Henry howell, former lieutenant governor of virginia

“Keep the big boys honest and make the system work!”

 
 

Most folks who get into politics do it out of pure intentions, wide-eyed and optimistic about changing things for the better. But we all know how those stories tend to end. Too many good men and women have been corrupted by a system that’s seemingly custom designed for that result, and average Virginians are the ones who are paying the price for that.

We need to design a system, from top to bottom, that’s engineered to make sure legislators are held accountable for the things they do in Richmond. And we need to give the people of the Commonwealth of Virginia a way to pour sunlight onto their government, and make sure we can hold our government and politicians accountable even between election years.

  • Making it easier to pass laws through ballot referendum

  • Enact a ban on “revolving door lobbying,” where legislators take a huge payday to leave Richmond and go immediately to work for lobbyists

  • Enhanced FOIA rights for citizens in regards to legislature work

  • I’m amazed I have to actually write this, but requiring the General Assembly to actually record all of their votes

  • Require all committee and subcommittee hearings to be recorded for the public

  • Restrict Virginia Supreme Court judges to a single 12-year term, with no reappointments, and have them be appointed by the Governor and voted on by the General Assembly

  • Require the Virginia Department of Taxation to share state tax information with a Federal congressional committee that requests it

Not only that, campaign finance reform is a must. End of story. Right now, in Virginia, unlimited campaign donations from almost any source aren’t just legal, they’re the norm. Right now, it’s a hundred percent legal to spend your campaign money on literally almost anything, including personal expenses. Want to put a down-payment on a yacht or take that trip to Cabo? No problem! Just write it on your expense report and make sure to gerrymander yourself into a district where you’ll never have an opponent!

This is just straight-up nuts. Yet, year after year, the General Assembly, driven by actors from both major parties, will “mysteriously” kneecap any reforms made in this direction.

Listen, folks, you ought to be able to have an equal voice in Richmond with your legislator, even if you can’t afford to write a five or six-digit check straight up. And we need to step up and make sure that’s the case. We can get that done by:

  • Following the federal limits on campaign contributions, as, again, there currently are almost no limits whatsoever in Virginia

  • Banning contributions from government utilities or other government monopolies.

  • Banning legislators from owning stock or investing in government utilities that they regulate.

  • Banning the appointment of campaign contributors to political or state positions (like Board of Visitors at UVA)

  • Banning the use campaign contributions for personal expenses

 
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“(Henry) fought for a fair deal for the working men and women of Virginia; he fought for a square deal for the middle class, and a new deal for those whose bloodlines weren't blue.” Larry Sabato, University of Virginia Center for Politics