Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Campaign fund usage definition awaits completion by attorney general

The Virginia State Board of Elections hit a brick wall when a complaint was lodgedagainst Delegate Onzlee Ware (D-Roanoke) accusing him of using his campaign fund for “personal use” over a year ago. There is no “definition” of what is considered “personal use” in state law.

The complaint was reviewed by Senior  Attorney General James Hopper who concluded that “… it is clear that prohibition against converting contributed campaign funds to personal use only applies to the closing of a campaign finance account. Therefore the Board has no statutory authority to refer complaints regarding personal use of campaign funds to any other officials for further investigation unless or until a candidate files a final report under § 24.2-948.4. 

The complaint could go no further to either exonerate or find fault with Ware’s expense disbursements.

House Bill 125 Campaign Finance Disclosure Act; materials provided by State Board of Elections and Attorney General goes into effect July 1 without a definition. The bill was patroned by Delegate Harry Purkey (R-Virginia Beach). It passed committees, the General Assembly and Senate unanimously and it was approved by Governor Bob McDonnell April 8.

According to Brian Gottstein, Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli’s director of communications, “The attorney told me that they have drafted but not completed the written explanatory statement. Several people are looking it over, and it does not need to be prepared by July 1, when the law takes effect.”

HB 125 reads as follows:

Campaign Finance Disclosure Act; materials to be provided by State Board of Elections and Attorney General. Requires the Attorney General to provide a written explanation of the provisions of the Act that prohibit the personal use of campaign funds and to delineate the differences between prohibited personal uses of campaign funds and permitted uses of the funds. The Attorney General’s explanation shall be distributed by the State Board to all candidates, committees, and persons subject to the Act’s provisions.

The definitions are to be distributed to all committees, candidates for office including incumbents.

E. The Board shall provide, with the summary required by this section, to each candidate, person, or committee on request or upon their first filing with the State Board pursuant to this chapter, whichever occurs first, a copy of a written explanation prepared by the Attorney General of the provisions of the Act that prohibit the personal use of campaign funds. The explanation shall cover the provisions that prohibit the personal use of campaign funds and shall delineate the differences between prohibited personal uses of campaign funds and permitted uses of the funds.

Related Article: The Virginian-Pilot recognizes Virginia’s campaign expenditure loophole

Posted By Valerie Garner

Categories: Politics, State Politics

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