Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Ken Cuccinelli must resign

In a really egregious and startling example of pay to play, Ken Cuccinelli apparently traded his legislative services for a huge donation from a fraudulent charity, the U.S. Navy Veterans Association ("USNVA").
In 2009, Thompson gave $55,000 to Cuccinelli, making him the second largest individual contributor to the future AG, according to the St. Petersburg Times*. A $50,000 contribution came after Cuccinelli directly solicited him by phone last August. Cuccinelli told the Roanoke Times last week that Thompson, who lived until recently near Tampa, Florida, was interested in "making sure veterans were taken care of" -- an issue the candidate had been raising in his campaign -- and that "there was nothing that raised a red flag."

Aside from a shared staunch conservatism, it's not clear exactly why Thompson contributed so much to an out-of-state candidate for attorney general. But he did have a legislative priority he was interested in. Earlier this year, USNVA, with the help of a veteran GOP lobbyist, convinced a state lawmaker, Democrat Patsy Ticer, to introduce a bill that would exempt veterans' charities from having to formally register with the state before raising money. USNVA, which has been around since 1999, raises almost all its money through telephone solicitations -- a task which is contracted to a Michigan-based phone-banking firm. The bill quickly passed.
So what is the fraudulent fundraiser accused of?
• USNVA says in IRS filings that it consists of 85 volunteer officers, over 66,000 members, and 41 state chapters. But the paper searched long and hard for all 85 officers, and could find no record whatsoever for 84 of them. Among that group was the man listed on USNVA's rudimentary-looking website as its CEO, Jack L. Nimitz, whose bio says he's a lifelong Texas resident, retired naval reservist and now private investment banker.

• USNVA also says a five-member executive board and 12 key officers work out of the group's national headquarters on M Street in Washington, D.C. But that address turns out to be a mailbox at a UPS shipping store.

• The paper reports: "In the end, the searches for people and documents all came back to one man, the association's director of development, Bobby Thompson, and one place, his $1,200-a-month rented duplex across from the Cuesta-Rey cigar factory in Ybor City ... After the Times started asking questions ... Thompson, who had lived in the duplex for a decade, cleared out. His landlord said he left no forwarding address."

• Nor could the paper find any evidence for the existence of either of the two auditors who USVNA says have conducted audits of its finances.

• The paper adds: "The group reported $4.58 million in income from its Florida chapter in 2008 and $17.82 million from its other chapters. It said it donated about 1 percent to needy beneficiaries and said the other 99 percent went for administrative costs, educational materials and "direct assistance'' to veterans and their families." USNVA told the Times it had "tens of thousands" of records detailing its expenditures, but declined to make them available. It has accused the paper of conducting "McCarthy-like witch hunts" against it.

You get the picture.
So, what is Cuccinelli doing to put this situation right? Absolutely nothing. He's not returning the donations and he's not investigating USNVA.
Cuccinelli's political director last week told the Roanoke Times: "If Mr. Thompson was convicted of wrongdoing relative to the misappropriation of funds, and contributions to our campaign came from money that was supposed to go to active duty military or veterans, we would donate those contributions to military support organizations here in Virginia."

But come July, when USNVA may begin soliciting Virginians for contributions, it seems to us that there would be ample evidence for the AG to use his own office to start looking into the man who provided almost 3 percent of his total campaign haul last year. Cuccinelli could even free up some resources by easing off on the investigation of climate science he's currently focused on. So, Mr. Attorney General, how about it?
That's not nearly enough: Ken Cuccinelli has blown it. He's been caught red-handed trading his legislative services for a huge donation from a crook who preyed on veterans and their families.

Ken Cuccinelli must resign, he's unfit to serve as the Attorney General of Virginia. Best case scenario, Cuccinelli is too incompetent to continue as Attorney General. Worst case scenario, Cuccinelli understood that the charity he was dealing with was crooked and that's why he extorted a $55,000 "donation" from the charity.

Pack your bags Cooch, it's time to go. Leave your resignation on the desk.

Read the complete coverage at TPM Muckraker.

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