The Family Foundation of Virginia would like to offer its belated congratulations to David M. Poole and VPAP. Poole is the executive director of the Virginia Public Access Project, and last week received the George Mason Award from the Virginia Society of Professional Journalists. The award is presented for outstanding contributions to journalism and Poole's and VPAP's contributions are considerable, not just to journalism, but to the entire citizenry who cares about open government. VPAP, which is a non-profit, non-partisan organization, brings much needed sunshine and transparency to our candidates and elected officials and their campaigns and contributors. You know the expression: If you want to know why someone is acting the way they are, follow the money. VPAP's ability to track and organize data and tie it all together in an easy to digest format is an invaluable tool to understand who is donating what, how much and how often, and to whom. It is essential for getting much needed background (and perhaps motivation for certain issues) on candidates and elected officials.

Along these lines, we and other interested groups already are forming a coalition to back an online budget bill in next year's General Assembly. We hope the coalition to be along the lines of the successful coalitions in 2006 for the Death Tax repeal and in 2007 for eminent domain reform; one that includes people from across professions and political philosophies.

This past year the budget transparency bills died (HB 1360 and SB 585), but there was the smallest advancement of the ball. Although we didn't get what we wanted, we also did not have as strong a coalition as we should in the future; after all, it took years to get the Death Tax repealed and eminent domain reform took two sessions. We also learned a lot and are ready for battle. VPAP's recognition shows the public and media are united on this particular front (even The Washington Post editorialized for the bills) — and how often are conservatives and the media on the same side of any issue? That should portend good news. So a well deserved thank you to David Poole and VPAP for raising the public's awareness and the media's consciousness to the importance of governmental transparency and sunshine.