A bill to ban legislators from using campaign funds for personal use advanced out of the full Senate chamber Tuesday. The proposal received bipartisan support.
The legislation, sponsored by Sen. Jennifer Boysko, D-Fairfax, would provide the reform advocates have been asking for and bring Virginia in line with policies many other states are already doing.
“Trust is at an all-time low,” Boysko said while presenting her bill. “The body needs to assure our constituents that our elected officials are running for office to serve them, not to enrich themselves.”
Virginia has a reputation for being the “wild west” of campaign finance laws. There are few restrictions on how money donated to campaigns can be used by a candidate or campaign.
If this bill becomes law, campaign money will not be able to be used to fulfill any commitment, obligation or expense, irrespective of the person running for office.
Boysko mentioned former United States Rep. George Santos (R-NY), who was recently expelled from Congress after using campaign funds for various personal reasons. An investigation found that Santos used money donated to his campaign to pay for his rent, Botox treatments, an Onlyfans subscription and more.
“Here’s the horrifying thing. Pretty much everything he did at the federal level would have been [permitted] in our body here,” Boysko said during committee. “It would have been fine.”
Sen. Mark Peake, R-Lynchburg, stood on the floor to call Santos a “complete and total fraud” while stating he does not believe anyone in the General Assembly should be compared to the New York Republican.
“I am not aware of any member of the General Assembly, House, or Senate who has conducted themselves in any way in the manner of George Santos,” Peake continued.
He also stated that he believes this bill is unnecessary in Virginia, as the press would report on any misspending by legislators.
Peake still voted in favor of the bill, as did the majority of the chamber. Only four Republicans, Sens. Cristie Craig, Bill DeSteph, Emily Jordan, and Tammy Mulchi, voted against the legislation.
The House of Delegates will need to pass an identical bill for it to continue advancing.
The Republican-held House in 2023 killed this legislation, but Democrats now have the majority, giving it a chance for full passage.
Then, it will be up to Gov. Glenn Youngkin to either sign or veto the bill.