RICHMOND, JAN. 28 -- Virginia political parties soon will have to make public their contributions and spending.
The Virginia Senate passed and sent to Gov. L. Douglas Wilder today a bill that will require political parties to make the same financial disclosures as candidates. Public interest groups have condemned what they called a river of "soft money" flowing to the parties from well-heeled contributors who want to avoid public scrutiny.
Wilder plans to sign the bill, said press secretary Laura Dillard.
"The people are entitled to know from whence the money comes and where it goes," said Sen. Hunter B. Andrews (D-Hampton), chief sponsor of the measure. "The same thing that goes for candidates should go for parties."
Virginia is one of five states that does not require parties to detail their spending and contributions. All gifts over $100 will be on file in public records with the state Board of Elections.
State Democratic Chairman Paul Goldman, a Wilder confidant who was originally uncommitted on the measure, said he now supports it. But he said opening his party's books will produce few revelations about secret spending or major donors.
"Reporters who are expecting to win the Pulitzer Prize will have to look elsewhere," Goldman said.
"We don't have any Dwight Schars contributing half a million dollars," he said, referring to the Northern Virginia developer who was the largest contributor to 1989 GOP gubernatorial nominee J. Marshall Coleman. "State party disclosure is a good thing."
But some top Republicans were less enthusiastic. Democrats who control the General Assembly may try to discourage business people from contributing to Republicans by threatening reprisals on legislative issues in which the donors have an interest, said Joe Elton, state GOP executive director.
"I believe there are legislators and other Democrats who will use this as a hammer," Elton said.
In recent years, Andrews's bill has been cut up in haggling between the House and Senate over such issues as whether to apply the law to local parties. The bill that passed both chambers applies to state parties only.
At the insistence of the House, Andrews's bill also was changed to exclude the legislative caucuses that both parties have created to help their members get elected.
"This is awfully hypocritical," Elton said. "Once again, they are willing to make laws for other people but not for themselves."
In other action today, the Senate passed two gun control measures on narrow votes. One would make the purchaser of any handgun subject to a criminal background check; about 90 percent already are covered by a law that requires checks for purchasers of guns with barrels of five inches or less.
The other bill would make it a misdemeanor to allow a loaded handgun in the hands of children.
Also today, the House Education Committee approved a bill allowing local school boards to decide whether students should wear uniforms.
Supporters of the measure said that dress codes, even if voluntary, could reduce pressure on students to wear expensive clothes and improve security by helping to identify strangers on school grounds.