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Bill could boost political donations during legislative sessions, long a no-no for candidates

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As lawmakers were debating the taxing of “alternative nicotine products” such as vaping and e-cigarettes last March, an industry leader donated $15,000 to the House Republican caucus political fund.

When lawmakers returned to the Capitol in June from a hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic to pass a $26 billion state budget for the coming year, road builders gave the same fund $70,000.

State lawmakers for decades have been banned from taking campaign contributions from lobbyists and special interests during the session. Long ago, the General Assembly said it looked bad for a lawmaker to take a check at the same time he or she is considering legislation or funding that the donor may be trying to get approved or killed.

But caucus funds that raise money to support GOP candidates, such as the House Republican Trust and its Senate counterpart, are allowed to take money during sessions.

Now, the House is a vote away from creating a new category of funds — called leadership committees — that critics say would provide even more incentive for lobbyists and special interests to donate unlimited amounts during the session to governors and legislative leaders, who will be able to use the money to coordinate directly […]

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