Just over one-half of 140 state legislators reported receiving at least one meal or gift valued at more than $50 during the two months when the 2017 General Assembly session was held, according to recently filed disclosure statements.
In all, legislators reported 101 meals and gifts valued at $9,052.
The most widely attended event was the annual Virginia Agribusiness Banquet, a gathering of more than 842 people on January 12 at the Richmond Raceway Complex. Some 61 legislators -- many accompanied by spouses -- attended the dinner, valued at $80.83 a person.
If you exclude one popular banquet, the percentage of legislators who reported at least one gift falls to only two-in-10.
The list of legislators reporting free meals and gifts has declined since Gov. Bob McDonnell was convicted in a 2014 gifts scandal (a conviction later overturned on appeal). But precise historic comparisons are difficult because in response to the McDonnell case, the General Assembly has changed the gift rules and disclosure forms several times. For instance, legislative and executive officials can no longer accept free meals or gifts from registered lobbyists, except under certain circumstances.
In disclosures covering the entire year of 2013, 85% of General Assembly members reported accepting at least one meal or gift valued at $50 or more. During the two-month 2017 General Assembly, the percentage who reported accepting gifts fell to 53 percent.
July 5, 2017
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