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Democrats Debate Campaign Finance Heading Into Session

A photo showing the chamber of the House of Delegates in session.
Virginia’s House of Delegates. (Craig Carper/VPM News)

Governor Ralph Northam and other Democrats campaigned on tightening Virginia's campaign finance laws.  But it’s not clear what, if anything, they’ll change when the party takes over the General Assembly in January.

Incoming House Majority Leader Charniele Herring (D-Alexandria) told reporters last month that she doesn’t expect campaign finance overhaul to pass this year.

She said lawmakers need time to craft something comprehensive, including caps on personal and corporate donations as well as restrictions on spending campaign dollars on personal expenses.

Unlike other long-delated Democratic priorities, Herring argued, campaign finance reform hasn’t gotten full hearings or the dedicated attention it deserves.

“I think that that takes time and is nothing that should be rushed in the 60 day session,” Herring said.

That’s not surprising to Sen. Chap Petersen (D-Fairfax City), a longtime advocate for campaign finance reform. Petersen plans on re-introducing a variation of a bill that, in its latest incarnation, would cap donations by any individual to a candidate at $10,000 per election cycle. The bill would still allow unlimited contributions by political party committees, the candidate, or the candidate's family.

“One of the things I find is that whoever's in power hates this bill.” Petersen said. “I would be the least shocked person if it gets voted down by Democrats.”

Peterson is also introducing a bill that would bar contributions by public service corporations like Dominion Energy; Dominion argues that it shouldn’t be singled out.

Note: This story has been updated to reflect the campaign finance bill filed by Sen. Petersen.