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Opinion: Editorial: Campaign Finance Reform? Yes
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Opinion: Editorial: Campaign Finance Reform? Yes

Surprise! “No limits” can stimulate large amounts of campaign cash for many kinds of candidates and from many kinds of donors.

Virginia is one of 11 states (Alabama, Indiana, Iowa, Mississippi, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Texas, Utah, and Virginia) that impose no contribution limits on individual donors, says the National Conference of State Legislatures. The other 39 states restrict the amount of money that any one individual can contribute to a state campaign.

But Virginia has no limits. No limits on what any individual can give to a candidate. No limits on what a state party can give to a candidate. No limits on what a PAC can give to a candidate. No limits on what a corporation can give to a candidate. No limits on what a union or employee organization can give to a candidate.

Only Utah, Oregon, Nebraska, and Alabama impose literally no limits as Virginia does.

Virginia’s General Assembly, and established candidates, usually the primary beneficiary of this permissive environment for contributions, have chosen this stance deliberately. Supporters often cite disclosure requirements as somehow making unlimited campaign cash OK.

More money doesn’t always lead to success for a candidate. The following information on contributions comes from Virginia Public Access Project.

Tim Chapman loaned $845,094 to his own campaign seeking the Democratic nomination for chairman of the Board of Supervisors. Chapman also lost because even with all that money to get his message out, apparently his message did not resonate with voters. Jeff McKay, who won the Democratic nominee for chairman of the Board of Supervisors. McKay raised $448,443.

Maggie Parker, running for the Democratic nomination for Hunter Mill supervisor, had more than twice as much in contributions than the winning candidate. But more than half of her cash contributions, more than $90,000, came from her employer, Comstock Partners, developer with multiple projects in Hunter Mill. Parker finished fourth out of five candidates.

Steve Descano ran on a platform of criminal justice reform. He loaned himself $25,000 and received support from family. He also received more than $450,000 from the Justice and Public Safety PAC; VPAP lists its business as “Democrat Advocacy.”

Descano won his challenge over Commonwealth’s Attorney Ray Morrogh, who was facing his first challenge and had $242,011 in contributions. Descano’s message of progressive reform resonated with voters who turned out to vote.

Yes, let’s have campaign finance reform and sensible limits on donations.