During last night’s League of Women Voters forum for candidates in the 40th House of Delegates district, candidates were asked where they stood on the issue of non-partisan redistricting and both candidates expressed support of the idea. Tim Hugo even used this as part of his failed efforts to appear as though he’s above “the nastiness of politics.”
During his response, however, Dan Helmer said we need to go beyond simply having non-partisan redistricting to help ensure we have a fair system that politicians aren’t using the political process simply to benefit themselves personally. He said we also need to address Virginia’s campaign finance laws and highlighted how the Washington Post has even criticized Hugo for using large amounts of campaign funds to help cover personal expenses.
Helmer is absolutely correct here as even as far back as August of 2013, the Post published an editorial lambasting Hugo for charging his campaign for travel expenses “wildly in excess of that charged by other lawmakers” and “$9,400 in cellphone charges, tops in the legislature.” He also charged the campaign for thousands of dollars worth of meals and snacks, many of which he had by himself.
In case folks were wondering if these were legitimate expenses, the Post noted that this came despite “a daily allowance of $170 for food and lodging when they are on official business in Richmond” and “a $15,000 annual allotment to cover office expenses (excluding staff, which is covered separately), as well as a gas-mileage reimbursement for weekly trips home during legislative sessions.”
Considering all this, Helmer was definitely right to say residents of the 40th District deserve to have campaign finance laws in place that will help prevent their elected officials from profiting off of public service. Here’s audio of Helmer’s remarks, including him highlighting how Hugo spent campaign funds to purchase “the violent video game Call of Duty” back on election night in 2017.
While I couldn’t find an expenditure reported on VPAP.org, a website that tracks campaign finance here in Virginia, that explicitly said Hugo spent money on Call of Duty, there was an expenditure on the day of the 2017 election for $84 at Walmart. This was listed in the category of “misc. campaigning” and the listing claims the money was spent on “campaign supplies.” While it a quick google search suggests Call of Duty currently runs about $60 from Walmart online, it isn’t out of the realm of possibility that this could be the purchase Helmer was highlighting.
All in all, Dan Helmer’s statement here highlighted just how out of touch with the community Tim Hugo has become. While Hugo might want the public to believe he’s above “the nastiness of politics” and has earned the nickname “Delegate Pothole,” his actions suggest otherwise. Not only is he preventing meaningful legislation from being considered by the General Assembly, but it appears as though he’s doing it while lining his pockets with campaign funds.