VA lawmakers rack in thousands in gifts, overseas trips - NBC12.com - Richmond, VA News

VA lawmakers rack in thousands in gifts, overseas trips

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RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) -

Thousands of dollars in lawmaker expenses and gifts from 2012 became public Tuesday, detailing overseas trips, golf outings and sports tickets taken in by Virginia senators and delegates.

Two delegates and two senators from the Richmond area made the top 20 list of most expensive gift totals, with a trip to Istanbul among one of the most valuable items disclosed.

"It was all paid for by a private group, not by taxpayers," said Del. Riley Ingram in an interview Wednesday. "We talked trade, education, and how to learn from their healthcare system."

The American Turkish Friendship Association paid for eight Virginia lawmakers to make the 5,000 mile trip. The group is based in Fairfax, and promotes cultural understanding between the United States and Turkey.

Del. Jimmie Massie (R-Henrico) topped the list of local lawmaker gift totals. At $6,484, Massie ranked seventh out of 140 delegates and senators. Sen. Henry Marsh (D-Richmond) followed in eighth with $6,036, Del. Riley Ingram (R-Hopewell) ranked twelfth with $4,811.

Sen. Ryan McDougle (R-Mechanicsville) finished the top 20 list with $3,398 in gifts.

When asked about five golf outings, one paid for by pharmaceutical giant Eli Lilly, Del. Ingram said the company did not sway any of his votes or policies. Ingram helped the company's treatments to become more accessible to Virginia's mentally ill, a move he said he supported without the offer of golf trips.

"Their treatments are simply better than what the generic pills can do," Ingram said. "We don't get paid much as lawmakers. These are simply perks of the job."

Del. Jimmie Massie accepted 14 tickets to sporting events in 2012, including two football tickets from Virginia Tech, three football tickets and a basketball ticket from the University of Virginia.

Virginia lawmakers can accept gifts in any amount, as long as the totals are more than $50. Del. Rosalyn Tyler (D-Emporia) reported zero dollars, a year after reporting a $10,000 trip to France with a uranium interest group.

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