The Virginia Way
When it comes to regulating money in politics, Virginia goes its own way. Most states seek to curb the influence of money in politics through regulations such as contribution limits. Virginia is one of only a handful of states with no limits. Candidates for state and local offices can accept donations in any amount, as long as they disclose the identity of any donor who gives more than $100.
The prevailing wisdom in the Virginia General Assembly is that disclosure is more effective than regulation. In this view, contribution limits simply drive money to unregulated channels and make it more difficult for the public to understand who is underwriting elections. Advocates say the Virginia way is a more straightforward approach that — when combined with full, public disclosure — gives citizens the information they need to determine if a politician is being more responsive to donors than to its voting constituents.
The nonprofit Virginia Public Access Project was founded in 1997 on the premise that if Virginia's going to rely upon disclose, the Virginia needs the most transparent campaign finance system possible. Learn more about VPAP
Frequently Asked Questions
What do candidates have to disclose about their donors?
For any donor who gives a total of "more than $100" in an election cycle, candidates must disclose the donor's name, full mailing address, occupation and employer. Candidates are allowed to keep the names of small donors private, though a few candidates decide in the name of full disclosure to name every donor, no how small their contribution.
Does Virginia allow corporate donations?
Yes. Individuals, corporations and partnerships can give — and there are no limits on how much a donor can give a particular candidate. The only prohibited donors are foreign nationals, foreign corporations and companies that hold licenses to conduct pari-mutuel horse racing in Virginia.
What about privacy?
Candidates who solicit donations should make potential donors aware that if they give more than $100 their names will be entered into the official public record. VPAP seeks to balance disclosure with privacy by redacting donors' street addresses.
How often do candidates file? Candidates file semi-annual disclosure reports in years when they are not running for office and eight times in years when they are running for office.
Where can I view the public documents?
- Candidates for State Office: The State Board of Elections maintains a database of disclosure reports filed since 1999 by candidates for state office. View SBE Reports
- Political Action Committees: PACs that raise or spend more than $10,000 a year are required to file disclosure reports electronically. View E-filed PAC Reports
Smaller PACs can disclose their finances on paper reports, which are on file at the SBE office in Richmond. Call 804-864-8901 to make an appointment to view reports during normal business hours.
- Local Candidates: Disclosure reports from candidates for local office who file electronically are available on the SBE Web site. VPAP maintains a list of Local E-Filers who reports are available on the SBE Site.
Disclosure reports from candidates for local office who file on paper are on file at the voter registration office in the county or city in which they reside.