Since the horrifying school shooting at Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida, a lot of people have been talking about how much money the NRA gives and who it gives it to. Predictably, the NRA gives money to the very same conservative politicians who have refused time and again to vote on stricter background checks and pass sensible gun violence prevention legislation.
That’s why ethics and transparency laws matter. Because in America, if politicians can be bought and paid for by special interests then, at the very least, we should know about it so we can hold our representatives accountable.
This year in Virginia, progressives proposed four bills that would have made it easier to do just that. The bills covered everything from preventing and disclosing conflicts of interest to disclosing who pays for online advertising. Each of these bills would have made it easier for the public to see who is paying for what and to use that information to hold their representatives accountable for their votes come election time. Passing all four of these bills should have been a no-brainer for anyone committed to representing their constituents and not special interests, but that’s not what happened.
Conservatives know that, after the November elections, voters are sick of the right-wing agenda and are willing to act when their representatives act against voters’ interests. Thanks to projects like Eyes On Richmond and a new policy that all votes have to be recorded for the public to see, it’s easier than ever for us to see exactly what our representatives are up to in Richmond.
Conservatives know that it would look bad to vote against popular ethics and transparency reforms, but they didn’t want these bills to pass either. So instead of making a tough decision, they just decided to avoid voting altogether.
That’s right. None of these four bills to bring more transparency to Richmond were even put on the docket. That means that our representatives didn’t even bother to hear arguments for or against the bills, learn why they mattered to members of the public, and most importantly, they didn’t cast a vote or take a position on the bills. Conservatives think they can’t be held accountable if there’s no vote to point to, allowing them to hide their opposition to increased transparency from their constituents.
But we know this trick, and we’re not going to let them get away with it. Politicians can’t pick and choose which bills to vote on and which bills to kill quietly without so much as a debate. Democracy demands that they carefully consider every bill put in front of them. So join me in demanding that all of our representatives take a clear position on each of these bills so that we know exactly where they stand on ethical issues.