The Right Note is a weekly opinion column. The views and opinions expressed in the column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ARLnow.com.
Last Friday, Gov. Terry McAuliffe vetoed bi-partisan ethics legislation which passed the General Assembly unanimously. The bill would have barred the governor and his campaign committees from soliciting or accepting donations or gifts of $50 or more from anyone seeking funding from the Governor’s Development Opportunity Fund.
The governor claims he vetoed the bill because he wanted the provisions to cover General Assembly members as well. His rationale is that they vote on the budget for the Fund.
The companies with pending grant applications are on a confidential list held by the administration. That means General Assembly members could unknowingly make illegal campaign solicitations or accept illegal contributions if they were covered by the law. The alternative is to share the list with everyone responsible for soliciting or accepting campaign checks for General Assembly members, including campaign treasurers.
That course of action seems both impractical and unnecessary if you want to stop influence over ultimate funding decisions. The bottom line is that it is solely the governor’s administration that determines where these loans and grants go — meaning any pay for play could potentially happen right where the ethics bill was targeted.
Some may argue that the existence and use of the fund only invites questionable decisions. That instead, state run incentive programs should be open to a more full and fair competition — if funded by taxpayer dollars at all.
At this point, however, the fund does exist. Passing reasonable rules that ensure decisions on distributions from it are free from the influence of campaign contributions would provide an appropriate level of accountability to taxpayers.
Terry McAuliffe was elected governor last fall despite a less than sterling reputation when it came to sweeping up campaign contributions. He also made some questionable claims related to his own business dealings, including failed efforts to get assistance from Virginia to build a plant for GreenTech Automotive here.
Signing this bi-partisan bill would have gone a long way to silence Gov. McAuliffe’s critics. Instead, the governor vetoed it — standing firmly on the side of business, and politics, as usual.
Mark Kelly is a former Arlington GOP Chairman and two-time Republican candidate for Arlington County Board.
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