As former First Lady of Virginia Maureen McDonnell gets ready to find out her fate, it appears her family's corruption scandal has some Virginia lawmakers thinking twice about accepting gifts.
According to an analysis by the nonprofit Virginia Public Access Project (VPAP) gift giving dropped 27 percent last year.
Who accepted the most gifts in the General Assembly? Southwest Virginia State Sen. Bill Carrico. He reported $9,080 in gifts. Most of that was a trip with his wife to Florida for an Alliance Defending Freedom Conference.
Out of our local lawmakers, Henrico County Del. Jimmie Massie took the eighth most gifts in the state, valued at $4,360. He did not shy away from taking UVA football and basketball tickets, going to a Virginia Tech Football game, or tickets the Richmond ballet.
For all those who accepted gifts last year, there were more delegates than ever before who reported taking nothing.
"Does not surprise me in the least,” said Hank Chambers. He's a law professor who specializes in ethics at the University of Richmond. “Folks are afraid. I think a lot of folks are afraid. They saw what happened with Bob McDonnell and I think they took the wrong lesson, frankly, from the case.”
He said he believes lawmakers are too worried about gifts, when they should only be concerned about not trading their position for those gifts.
“If you ask them straight up, how many of you would have taken the kinds of gifts and loans that Bob McDonnell took? I suspect most of them would go, ‘there's no way I would have taken that. Are you crazy? Sure I would have taken the golf, but there's no way I would have taken the $50,000 loan from somebody I barely knew', “ said Chambers.
Deirdre Condit is chair of political science at Virginia Commonwealth University. She's been following the McDonnell scandal and fall out closely.
"The question is what will Virginia citizens do if the legislature fails to really engage in serious legislation on this. Will Virginians be angry enough to reflect it at the polls?"
Right now, the House and Senate are negotiating gift reform. They are even considering a $100 limit for all gifts including tickets, meals and trips.
Will lawmakers pass a significantly tougher gift ban?
“I sort of doubt it over time. What you're going to see is you're going to see a quiet rise again once it's no longer a media/public consciousness issue."
To see the gifts given to your lawmakers last year: http://vpap.org/lawmaking/gifts-paid-conferences/
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