Free Lance-Star reporter Chelyen Davis covers Virginia government.
Virginia gets F in ranking of state government corruption risk
The Center for Public Integrity has ranked the states on how vulnerable to corruption their state governments are, and Virginia gets an F, ranking 47th out of the 50. (Georgia ranked last; New Jersey first. No state got an A ranking.)
The low score is due in part to Virginia’s lack of an ethics commission, no limits on campaign donations (although Virginia does require all donations over $100 to be reported) and lack of transparency in some aspects of government.
The state got an A for having a centralized auditor who covers all state agencies. It also got an A for the public procurement process.
But it got F’s for state pension management (partly due to a lack of third-party oversight), ethics enforcement, judicial accountability, executive accountability, legislative accountability, state budget processes, political contribution disclosures, and lobbyist disclosures.
Some of the reasons for the low marks include:
– Legislators elect judges.
– No central agency to handle Freedom of Information Act requests
– A short and fast-paced legislative session that results in lawmakers increasingly relying on lobbyists for information on bills
– Regulations covering gifts to legislators simply require that those gifts be disclosed, rather than governing the possibility of influence
– Virginia received generally favorable ratings for its budget process and the availability of budget documents, but was marked down for several areas — for one, while the state publishes a monthly revenue report, there’s no monthly expenditure report. Also, while technically the budget process and its documents are open, the budget is hundreds of pages long, making it difficult for citizens and reporters (and sometimes legislators themselves) to identify items in it and trace them back to their authors.