Threats to democracy

Published 12:00 am Thursday, January 29, 2004

The influence of money on politics is perhaps the biggest threat to democracy – or at least widespread participation in democracy – that we face today.

Many ordinary men and women are simply convinced that their voice is not heard, that politicians are concerned only with those who lavish them with campaign contributions and gifts. It’s a valid concern.

Thanks to the Bush administration and it’s pandering to well-heeled, high-powered energy, drug care and insurance interests, Americans’ cynicism has been compounded.


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It’s right and vital that those contributions and gifts be revealed to the public.

On Thursday, the Virginia Public Access Project (VPAP) released its annual list of gifts and trips given to Virginia lawmakers. The list, which includes who contributed money to lawmakers’ campaigns and their expenditures, is available to the public via the Web site, It’s worth a look.

A story on what local legislators’ reported receiving in the form of gifts/trips appears in today’s News-Herald. While the amounts do not seem to be particularly egregious, what’s interesting is the amount of money donated to lawmakers by the health care industry and real estate/developers, which rank one and two on the lists of campaign contributors of all local lawmakers.

A cynical person might wonder whether the lawmakers pay more attention to the needs of those groups than they do ordinary citizens. We hope not. In a perfect world, legislators would not need to rely on such large contributions for their continued political survival, but such is the system we have created and it remains the best the world has ever known.

We think Suffolk residents are ably represented in the General Assembly by Sen. Frederick Quayle and Dels. Chris Jones and Lionell Spruill. Nonetheless VPAP’s cause is a good one and we encourage all Suffolkians to visit the site. It’s important that we know who is trying to influence our representatives.