Virginia prides itself on its part-time legislature: Officeholders aren’t full-time lawmakers, but “citizen representatives” whose livelihoods are in the real world, not at the public trough. The requirements placed on them, however, mirror those of their federal comrades up the road from Richmond in Washington.
Del. Kathy Byron, R-Bedford County, accepted a trip to Taiwan in 2012, combined with three trips to American Legislative Exchange Council meetings between 2010 and 2012 easily made her the busiest traveler among the Lynchburg area’s delegation to the legislature. Unfortunately, Byron neglected to report her travel to Taiwan. Byron indicated that she didn’t report her trip to Taiwan because Virginia taxpayers didn’t pay for it. However, this is not in keeping with the Virginia disclosure laws. Laws such as financial disclosure regulations are in place to give the general public confidence their legislators have the public’s interests at heart, not those of big donors and lobbyists.
The delegate said she took the trip sponsored by Taiwan’s cultural office and didn’t report it because Virginia taxpayers didn’t pay for it. That’s not the total point of the personal financial disclosure statements required of all state lawmakers concerning items worth more than $50. The point of the law — in addition to disclosing whether taxpayers paid for the event — is for the public to know who is paying for the trip, dinner, conference and other gifts being handed out by the special interests.
The public then can make up its collective mind whether the event in which legislators participated was in the best interests of the state and its people or whether it was in the best interests of the sponsors. Those sponsors can range from a country, such as Taiwan, to golf outings sponsored by the Virginia Bankers Association to dinners sponsored by Genworth Financial or Carilion Clinic.
Source: The Lynchburg News & Advance