What problem does this bill address?
Virginia has some of the weakest campaign finance laws in the country. Public service corporations, including utility monopolies like Dominion Energy, are allowed to directly donate large sums of money to members of the General Assembly who regulate them. When these public service corporations donate to elected officials and their political committees, it causes a conflict of interest and erodes the public trust in Virginia’s political system. For example, Dominion Energy is the largest corporate donor to members of Virginia’s General Assembly, and its heavy political spending has contributed to the passage of legislation highly favorable to the utility at the expense of its captive customers.
What does this bill do to fix that problem?
The Public Service Corporation Campaign Contributions Ban prohibits candidates and campaign committees from accepting donations from public service corporations (PSCs). It also bans candidates and campaign committees from accepting contributions from any political action committees (PACs) created by a PSC.
What is a public service corporation?
Public service corporations are charged with delivering vital public services in Virginia. As a result, they are heavily regulated by Virginia’s State Corporation Commission and the General Assembly. The Virginia Code defines PSCs as “gas, pipeline, electric light, heat, power and water supply companies, sewer companies, telephone companies, and all persons authorized to transport passengers or property as a common carrier.”
Does a ban on political spending from public service corporations already exist in Virginia?
Not currently. Under federal law, corporations are banned from contributing to candidates, and states have the ability to further regulate contributions in their campaign finance laws. 28 states currently ban these kinds of contributions in some form — with 22 states banning corporate contributions altogether.
This bill is being introduced in the House and Senate.