for his state senate seat transferred $250,000 of that, meaning 55 percent of his total campaign contributions came from donations to other races.

Gillespie also received a large transfer from a committee, but that donation came from his leadership committee for governor created in 2015.

Gillespie’s committee donated some of its funds to other candidates, including $1,000 to a Richmond city council candidate, and an additional $1,000 to a local delegate campaign. The Gillespie campaign asserted that those donations were appropriate under the proposed orders since Let’s Grow Virginia was a leadership committee that had a goal of benefitting Republicans in general, including Gillespie. Let’s Grow Virginia’s executive director is also Gillespie’s campaign manager, Chris Leavitt, a common scenario in politics.

“When people contribute to a campaign account, they fairly assume their hard-earned money will be spent for the purposes they gave it,” Gillespie said in the official statement.

“Allowing sitting office holders to raise funds into their existing campaign account and then transfer the contribution into a different account for another office is an unfair advantage over unelected citizens running against them, who have to raise money for their campaign from scratch,” Gillespie continued.

The Democratic side is largely unknown. Progressive challenger Tom Perriello joined the race in January, and although the deadline has passed to file financials for the previous quarter, those reports have yet to be released by the state.

Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam declared $3,006,443 in the most recently available report, and none of that money came from previous campaign committees.

“I was running for governor on reform ideas, and Ed’s ideas on transparency are good ones,” former Republican challenger for governor, Denver Riggleman, said about the plan.

“And they’d eliminate advantages sitting elected officials have over citizens like me in running.”

Neither Wagner nor Stewart immediately returned a request for comment.

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