Looking for a spotlight

Published 12:44 pm Saturday, December 7, 2013

Virginia’s governor-elect seems to be getting a good head start on some of the issues that are likely to consume his time when he takes office in January.

During a meeting with the Associated Press and other journalists on Wednesday, Terry McAuliffe discussed a range of matters that will be important to people around the commonwealth and, more particularly, here in Hampton Roads.

Among the priorities for his administration, McAuliffe said, will be ethics reform and government transparency. The issues are in the forefront of Virginians’ minds since a gift scandal rocked the present administration, ensnaring and ultimately helping to upend the campaign of Republican candidate for governor, Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli.

Reforming the weak laws that govern the gifts Virginia elected officials can accept from supporters and lobbyists should lead the agendas of both the new governor and the General Assembly during the next legislative session. Residents of the Old Dominion have a right to expect that their political leaders are fully transparent about the gifts they receive. Virginians can then make their own assessments about the likelihood the givers expected some sort of quid pro quo in return for gifts and special treatment.

It might be too much to expect all lawmakers and the governor to turn down such what many political leaders — though, significantly, not all — unfortunately have come to view as perks of office. But if special treatment has become a happy fact of life for those who hold political office, then the public spotlight should be a sobering influence on such activities.

Virginians will be watching closely to see just how committed McAuliffe and members of the General Assembly really are to living under that spotlight.