Public Comments for: HB500 - Campaign finance and advertisements; independent expenditures, electioneering communications.
Last Name: Robinson Locality: Stafford County

Dear Committee Members, The rights of average citizens to engage in free speech and to keep rights of privacy are a hallmark in American Democracy and have allowed Americans to feel confident in their thoughts for over 200 years. Any infringement on them has a chilling effect on Americans truly disclosing their thoughts. Where would our democracy be if average citizens withheld from sharing their thoughts from each other: especially when their thoughts were unpopular? We can't hope to cripple anonymous speech and expect Americans to stand for what they know is right in their heart when others behave like it is wrong. A laboratory of ideas is the best way for the best ideas to rise to the top. Please vote no on HB500 which would force non-profits to disclose their donors and would have a chilling effect on people donating to the cause they believe in for fear of reprisal by government and others in society.

Last Name: Boyd Organization: League of Women Voters of Virginia Locality: Arlington

The League of Women Voters of Virginia supports HB 500. This bill addresses the need in Virginia to better define what is an “electioneering” expenditure. These changes would better ensure that Virginia law provides voters with more complete information on who is paying for these types of expenditures, in reflection of how campaigns are currently financed.

Last Name: Morrissey Organization: Money Out Virginia/American Promise Locality: Sterling, Loudoun County

Our team from Money Out Virginia, the VA affiliate of the nation-wide American Promise campaign finance reform advocacy organization, worked hard this past year with the "Joint Subcommittee to Study Comprehensive Campaign Finance Reform," and produced a "Citizens' Report" for the Subcommittee that articulated principles and priorities for improving transparency, preventing corrupt campaign finance practices and moving towards more equity in campaign financing in Virginia elections. The partnership between the Subcommittee and Money Out Virginia has resulted in a series of important bills that improve the requirements, process and electronic infrastructure for disclosure of campaign donations. We strongly support Delegate Bulova's HB 492, HB495, and HB500, Delegate Helmer's HB489, Delegate Anderson's HB86 and Delegate Davis' HB125, which provides for penalties for violations of disclosure laws. We also support Delegate Bulova's HJ53 to extend the mandate of the Joint Subcommittee so that we can continue our partnership in developing sensible campaign finance reforms for Virginia.

Last Name: Mott Organization: VA Chapter of American Promise Locality: Arlington

Jessica Mott, VA Chapter of American Promise: HB86 (publicly accessible database): We support this bill. A recent poll indicates that 88% of Virginians support public disclosure of all contributions. This enactment of this bill would strengthen disclosure by requiring that the database containing the information from campaign finance reports be publicly accessible, searchable, and sortable. It also requires that the Board of Elections set standards that should help ensure that the data is complete, accurate, and helps verify compliance with campaign finance legal requirements. Its adoption should help facilitate the efficient use of algorithms and electronic cross-checking to promote compliance by reporting entities and the reliability of the information in the database. It compliments the other proposed disclosure bills, HB495, HB500 and HB489, as well as the proposed oversight bill HB492. HB489 (electioneering): We support this bill, Its passage would help reduce one significant form of dark money support by making this support transparent. It adopts a definition of electioneering that is already utilized in other jurisdictions. It would help ensure that campaign finance disclosure includes not only ads that directly advocate support or opposition to candidates, but also ads close to election dates that imply support or opposition in ways that are likely intended to influence election outcomes. It also requires public disclosure within ads of top 3 donors. SB318, its counterpart, was approved by the Senate with bipartisan support on January 24th. HB 492 (record retention, guidance and review): We support this bill. It deals with a number of issues discussed by the Joint Subcommittee on Campaign Finance. It requires improved instructions for report forms, along with assistance to campaign offices, and clearly defines the campaign office responsibilities for record retention for expenditures above $500. It addresses a fundamental gap in oversight by providing the Department of Elections with the authority to review campaign finance reports and records. The proposed sample sizes are cost effective and appropriate (100% of state-wide candidates, 10% of state legislature candidates and 1% of other offices for campaigns costing more than $25,000). These and other provisions should help enable cross-checking of data, and the use of algorithms for campaigns and reviewers to identify and address report shortcomings related to completeness, accuracy and compliance. We note that it would help ensure meaningful implementation of proposed HB973, restricting personal use of campaign funds. HB495 (electronic filing): We support this bill. We commend the inclusion of electronic filing of independent expenditures, as well as by all candidates except for candidates running for local office who raise less than $25,000. It addresses measures that were discussed and agreed in principle by the Joint Subcommittee on Campaign Finance Reform. The parts of it pertaining to candidates are largely comparable to SB222 which has been approved by the Senate P&E Committee and was approved by unanimous vote by the Senate on January 24. HB500 (electioneering): We support this bill. We appreciate that it enhances disclosure by expanding advertisement provisions to include more forms of electioneering communications. Thank you for the opportunity to comment. Thank you for this opportunity to testify.

Last Name: Morgan Organization: VA Chapter of American Promise Locality: Alexandria

Nancy Morgan, Coordinator of the VA Chapter of American Promise. Our group supports this bill which provides a valuable updating of definitions in the Virginia Code to allow all legislation to be more legally in tune to the challenges of money flowing into our elections from undisclosed sources. It was a recommendation of the CLC to the Joint Study committee to update many of these definitions in the code.

Last Name: Martin Locality: Fairfax

Voting is a constitutional right. Any law that restricts rather than expands our constitutional right & DUTY to vote is simply voter suppression. We must not repeal any expansions of absentee ballots. Do not decrease early voting. - extend the number of days allowed. Do not eliminate any ballot box locations- expand. We have no need to re-register absentee ballots every year. No excuse absentee voting is absolutely crucial. The state must provide easy and free access to voter ID if a photo is required. Since the USPS has slowed considerably, we must keep the 3 day rule for receiving ballots after election day. All local elections must be on Election Day (in Nov). Election Day should be a holiday. Until we do a complete overhaul of campaign finance & eliminate dark money/special interests there must be no restrictions on outreach, education & registration or from where a candidate may collect funds. Voter registration up to and including Election Day is absolutely crucial to ensure all citizens vote. I support all bills expanding our rights and abilities to make voting as easy as possible. I oppose all bills attempting to restrict any access to our ballot and our vote. The process is too important for the elected officials to be able to restrict us from our duty to be informed voters. Keep expanding our rights. Do not restrict, suppress or subvert them.

End of Comments