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Letters to the Editor for April 22, 2022: The 'sunshine factor'

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The 'sunshine factor'

Editor, Times-Dispatch:

As international events highlight the corrosive power of oligarchs and the threat they pose to democracy, look to the recent General Assembly session to see how difficult it is to rein in the power of money in elections.

In March, Virginia celebrated Sunshine Week, a national initiative educating the public about the importance of open government and the dangers of excessive secrecy. Sunshine Week ironically coincided with the final days of the assembly session.

Several campaign finance bills fell in the legislature that were focused on improving transparency and accountability. In March, The Times-Dispatch reported on a House panel rejecting a bill that would restrict personal use of campaign funds.

It did not seem to matter that the bill's provisions were the product of multiyear discussions; or that Virginia is one of only a few states with no limits on personal use of campaign donations; or that recent polling from the Wason Center for Civic Leadership at Christopher Newport University shows Virginians support closing loopholes that can enrich legislators at the expense of citizens.

As bills were killed in committee, I found myself at a loss for words. As an educational professional with expertise in civics education, and as a campaign finance reform advocate with the Virginia chapter of American Promise, I cannot fathom why legislators continue to block commonsense bills that promote enhanced government transparency.

The “sunshine factor” allows citizen voices to offset the campaign money of wealthy individuals and corporations. I urge legislators to seriously address good governance during the next session.

Jeffrey Coupe.

Richmond.

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