The authors, Christopher Newport University political science professor Quentin Kidd and Meyrem Baer, a CNU undergraduate who is researching government ethics, urge the General Assembly to consider their recommendations for reforming the state’s ethics rules for public officials.
“Virginia rightly prides itself as a national leader in many areas,” they write. “Yet, despite the commonwealth’s commitment to tradition and sense of moral exceptionalism, the corruption investigation that has engulfed Gov. Bob McDonnell’s last year in office has brought heightened attention to the ethics of public officials and exposed many problems.”
They note that in a recent study of all 50 states on the risk of corruption, conducted by the Center for Public Integrity in partnership with Global Integrity and Public Radio International, Virginia ranked 47th, with an overall grade of F. The Corruption Risk Report Card gave individual grades of F to the Old Dominion on public access to information, executive accountability, political financing, legislative accountability and ethics enforcement agencies, among others.
“Observers of Virginia politics worry that the lack of ethics oversight in the commonwealth is a recipe for a major scandal, especially as politics in the Old Dominion takes on a sharper partisan tone, given the state’s newly minted status as a highly competitive battleground,” Kidd and Baer write.
Their recommendations can be summarized as follows:
1. Improve what is already good about Virginia’s public ethics rules.
2. Create a statewide independent ethics commission.
3. Clarify the rules for gifts and consider limits.
4. Clarify the rules of campaign expenditures.
5. Consider limitations on campaign contributions.