Saturday, July 11, 2009

Delegate Onzlee Ware’s Bill to Nowhere on Campaign Finance

We don’t need a bill that will do no more than create extra work for an already short-staffed State Board of Elections. What we do need are honest legislators who don’t need laws to tell them “right from wrong.”

Though it is admirable that Delegate Onzlee Ware’s sudden attention to campaign finance is leading him to introduce a bill in the General Assembly that has zero chance of passing.

The bill Ware proposes according to The Roanoke Times article on Saturday:

Ware said he plans to file legislation that would give the state board “more teeth” to enforce campaign finance laws and require greater disclosure by candidates.

“If we’re serious about transparency, if the board and staff want to get into checking every campaign report, my bill will say file the electronic report by the due date, but within the next month or when the bank statement arrives, file a copy of the bank statement as well as all receipts justifying the expenditures and a summary of the reasons the expenditures were made,” Ware said.

According to David Allen, Campaign Finance Manager the State Board of Elections is short of staff and short on tenure. Allen also complains that campaign finance law has so many “gray areas” it makes interpretation extremely difficult. An example of a “gray area” is – what constitutes “personal use” of campaign funds? Ware’s bill won’t fix that nor does the bill request additional SBE staff to handle the volume of work his bill would create.

Considering that Virginia State Police positions are going unfilled adding staff to the State Board of Elections becomes laughable – though with a little political sarcasm one could make a case for “campaign finance” being a matter of “public safety.” I suspect Ware understands this and those advising him to “get out in front” of the board’s review of his campaign expenditures know this.

Allen has repeatedly stated that the SBE has no enforcement power. They can recommend an investigation that would then fall to the locality’s Commonwealth Attorney. In this instance it would be Don Caldwell who would wisely recuse himself considering his public endorsement of Delegate Ware’s reelection. The candidates for Attorney General when asked both admitted to “disclosure” being the tool for voters to evaluate their representative’s use of campaign funds. However an extensive discussion with Senator and candidate Ken Cuccinelli regarding Allen’s complaint of the “gray areas” in campaign finance law led him to say, “that is a point where an attorney general would be consulted.”

Voters have access to the SBE website to peruse their representative’s campaign filings. Allen said disclosure and media scrutiny is the extent of campaign finance oversight. It is left to the individual voter with a computer to know how to navigate and know what to look for once they get there.

It would be enlightening to conduct a poll of registered voters who have visited the SBE website or VPAP, (Virginia Public Access Project) a non profit group that sheds light on how money plays a role in Virginia politics. I fear the results of such a poll would reveal at best a single digit percentage of voters who have taken a peek at their representative’s financial disclosures.

Let’s say for the sake of argument that Ware’s bill is enacted as is – how exactly would the public be able to view the receipts, bank statements, and explanations online? If they were scanned online then how can all these pieces be put together with the original filing that would allow an ordinary citizen to come to a conclusion. Do we need an army of lawyers mulling over legislators’ disclosures at a staggering cost to taxpayers?

What we need are honest legislators who don’t need laws to tell them “right from wrong.” We need legislators whose campaign finance disclosures are above reproach. We need legislators that don’t use “gray areas” as a way to circumvent ethical behavior.

Hank Bostwick of the Star City Harbinger while clamoring for self-importance has served Ware poorly by portraying exposure of his campaign finances as a personal attack on the Delegate. The bigger picture exposes the lack of campaign finance oversight in the Commonwealth of Virginia. Oversight that The Roanoke Times Editorial Board was very clear in explaining.

Related Articles: SBE Postpones Discussion of Del. Onzlee Ware Campaign Finances

Delegate Onzlee Ware Meets Deadline to Amend Campaign Filing

Del. Onzlee Ware Has 10 Days to Respond to the State Board of Elections


Posted By Valerie Garner

Categories: Commentary, Politics

Tags: , , , ,

Comments (29)

Hank Bostwick

July 12th, 2009 at 1:44 PM    

Uh . . . that isn’t a link to editorial board.

Uh . . . your distaste for Mr. Ware is clouding your judgment.

Uh . . . I don’t serve Mr. Ware . . . someone has to set the record straight.

Uh . . . the complaint was lodged by a partisan and helped along by your one-sided reporting. Much like the Tony Reed situation which you reported without making any effort to speak with Mr. Reed.

Uh . . . Mr. Ware has been working on this legislation long before this situation.

Uh . . . when are you going to return the contributions from Citizens for Sensible Decisions . . . the only true campaign finance violation in this area in the last year.

Uh . . . I have serious doubts about this comment making it to your site . . . but I have been surprised in the past . . .

Uh . . . I called Mr. Allen an overzealous bureaucrat . . . not an attacker of Delegate Ware . . . I leave that distinction to you, Mr. Jeffrey and Mr. Powell.

Hank Bostwick

July 12th, 2009 at 1:53 PM    

Instead of innuendo, Mrs. Garner, and suggesting Mr. Ware doesn’t know “right from wrong.” Please have the courtesy and the moral fortitude to list exactly how Mr. Ware doesn’t understand right from wrong. To just state so blatantly without any support is irresponsible even for a partisan blogger.

We will be waiting for your list of Mr. Ware’s moral failings.


July 12th, 2009 at 3:12 PM    

Hello Mr. Bostwick,

Thank you for pointing out the link.

I did not single Mr. Ware out in referencing “right from wrong.” The bill would not apply to him only. Your jaded reading of my commentary is the same as your rambling posts.

You, Mr. Bostwick, are perpetuating Mr. Ware’s campaign finance issue.

My post prior to this commentary would never have occurred if you had not erred in your post stating that the SBE had “dropped” the matter.

I had called the prior day to only find out that it had been postponed and had no plans to post anything about that “no news.”

That is until you sent an email to me and The Roanoke Times ecstatically proclaiming that the SBE had “dropped” the matter with Mr. Ware.

You DELETED your erred headline post as the link does not work anymore. Good cover instead of posting a correction.

Face it you were embarrassed by your incompetence so you just deleted the post and wrote in its place a rambling recap to cover-up your embarrassing blunder. You only serve yourself.

If you really cared about Mr. Ware you would underplay his campaign finance review. Instead you are self-grandizing and perpetuating the issue.

The SBE is control of the matter with Mr. Ware and no one else.

Your email message and oh, booyah back at ya!

—– Original Message —–
From: Hank Bostwick
To: ; ;
Sent: Wednesday, July 08, 2009 10:08 AM
Subject: So when should we expect your retractions?

I’ll be waiting with baited breath . . .


Hank Bostwick
Southwest Virginia’s Online News Alternative


July 12th, 2009 at 3:14 PM    

Mr. Ware has been working on the bill for the situation? Now that is really a whopper!

Hank Bostwick

July 12th, 2009 at 6:10 PM    

I know that you desperately want to perpetuate the smears against Mr. Ware.

That aside, The Roanoke Times article by Michael Sluss on Saturday once again vindicated Mr. Ware.

It is difficult to explain but given the fact that there are no longer civil penalties considered against Mr. Ware, the matter is concluded. Sorry to disappoint you.

I spoke with a source close to the situation who indicated that since the beginning of the bogus posts on this blog sent to you as press releases by Mr. Powell and Mr. Jeffrey, the SBE has regretted acting in the manner it has and is trying to extricate itself from the situation.

Nancy Rodrigues of the SBE is a reputable and forthright individual who may be among those who regret the way the SBE has allowed itself to be drawn into a partisan battle in a heated primary (and now general election). The SBE is supposed to be nonpartisan and the rules are constructed so the office of the SBE cannot be used to perpetuate partisan attacks.

So, you are free to continue to believe that Mr. Ware is somehow in trouble (ooohhh…) at SBE. Just ask yourself why The Roanoke Times brought in Michael Sluss to report that there are no civil penalties for Mr. Ware.

Now, people who think there is some big conspiracy are going to say, “See, see, they said civil, they said civil, not criminal.”

I’ll say it here definitively that no criminal charges have ever been considered against Mr. Onzlee Ware by the State Board of Elections.

Star City Harbinger sent a FOIA request, reviewed documents, made those available to the public and presented our analysis because you, Valerie Garner, back at the very beginning of this mess, hoping you could nail Onzlee Ware, posted Mr. Jeffrey and Mr. Powell’s complaints, called Mr. David Allen and printed what he allegedly said to you.

Your interpretations of campaign finance law have been inconsistent and your efforts to smear Mr. Ware are transparent.

What is particularly insidious about your blog is that you pretend that you are a journalist. We admit we are bloggers; we admit we are progressives. I’m even a liberal, Valerie. I’ve said it on the radio. We don’t pretend.

You knew exactly what you were doing when you got into this mess (helping to start it in fact).

I know it is difficult to face the fact that the SBE has declared that Mr. Ware has complied with the law.

Hank Bostwick

July 12th, 2009 at 6:17 PM    

I finally figured out what you were rambling on about regarding the link.

We already posted a comment regarding the format and the update on SCH. Much like TRT, the Examiner Online, etc., when we update we edit previously reported material that can be found elsewhere in our reports.

I don’t really understand where you were going with that one, but that is the best answer I give you. I hope it is clear.

Hank Bostwick

July 12th, 2009 at 6:21 PM    

Finally (I’m really enjoying this, thank you), you didn’t speak to Mr. Ware before you posted Mr. Jeffrey and Mr. Powell’s original complaints, did you?

Tell the truth. You know I’ll ask him.

Did you ask Mr. Ware what he thought about it before you posted it? Did you send him an email, a fax, a letter? Did you text him? Call him?


July 12th, 2009 at 6:34 PM    

“Sources close to the situation” if had a dime for every “sources close to” that you make up on your posts and can’t substantiate…

Your problem with getting information from Mr. Allen is you ask questions to get the answer you want to hear … you are not after the truth. Those are not my words but those you ask questions of…

Make up your mind – partisan or nonpartisan – the answer you give depends on whom you are talking too on this claim.

Smearing Mr. Ware? What exactly is not true? I posted the actually letter with attachment sent by certified mail from Mr. Allen to Mr. Ware.

Interpretation of campaign finance laws is the issue. As an attorney I would think you support the law.

It is not only permissible to question your elected officials it is a civic obligation.

Hank Bostwick

July 12th, 2009 at 6:39 PM    

Last thing, about the “booyah” dealio . . . well, I just thought you were cool enough to handle a little good natured off-blog, private fun . . . but you just can’t resist posting people’s private emails, now can you?

I’ll remember that everything with you is on the record from now on.

Hank Bostwick

July 12th, 2009 at 6:43 PM    

Valerie, why won’t you admit that at the beginning way before there was Mr. Allen or the SBE you posted all of Mr. Jeffrey and Mr. Powell’s unsubstantiated claims against Mr. Ware. Why do you deny it?

I support correct interpretation of the law.

Please look up the definition of partisan, Valerie.

I take my sources’ confidentiality very seriously.

If you are going to deny the fact that you were the first to post the smears of the Jeffrey Campaign, then we can’t really have a conversation based in reality.

Comments are not moderated. Notify any abuse at put ABUSE in the subject and the offensive post.

Leave a Reply