AS THE POST’S Anita Kumar reported last Friday, more than a dozen Virginia lawmakers are traveling on all-expenses paid trips to France. Their sugar daddy? A corporation pushing the state’s legislature to repeal a moratorium on mining so it can excavate a supposedly uranium-rich deposit in Pittsylvania.
The company, Virginia Uranium, wants legislators to see French excavation sites where mining of the element occurred until the late ’90s. Despite the obvious appearance of impropriety, the conduct of these legislators is permissible under Virginia’s astonishingly permissive law. The paid travel — estimated to cost roughly $10,000 per legislator — is legal as long as legislators report it as a gift in the coming fiscal year. Nor does the law bar the bipartisan delegation from taking three days of vacation in Paris, courtesy of Virginia Uranium. No doubt they will need to unwind after their rigorous mine inspections.
“My vote can’t be bought. . . . I’m going and coming right back. I’m not going to the south of France. But if anyone else wants to, there’s nothing wrong with that,” Del. Jeion A. Ward (D-Hampton) told The Post. If her constituents don’t find that terribly reassuring, we don’t blame them. Whether or not the legislators tack on a visit to the Riviera or wine country, the trip raises serious doubts about their ability to assess objectively Virginia Uranium’s case for drilling.
We are all for legislators expanding their horizons. But this is no impartial fact-finding mission to assess the safety of uranium digging. There are no diverse or opposing viewpoints that legislators will hear during their tours. Why even ask opponents of lifting the ban to testify before the assembly after legislators have been wined and dined — or in this case flown to a European getaway — by the mining lobby?
These legislators should know better. Those taking the free trip, according to The Post, are: Sens. Mamie E. Locke (D-Hampton) and L. Louise Lucas (D-Portsmouth) and Dels. William R. Janis (R-Goochland), John A. Cosgrove (R-Chesapeake) and Mamye E. BaCote (D-Newport News), who left last week. Dels. David L. Englin (D-Alexandria), Barry D. Knight (R-Virginia Beach), L. Scott Lingamfelter (R-Prince William), James P. Massie III (R-Henrico), Kenneth R. Plum (D-Fairfax), Lionell Spruill Sr. (D-Chesapeake) and Roslyn Tyler (D-Greensville) were scheduled to go this week.
Virginia should know better, too. It’s ridiculous that this kind of junket, paid for by a company with such a direct stake in upcoming legislation, is permissible under state law.