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HB 122 Campaign finance; prohibited personal use, civil penalty.

Introduced by: Mark L. Cole | all patrons    ...    notes | add to my profiles

SUMMARY AS PASSED HOUSE: (all summaries)

Campaign finance; prohibited personal use; civil penalty. Adds a definition of "personal use" and prohibits the use of contributions, or conversions of items acquired using contributions, to a candidate or campaign committee for a strictly personal purpose with no intended, reasonable, or foreseeable benefit to the candidate's campaign or public office. Complaints of alleged violations may be made to the State Board of Elections (State Board) by any person who contributed to the candidate or candidate's campaign committee. The subject of the complaint has 30 days to either (i) reimburse the campaign committee the complained-of amount or (ii) provide to the State Board documentation or other evidence that the use of the campaign funds had an intended, reasonable, or foreseeable benefit to the campaign or the candidate's public office. If the subject of the complaint provides such documentation or other evidence, the State Board shall review the response made by the subject of the complaint, and determine whether the use of campaign funds had any intended, reasonable, or foreseeable benefit to the campaign or the candidate's public office. The bill amends the Freedom of Information Act to allow closed meetings for the State Board to review such complaints. If the State Board determines that there were no intended, reasonable, or foreseeable benefits and the complained-of amount has not been reimbursed, it shall call a public hearing. If the complaining party declines to participate in the hearing, the complaint shall be dismissed. A person found by a unanimous vote of the State Board to have willfully and knowingly violated the prohibition on personal use of campaign contributions must repay to the campaign committee the amount unlawfully converted to the personal use of the candidate or a member of the candidate's immediate family and must return to the complaining party the full amount of the complaining party's contribution to the campaign. The State Board may also assess an additional civil penalty, in an amount not to exceed $ 250. The person found to be in violation may seek review under the Administrative Process Act. The bill authorizes the Virginia Conflict of Interest and Ethics Advisory Council (Council) to issue formal advisory opinions regarding the provisions governing the personal use of campaign funds pursuant to the Campaign Finance Disclosure Act of 2006 (§ 24.2-945 et seq.). A person who has relied on such an opinion in good faith after he provides full disclosure of the facts will not be subject to the penalties outlined in the bill. In addition, the Council will be required to develop and publish guidance on the provisions of the Campaign Finance Disclosure Act that prohibit the personal use of campaign funds. The bill has an effective date of July 1, 2019.