Earlier this afternoon at about 4:00 PM, Virginia State Senator Chap Petersen (D - Fairfax) unloaded on Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell for his role in the ongoing Star Scientific scandal--also known as "Giftgate."
Dead Governor Walking:"Dead Governor walking": wow! Visit Chap Petersen here.
Two months ago, I wrote a letter to the Governor asking him to “come clean” to the people of Virginia regarding gifts he received from Jonnie Williams and Star Scientific which “materially and systematically benefited” his family.
In my letter, I stated that the Governor should itemize all gifts his family received and return them, or sell them and donate the money to charity. Otherwise, he should resign and turn the Executive Branch over to the Lt. Governor.
Some saw my gesture as a criticism. Actually, it was a lifeline. But nobody grabbed it.
I dropped the letter in the mailbox on July 2nd and emailed a copy to the Governor’s Political Director. I sent a copy to the Senate President and Speaker of the House.
Since July 2nd, no one has responded to my letter, or accepted my offer on coming clean (McDonnell has stated he “returned” the Williams gifts but refused to itemize them, which renders his admission meaningless). Meanwhile, additional reports have leaked out regarding six-figure loans, undisclosed purchases of stock, and more fancy gifts.
The mounting pile of gifts, loans and favors did not come free. There were insider interviews between Williams and the Secretary of the Health, marketing events at the Governor’s mansion, and an investment by our state pension fund (VRS) in Star Scientific stock — an investment allegedly chosen “at random” by a state computer.
The substance of all this may or may not lead to a criminal indictment. (The Federal grand jury is slower than Albert Haynesworth in a summer wind sprint). But is has led to the inescapable conclusion that the Governor used his elected office as a means to sustain his family’s life-style. And that ain’t right.
Back to the trivial pursuit of politics …
When I sent my letter in July, it was a daring thing to do. Now it seems about as dangerous as kicking a road kill.
To paraphrase Hemingway, the demise of the McDonnell administration over the past two months has been gradual, then sudden. At this point, it has become a death march.
Even the Attorney General — who just three months ago badly needed the Governor’s help to get elected — cannot swim away from the Titanic fast enough. (And he’s got his own problems with Star Scientific). Yesterday, he announced his opposition to the Governor’s #1 public education initiative: the state takeover of failing schools.
No one wants to be publicly associated with someone who is tainted with corruption.
The real beneficiary in all this appears to be the Democratic ticket which is out of power in Richmond and thus unsullied. (Not that they saw this coming. As late as June 28, a campaign official was telling me that they wanted to stress their ties with McDonnell because “he was a popular Governor.” Oh well!)
Ironically, the Democrats’ good fortune has been aided by the Republicans’ persistent failure to clean up the ethics mess this summer while it was still possible to do so. With fifty days left to Election Day, that ship has sailed. You’re stuck.
Note to party executive directors: the “circle the wagons” mentality only works when you have something worthwhile on the inside.
With two months til Election Day and four months til the next session convenes, there is no need for a “special session” this fall — unless we’re ready to take up articles of impeachment for misusing the Executive Office. That won’t happen, because the Richmond leadership would rather lose at the polls than see major decisions driven by the back bench of the Assembly.
Meanwhile, the Executive Branch stumbles forward to January 2014. It’s not a pretty picture. And it could have been avoided.