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Uranium backers gave gifts, donations to lawmakers

Tuesday - 1/22/2013, 3:06am  ET

More details could change opinion on Uranium

WTOP's Max Smith reports.

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By BOB LEWIS
AP Political Writer

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) - 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 about 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.

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. Norment's $477,652 compared with $386,486 for his Democratic rival and counterpart in the Senate, Saslaw.

House Democratic Leader David J. Toscano of Charlottesville came in third with $282,123, and House Speaker Bill Howell, R-Stafford, was fourth at $244,139.

Overall, legislative Republicans more than doubled the money raised by Democrats: $7.1 million for the GOP to $3 million for Democrats. Republicans rule 68 of the House of Delegates' 100 seats, while Democrats and Republicans hold 20 seats apiece in the state Senate.

While 2012 was the loudest and most expensive political year in Virginia history because the state was a close and fiercely contested presidential battleground and because of partisan battle for an open U.S. Senate seat, it was an off-year for elections to state offices.

The quest for campaign cash will intensify this year, however, as Virginia and New Jersey are the only states that elect governors, and all 100 Virginia House seats are up for grabs.

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Online:

Virginia Public Access Project: http://www.vpap.org/donors/top_gifts


(Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)