No more steak: Wining and dining of pols down in Va.

  • By ALAN SUDERMAN
  • Monday, July 13, 2015 10:37pm
  • Opinion

RICHMOND, Va. — Prior to the corruption scandal involving former Gov. Bob McDonnell, lobbyists spent nearly $20,000 at Morton’s Steakhouse during the 2013 legislative session. Two years later, that number fell to $3,200. A similar phenomenon occurred at Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse, where lobbyists reported spending nearly $16,000 during the 2013 legislative session. This year, they spent $2,500.

An analysis of newly filed disclosure forms shows registered lobbyists reported spending $456,000 on entertaining lawmakers and other officials between November 2014 and April of this year.

Two years ago, that figure was $541,000 during the corresponding six-month period, about 16 percent more. The figures back up what lawmakers and lobbyists said during this year’s legislative session based on anecdotal information: that fancy meals and gifts from lobbyists are less frequent in the post-McDonnell era.

Lawmakers have struggled for two straight legislative sessions to tighten Virginia’s once relaxed rules on gift giving.

In 2014, they passed a $250 a year gift cap from lobbyists, but did not include a limit on intangible items such as meals at expensive restaurants. Earlier this year, spurred by McDonnell’s conviction on corruption charges in September, the General Assembly passed a new $100 a year gift cap that will also apply to meals and entertainment. But the law won’t go into effect until next year.

Democratic Gov. Terry McAuliffe enacted a $100 gift ban for himself and his staff in his first days in office.

A jury found McDonnell and his wife, Maureen, guilty of doing favors for former Star Scientific CEO Jonnie Williams in exchange for more than $165,000 in gifts and loans.

The gifts included a Rolex watch and designer clothes purchased during a Manhattan shopping spree. Both McDonnells have been sentenced to prison time but are currently out on appeal.

Lobbyists and their clients can still give unlimited amounts to lawmakers’ re-election campaigns or political action committees, which have virtually no restrictions on spending. Campaign and PAC spending reports are set to be filed Wednesday.

More in Opinion

File
Opinion: Here’s what I expect of lawmakers in a post-Roe America

I urge lawmakers to codify abortion rights at the state and federal levels.

File
Opinion: Confusion over ranked choice voting persists

Voter confusion over ballot procedures will continue

Former Gov. Bill Walker, right, and his running mate former commissioner of the Department of Labor and Workforce Development Heidi Drygas, speak to Juneauites gathered for a fundraiser at a private home in Juneau on Tuesday, June 7, 2022. (Peter Segall / Juneau Empire)
Voices of the Peninsula: A vote for Walker/Drygas is a vote for Alaskans

It’s easy to forget some of the many lost lawsuits, devastating budget cuts and general incompetence that defines Mike Dunleavy’s term as governor

This photo shows a return envelop for 2022 special primary. (Ben Hohenstatt / Juneau Empire File)
Voices of the Peninsula: Learn how to access your ballot

The recent special primary election was the first time the state conducted an all mail-in ballot election

The Storyknife Writers Retreat in the summer of 2021 in Homer, Alaska. (Photo provided)
Point of View: Storyknife: Invest in women writers, read the rewards

Storyknife is committed to providing opportunities to a diversity of writers

Residents line the Sterling Highway in front of Sen. Lisa Murkowski’s office to oppose Pebble Mine on Wednesday, June 26, 2019, in Soldotna, Alaska. (Photo by Victoria Petersen/Peninsula Clarion)
Voices of the Peninsula: No more delays — finalize protections for Bristol Bay

How many times do we have to say NO to a bad project that would harm Alaskans?

Peter Asmus (Photo provided)
Why Alaska is leading the nation on energy innovation

Alaska is a unique vantage point upon which to review the world’s current energy conundrum

Gubernatorial candidate Bill Walker stands in the Peninsula Clarion office on Friday, May 6, 2022, in Kenai, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Opinion: On Alaska’s gasline, you can’t schedule opportunity

Alaska has the largest source of stranded conventional gas (no drilling required) in North America

Charlie Pierce stands in his home on Thursday, March 11, 2022, in Sterling, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Voices of the Peninsula: When politics get dirty

So, let me step out front and dispel the already debunked false narratives …

Most Read