Nearly half of the gifts state legislators accepted last year came from Virginia Uranium, a company that is lobbying to mine what is thought to be the largest deposit of uranium in the United States.
In all, the 140 members of the General Assembly accepted 533 gifts worth $245,393, according to the Virginia Public Access Project, a nonpartisan tracker of money in politics. Virginia Uranium spent $120,000.
Gov. Bob McDonnell (R) announced last month that he wants to further study whether uranium should be mined in Southside Virginia before he would support lifting a mining ban. Instead he recommended that the state begin to develop regulations.
Lobbyists, companies and trade associations doled out tickets to Redskins football games and the U.S. Open, flowers and books. And lots of expensive meals, according to information released Tuesday.
A majority of gifts were offered during last year’s 45-day legislative session, when donors often lobby lawmakers after treating them to dinners, receptions and goody bags.
Many of last year’s gifts came from the state’s largest and most influential companies and groups.
Top givers by amount were Virginia Uranium, ($120,347); Dominion Resources, which runs the largest electric company in the state ($15,106); State of Taiwan ($11,000); Virginia Trial Lawyers Association ($7,646) and the American Turkish Friendship Association ($7,225). Three three legislators got trips to Turkey. Two went to Taiwan.
The American Legislative Exchange Council, a pro-business, free-market group that ghostwrites bills on a variety of subjects that are pushed by its members, spent $6,679. The group’s most common gift was transportation to its meetings and conferences.
The top five recipients all had one thing in common — they went to France: Del. John Cosgrove (R-Chesapeake) $15,775; Del. James Massie (R-Henrico) $13,036; Del. Lionell Spruill (D-Chesapeake) $11,920;, Del. David Englin (D-Alexandria) $11,420; and Del. Mamye BaCote (D-Newport News) ($11,367).
Fifteen legislators reported receiving no gifts.
Congressional lawmakers imposed a limit on gifts after a public corruption scandal involving lobbyist Jack Abramoff. Similar policies were put in place in Maryland in 2001 after two high-profile scandals there.
In Virginia, lawmakers have toughened disclosure requirements but have not limited gifts. While the state does not limit the gifts lawmakers can receive, it requires lawmakers to disclose items valued at more than $50.