Dinners at Ruth's Chris. Free tours of Turkey and Taiwan. Tickets to the Masters golf tournament and Redskins games. Conferences, concerts and conventions.
Lobbyists, corporations, advocacy groups and associations wined, dined, feted, flew to foreign lands and otherwise schmoozed Virginia's legislators last year to the tune of more than $221,000, according to Statements of Economic Interests filed with the clerks of the House of Delegates and Virginia Senate.
The amount of gift giving was down slightly from the 2011 total of roughly $245,000, but still the third-highest amount in the past nine years, according to an analysis by the Virginia Public Access Project, a nonpartisan tracker of money in politics. More than 170 donors were listed in the filing.
Leading the pack in donations was Dominion Virginia Power, which showered lawmakers with more than $23,000 in freebies. Not far behind was the American Turkish Friendship Association, which spent more than $21,000 on eight trips to Turkey. In the past three years, ATFA has taken 24 lawmakers and their spouses on free tours, according to VPAP.
Conspicuously down the list of donors this year was Virginia Uranium, which spent thousands in 2011 to send legislators to France and Canada to tour uranium mining operations as part of its lobbying effort to lift the mining moratorium in Virginia. In 2012, the company only spent $437 on seven gifts, according to the filings.
Leading the list of legislative recipients was Sen. Thomas K. Norment, Jr., R-James City, the Senate majority leader, who accepted $11,799 in gifts -- including more than $9,000 in free travel from the Virginia Sheriffs' Association and more than $1,500 in free travel from Dominion.
Lawmakers are required to list gifts with a value in excess of $50.
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