Editor: We need campaign-finance reform in Virginia ,and no election better exemplifies that than our 2019 Democratic primary for commonwealth’s attorney.
Nearly $850,000 was poured into one local candidate in Arlington and Falls Church, 84 percent of it from out of state. One man, George Soros, contributed $618,091 through his political committees to influence this campaign.
The numbers as published by the non-partisan Virginia Public Access Project cry out for the Virginia legislature to fix the problem that allowed one man to effectively buy the office of commonwealth’s attorney.
The numbers tell the story. Theo Stamos, a recognized incumbent with a strong record, raised $176,664 for her primary race, an ordinary amount for a local election. Nearly 80 percent of that money came from inside Virginia. A political newcomer, Parisa Dehghani-Tafti, with no experience as a prosecutor, raised an extraordinary $845,306 for her race against the incumbent, and won by a narrow 1,142 votes.
For Dehghani-Tafti, some 84 percent of her money came from out of state and only 4 percent came from within Arlington and Falls Church. Yes, you read that correctly – she only raised $33,832 of her $845,306 in our community.
If one were to believe the widely distributed allegations from Dehhgani-Tafti, the Arlington Police Department is a bastion of mistreatment of minorities and suspects, and the commonwealth’s attorney has unduly filled the jails with minor offenders who shouldn’t be there. There was nowhere near enough money to overcome these distortions before the primary.
I know better. I know that each year during the period that Theo Stamos was commonwealth’s attorney, the numbers of inmates were reduced.
By Dehghani-Tafti’s telling, you would think we are policed in Arlington by a racially insensitive and oppressive force. In fact, Arlington has built one of the finest police departments in this country. It cares about our communities and it directly participates with them. It is a diverse force from the street to the command office – men and women of wide and diverse racial, ethnic, gender and social background.
A campaign run with outside PAC money that lies about the record of hardworking public officials and employees does not serve the interest of Arlington or Falls Church.
As importantly, however, is the need to remove this kind of overwhelming meddling in local elections by one out-of-state billionaire pursuing his own agenda.
Our delegation to the General Assembly needs to push for some realistic restrictions on contributions to local elections, where one man can now pour in over $600,000 of his own money to effectively overcome local interests while tarnishing both the county and its law enforcement.
I urge Arlingtonians to ask their members of the House of Delegates and state Senate to close this abuse of a free and open election process.
Bill Russell, Arlington