Manassas/Bristow Delegate Fights to Keep Corporate Money Out of Virginia Politics

| January 4, 2018 | 0 Comments | News

Lee Carter in Old Town Manassas.

Manassas/Bristow Delegate-elect Lee Carter (D-50th) wants to decrease the influence of corporate money in Virginia politics, so that state-run government better works for the people.

Carter, who represents parts of Bristow and the City of Manassas, Jackson Miller’s (R) former district, is one of several newly-elected delegates to have formed a People’s Caucus, which intends to reduce the influence of corporate money in Virginia State politics.

Members agreed to vote as a bloc to take on campaign finance reform and support consumer protections bills. They have further agreed not to accept contribution from public service corporations such as Dominion Power, or any other state utility.

Additionally, they have formed a political action committee attached to the caucus that has refused to accept campaign contributions from corporations.

To counter even the appearance of corporate influence influencing his legislative decisions, Carter refused all corporate donations during his 2017 campaign.

“I have not and will not ever take a dime from for-profit corporations and industry interest groups,” he said.

Carter, who identifies as a Democratic Socialist, like Bernie Sanders, believes citizens want their representatives look out for them, not be in the pockets of large corporations.

“Time and time again, myself and our volunteers out knocking doors heard from voters that felt like they couldn’t trust or count on their elected leaders because they were ‘bought and paid for,’” said Carter. “They felt like politicians were looking out for big corporations and not the single mom living in Manassas struggling to make ends meet and provide the best she can for her family. We also got a very positive response from voters about mailers we sent out related to Jackson Miller’s campaign donations from corporate interests.”

Not being unduly influenced by the utilities was another aspect of the caucus that Carter felt strongly about. Carter said been a pervasive attitude of “whatever Dominion Energy wants, it gets.”

He gave the example of a 2015 rate freeze bill, which he believed served the utility not the residents. “In 2015 the General Assembly enacted S.B. 1349, freezing electric utility rates, which allowed Dominion to then over-collect from customers, instead of refunding Virginian rate payers that money. That is unconscionable to me.” Dominion Energy defended the rate freeze say it has been better for their customers while also allowing them to invest in new innovations.

However, regardless of who benefitted from S.B. 1349, Carter contends that taking money out of politics can make it clear to the constituent for whom they are working, which will should allow them to trust that the decisions being made in Richmond are being made on their behalf.

“Overall, when the General Assembly is expected to regulate these large utility companies, the fact that they’re even taking these donations casts doubt on how strongly legislators will hold these companies accountable, and Virginia’s residents expect more from us.”

He also heard from many residents in his district about how Dominion Power’s proposed placement of 230 kilovolt transmission lines through their neighborhoods would have a negative effect on their property values.

Residents do not want the power lines; the power lines would not be serving them, but a new Amazon Data-base; and yet, they would be paying for it. Carter believes that is just wrong.

“[Residents and small business owners] shouldn’t be responsible as rate payers to pay for the cost of the additional infrastructure Dominion wants to build, when the cause for that project is due to the needs of a large corporate entity, versus the public interest.”

He suggests Virginia legislators should also take a closer look at the State Corporation Commission [SCC], which serves as the final arbiter in these matters.

He notes there have been concerns about the power and the function of the SCC since the 1950s and 60s. Back then, a delegate named Henry Howell, called for a consumer advocate to be involved in all of the commission’s decisions. Many decades later, and that still has not happened. “I certainly think that’s a step that should have been taken long ago,” said Carter.

Thus far, the People’s Caucus includes freshman delegates. Carter said he invites any and all Virginia delegates to join, regardless of experience or party.

According to a Richmond Times Dispatch article on the subject, Josh Stanfield of Activate Virginia, a liberal group, is the Caucus’s Executive Director. Del. Sam Rasoul (D-11th) of Roanoke, is the only non-freshman member.

© 2018, Bristow Beat. All rights reserved.

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