RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) – Every year, the Commonwealth of Virginia donates hundreds of thousands of dollars to charities and non-profit organizations. The Virginia Food Bank, for instance is slated to receive half a million dollars in the governor's proposed budget. But is the practice unconstitutional?
My next guest says "yes" and he got the attorney general to agree with him. Norman Leahy is blogger and lobbyist with the Conservative Tertium Quids group. He also appears on the Freedom and Prosperity Radio Network.
Ryan Nobles: Why is it unconstitutional for the state to give nonprofits and charities money?
Norman Leahy: Because that's what the constitution says. It's rather unambiguous about it. The state can't give money to nonprofits it doesn't own or control. There are a few other carve outs, if you want to help rehabilitate kids on the wrong path in life, the state can give them money, too. But otherwise the prohibition is rather clear you can't do this.
Ryan Nobles: Governor McDonnell this year has proposed about a million dollars in funding to two organizations. We talked about the food bank. But he's not the first. This is something legislators have done for a long time. Why has it taken this long for someone to realize that this is what the constitution says?
Norman Leahy: It raises an uncomfortable question is that probably because no one has really read it. You know they made a big hubba baloo in Congress of reading the Constitution and they messed that up too if you remember. And that's what I've gone around with reporters, too. Has nobody read this section? It's right there. A lot of the folks are talking to Dick Howard, who was one of the people who framed the current constitution in 1971. He said Cuccinelli got it right. It's right there. It's of essentially it's the saving the legislature from itself clause. Otherwise, everybody beats on the door, 'we want some money'. Who is the legislature to not want to play Santa Claus?
Ryan Nobles: You have obviously gotten an opinion from the attorney general that agrees with you that this is the way the Constitution is read. The governor has stepped back a second and said, we're going to take a look at this before we push forward with this proposed proposal. What's the next step now, and do they have to come up with some way to address this in the constitution, or do you think they eliminate the idea of giving to charities?
Norman Leahy: They have two options, what you just said. They can either not do it anymore and follow what the constitution says, or they can change the constitution, which is far more difficult.
Ryan Nobles: What would it take to change the constitution for people not familiar with it?
Norman Leahy: They would have to go through two sessions of the general assembly each house, with each election in between before it could go to the ballot.
Ryan Nobles: Kind of makes you wonder what else we haven't read about the constitution.
Norman Leahy: Well let's read it and find out.
Ryan Nobles: Thank you for being here.
Norman Leahy: Thank you, Ryan.
See the video at right for the full interview.