HARRISONBURG — Central Valley legislators received a little less than $8,000 in gifts from companies, universities and trade groups in 2012, according to records from the Virginia Public Access Project.
Sen. Emmett Hanger, R-Mount Solon, led all Virginia senators and delegates in money spent in another category: taxpayer-funded trips to out-of-state conferences. He spent more than $5,600.
VPAP is a nonprofit organization that tracks money in politics. It released a database this week of gifts made to Virginia’s elected officials and trips taken, compiled from lawmakers’ annual disclosure forms.
In 2012, Del. Steve Landes, R-Weyers Cave, accepted the highest amount of gifts among local legislators. The $2,500 in gifts he received included $1,000 from the Virginia Biotechnology Association for airfare, lodging and dinner for a convention in Boston.
Sen. Mark Obenshain, R-Harrisonburg, accepted just over $2,000 in gifts — including more than $1,300 from the Virginia Trial Lawyers Association to bring him to speak at its convention at the Greenbrier Resort in West Virginia.
About $1,700 in gifts went to Del. Todd Gilbert, R-Woodstock. That included $1,000 from the Virginia Auto Dealers Association for a conference in Florida.
Hanger and Del. Tony Wilt, R-Broadway, combined in accepting $1,500 in gifts. Hanger received $800, while Wilt received $715.
Top contributors were the Virginia Coal Association, which gave $400 to Hanger for mine tours in Buchanan County in southwest Virginia, and the Shenandoah Valley Network, which gave $200 in lodging and meals to Wilt.
Del. Rob Bell, R-Albemarle, did not report any gifts.
Hanger also took more than $5,600 in taxpayer-funded trips to conferences, second only to Gov. Bob McDonnell in the amount of money spent in that category. None of the other local legislators reported any trips.
Hanger’s priciest outing was almost $3,000 for the National Conference of State Legislatures summit in Chicago.
Hanger said it was his leadership status that resulted in the cost and number of trips. For the Chicago trip, as an example, he sits on the national conference’s executive board and had to stay longer than most Virginia legislators, he said.
Hanger also took three tips to Maryland and Washington, D.C., in his capacity as chairman of the Chesapeake Bay Commission. Those trips totaled $1,000.
Trips must be preapproved by the Senate Rules Committee.
Contact Preston Knight at 574-6272 or firstname.lastname@example.org