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Date published: 1/22/2013
AP Political Writer
RICHMOND--Interests lobbying the General Assembly to repeal a law banning uranium mining plied state legislators with nearly $140,000 in campaign contributions the past two years, according to data gleaned by a nonprofit and nonpartisan campaign finance watchdog.
Legislators also accepted gifts from Virginia Uranium Inc. valued at nearly $139,000, according to reports for 2011 and 2012 compiled by the Virginia Public Access Project.
Senate Democratic Leader Richard L. Saslaw of Fairfax County, a key supporter of the effort to allow mining of a natural deposit of the radioactive metal in Pittsylvania County, received $15,000 over the period for his political action committee.
Two Republicans--House Republican Caucus chairman Timothy Hugo of Fairfax County and Senate Republican Caucus chairman Ryan McDougle of Hanover--were tied for second behind Saslaw at $10,000 apiece, with Senate Republican Leader Thomas K. Norment of James City County close behind at $9,500.
Fifteen legislators reported receiving gifts from Virginia Uranium and allied lobbying firms, most of it for travel to France to visit uranium mines there.
Dels. John Cosgrove, R-Chesapeake, and Onzlee Ware, D-Roanoke, reported travels of comparable value--between $12,250 and $12,500.
Sen. John Watkins, R-Powhatan, one of the General Assembly's wealthiest members, reported nearly $12,000 in travel paid by the group, and Del. Lionel Spruill, D-Chesapeake, reported slightly more than $11,500 worth of travel.
Overall, legislative Republicans more than doubled the money raised by Democrats: $7.1 million for the GOP to $3 million for Democrats.
Last year was the most expensive political year in Virginia history because the state was a hotly contested presidential battleground and because of partisan battle for an open U.S. Senate seat.
The State Board of Election reports covering the past year showed that Norment was easily the top raiser of campaign cash during calendar year 2012 with $477,652 compared with $386,486 for Saslaw.
Third was House Democratic Leader David J. Toscano of Charlottesville with $282,123, and House Speaker Bill Howell, R-Stafford, was fourth at $244,139.vpap.org/donors/top_gifts