Bill to limit use of campaign money for personal expenses passes Virginia Senate

The House killed a similar, broader bill earlier in the General Assembly session, making it unlikely to pass into law.

Virginia Lt. Governor Winsome Earle-Sears, right, presides over the Senate on Capitol Hill Monday, Jan. 17, 2022, in Richmond, Va. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)

RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — A bill to restrict how Virginia candidates use campaign contributions on personal matters has received nearly unanimous support in the state Senate.

The legislation would still allow lawmakers and candidates to spend campaign money on childcare, cash and clothing. If passed by the General Assembly and signed by Gov. Glenn Youngkin, the state Board of Elections and the Virginia Attorney General would weigh in on permitted personal uses of the donations.

State Sen. John Bell (D-Loudoun), the sponsor of the measure, said ahead of Tuesday’s 37-3 vote that only those who contributed or voted for the candidate could file complaints about the use of the campaign money.

A $1,000 fine could be imposed on the candidate by the State Board of Elections if he knowingly violates the rule. The legislator or candidate will also have to repay the amount of the donation.

“We need to have something that says we hold people to a higher standard if they hold public office,” Senator Bell said. “And they should serve for the good of the people and not to enrich themselves.”

Calls for overhauling Virginia’s campaign finance laws have grown, but little has been done to push for change. A similar bill was defeated by a subcommittee of the House of Delegates and efforts to block public services from making political donations were shattered.

The Commonwealth has no contribution limits for political action committees, corporations or individuals who donate to candidates. Virginia also allows party committees to donate unlimited amounts of money to campaigns.

The state legislature created a new group called the Joint Subcommittee to Study Comprehensive Campaign Finance Reform to study the issue and consider possible recommendations for legislative changes.

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