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Tags: Bob McDonnell

Bob McDonnell Lesson: Be Nice to Your Chef, Or Cook for Yourself, Or Something



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Knowing now how the Bob McDonnell trial ended, it’s worth taking a look back at how it began: with a disgruntled cook who turned incriminating records over to the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Virginia State Police. The Washington Post’s Rosalind S. Helderman and Matt Zapotosky catch up with the former chef (executive chef to you) to the McDonnells at his new home in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

Todd Schneider was fired in March 2012 after being accused of stealing food bought by the taxpayers to supply his side catering business. (He maintains that he had worked out a barter system with Virginia first lady Maureen McDonnell.) Schneider’s providing police with a $15,000 catering check from dietary supplement honcho Jonnie Williams, Jr., put authorities on the McDonnells’ scent, and they eventually turned up about $177,000 worth of gifts and loans Williams laid on the McDonnells in exchange for some promotion of his wares at state events.

Schneider in turn was able to plead no contest to two misdemeanors and pay a fine. Leaving behind a soured reputation in the Commonwealth of Virginia, Schneider set up shop in the Venice of America, and he now claims to feel pity for his former pal Maureen McDonnell.

Schneider’s reminiscences are both slippery and precise. A giggly wine party between the exec chef and the first lady is interrupted by persistent phone calls from the governor. Maureen McDonell’s irregular hours are detailed. (“He said he would often get texts from the first lady about the mansion’s food late at night, sometimes after midnight.”) But the question of why one of Schneider’s underlings, rather than Schneider himself, testified at the McDonnells’ trial goes unanswered. The chef is at the same time bitter over what he believes was a railroading from the governor’s mansion and effusive about the McDonnell’s sexual chemistry.

“Even when the spotlight was off, you would see them being cuddly and in love,” he says, a characterization that conveniently undercuts the legal defense the McDonnells were still using when Schneider apparently gave the interview. (The defense — that the state’s first couple had been estranged and under emotional strain — did not work, as the former governor was convicted on 11 of 13 counts and the former first lady on nine of 13 counts. The McDonnells will be sentenced in January.)

While the desire to romanticize the days of footmen and scullions seems to be deathless (even the first family of the United States tunes into Downton Abbey, lest we ever be allowed to forget), the 21st-century model of running your own home with more powerful tools but no human attendants carries distinct advantages. The primary advantage is that in the lordly past you and I and almost everybody else would have been the attendants, not the lords. Another is that a self-cleaning oven won’t work out a grudge against you.

The case against Robert and Maureen McDonnell originated in petty malice and never really moved beyond it. That the McDonnnells are going to prison over a total figure of $177,000 is a cruel joke on the public in a state that managed to liquidate $42.7 billion of the people’s money during McDonnell’s last full year in office. The taxes are high, the services are poor, and the traffic stinks. The governor’s wife (one of 50 such counts and countesses across a nation that already pays to maintain a presidential family in high style) is swanning around with an executive chef and that’s considered normal. Yet we’re supposed to be happy because somebody’s been caught with less than the down payment on a four-bedroom house in Loudoun County.

The only government that would not attract oily influence peddlers like Johnnie Williams would be one that does not have billions of dollars in goodies to give away. We have the opposite of that kind of government, and stories like this one remind us that we have it not only in Washington but in many smaller versions at the state, county, and municipal levels. Enforcing gift limits on the Senate candy dish or throwing people in prison for “lending the prestige of the governor’s office” are not going to solve the problem. The low character of so many people around the McDonnells is striking, but can you imagine the kind of people Terry McAuliffe hangs out with? It is foolish to give a person an executive chef and a mansion and a staff and a $43 billion budget, and not expect him to act like royalty.

Tags: Bob McDonnell , Virginia

Bob McDonnell, Disgrace



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From the last Morning Jolt of the week:

Bob McDonnell, Disgrace

You should have taken the plea deal, Governor McDonnell.

Virginia’s 71st governor, Bob McDonnell, on Thursday became the first in the state’s history to be convicted of a felony, turning a legacy dominated by steering the state through austere times into one tarnished by corruption.

Just blocks from the state Capitol that served as the backdrop for his ascension to national prominence, a federal jury convicted McDonnell and former first lady Maureen McDonnell on multiple counts in U.S. District Court.

As a court clerk read the verdict count by count, finding Bob McDonnell guilty on 11 of 13 charges and Maureen McDonnell on nine of 13, the former governor dissolved into tears, covering his eyes and shuddering as several of his children audibly sobbed in the rows behind.

The former first lady also wept, as did other family members and supporters.

Judge James R. Spencer will sentence the McDonnells on Jan. 6. They could face decades in prison but are likely to be sentenced to considerably less time under federal guidelines. Defense attorney Henry Asbill said Bob McDonnell would appeal the verdict.

Score one for Mitt Romney’s vetting team.

The lawyers I know were surprised by the scale of the verdict, but not the ultimate direction. McDonnell’s defense – sure, I took all those gifts and didn’t report them, but you can’t prove a quid pro quo of favors to the donor– always seemed too cute by half and unlikely to fly with a Richmond jury unlikely to be sympathetic to politicians, Republicans, or a silver-haired white guy who wears a Rolex.

Chris Cillizza:

There is simply no way that any politician who was as allegedly able and ambitious as McDonnell would not understand that the relationship between his family and Williams was deeply inappropriate.  It’s inconceivable. And yet, that was the case that the McDonnells sought to make in the weeks-long trial that saw almost seven dozen witnesses called.  McDonnell, his lawyers argued, was simply doing for Williams what he would do for any Virginia businessman hoping to get attention for a product. (Williams was pushing a dietary supplement called Anatabloc.)  That eye-rollingly-difficult-to-believe justification for the parade of gifts showered on the McDonnells was made even less believable by a number of former aides to the governor and First Lady who said they had repeatedly warned the two of the impropriety of their relationship with Williams.

It’s not that every little gesture between a donor and elected official needs to be documented and litigated, but that gray area of “chumminess” was always potential for trouble. The bar for “corruption” has probably been lowered, but that doesn’t appear to be a case of runaway prosecutors or vengeful juries:

James noted that Williams was never able to testify that McDonnell or his wife ever promised him an official action in exchange for his gifts.

Instead, the case against them was built around more low-key events, such as McDonnell’s instructions to set up meetings for Williams or attending an event at the governor’s mansion that marked the launch of one of Williams’ new products. And prosecutors were unable to show that Williams got anything tangible for all the money he showered on the McDonnell family.

Cillizza concludes, “I am left with a feeling of amazement at the vast gap between how McDonnell was regarded (including by me) as recently as two years ago and who he turned out to be.  His judgment, which was touted as one of his best attributes, wound up being one of his worst.”

Tell me about it, Chris. 

Tags: Bob McDonnell

McDonnells Go Down On Nearly All Felony Counts



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Former Virginia governor Robert McDonnell and his wife Maureen were found guilty on most charges today in the conclusion of their felony corruption trial. Bob McDonnell, who was convicted on 11 out of 13 counts, becomes the first governor in Old Dominion history to be convicted of crimes related to his office. Maureen McDonnell was found guilty on nine out of 13 counts.

The Washington Post’s Mark Berman provides a handy chart of the convictions:

Count 1: Conspiracy to commit honest services wire fraud

Maureen G. McDonnell: Guilty

Robert F. McDonnell: Guilty

Count 2: Honest services wire fraud: $15,000 wedding check

Maureen G. McDonnell: Guilty

Robert F. McDonnell: Guilty

Count 3: Honest services wire fraud: MoBo $50,000

Maureen G. McDonnell: Guilty

Robert F. McDonnell: Guilty

Count 4: Honest services wire fraud: MoBo $20,000

Maureen G. McDonnell: Not guilty

Robert F. McDonnell: Guilty

Count 5: Conspiracy to obtain property under color of official right

Maureen G. McDonnell: Guilty

Robert F. McDonnell: Guilty

Count 6: Obtaining property under color of official right: $50,000 in 2011 to MGM

Maureen G. McDonnell: Guilty

Robert F. McDonnell: Guilty

Count 7: Obtaining property under color of official right: $15,000 wedding check

Maureen G. McDonnell: Guilty

Robert F. McDonnell: Guilty

Count 8: Obtaining property under color of official right: $2,380 Kinloch 5/29/2011

Maureen G. McDonnell: Guilty

Robert F. McDonnell: Guilty

Count 9: Obtaining property under color of official right: $1,424 Kinloch 1/7/2012

Maureen G. McDonnell: Not guilty

Robert F. McDonnell: Guilty

Count 10: Obtaining property under color of official right: $50,000 MoBo

Maureen G. McDonnell: Guilty

Robert F. McDonnell: Guilty

Count 11: Obtaining property under color of official right: $20,000 MoBo

Maureen G. McDonnell: Not guilty

Robert F. McDonnell: Guilty

Count 12: False statement to Townebank on 10/03/2012

Maureen G. McDonnell: N/A

Robert F. McDonnell: Guilty

Count 13: False statement to PenFed on 02/01/2013

Maureen G. McDonnell: Not guilty

Robert F. McDonnell: Not guilty

Count 14: Obstruction of an official proceeding

Maureen G. McDonnell: Guilty

Robert F. McDonnell: N/A

“Both McDonnells sobbed openly, but quietly as the verdicts were read,” the Richmond Times-Dispatch reports. “Family members and supporters also wept openly.”

Trial observers had expected the McDonnells to skate on most of the charges other than those related to false statements made in obtaining loans, so the heavy conviction numbers come as a surprise. Although the charges (which involved $177,000 in gifts and loans from a dietary-supplement purveyor who agreed to testify for the prosecution in exchange for criminal immunity) were relatively light in the scale of American political corruption, and the case was brought by the heavily politicized Holder Justice Department against a former GOP governor, McDonnell’s plight generated little sympathy even from Republicans. The McDonnells’ self-abasing legal defense strategy was off-putting even for supporters, and it served as a cap on an unimpressive tenure as chief executive of a severely overtaxed and over-regulated state that remains heavily dependent on the federal government jobs and support, despite retaining the motto Sic Semper Tyrannis.

The McDonnells will be sentenced in January.

Tags: Virginia , Bob McDonnell

The McDonnells and Our Increasingly Insane Political Class



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From the midweek edition of the Morning Jolt:

The McDonnells and Our Increasingly Insane Political Class

Ladies and gentlemen, I suspect you’ll understand that my kind words for former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell rank among my biggest professional regrets.

This is for several reasons, but preeminently, it appears the governor and his wife turned themselves into walking infomercials for the dietary supplements produced by one of the governor’s top donors. And they may very well have behaved in a manner you and I would consider… not quite sane:

A day earlier, a onetime aide testified that after then-governor McDonnell endorsed Mitt Romney for president in 2012, McDonnell’s wife sought out the candidate at a news media session in South Carolina to promote the dietary supplement.

Phil Cox, Robert McDonnell’s chief political adviser at the time, said that he put a stop to that plan but that Maureen McDonnell went on to talk up the supplement to Romney’s wife on a campaign bus. He said she told Ann Romney that the anti­-inflammatory supplement could “potentially cure MS.”

While Ann Romney, who has multiple sclerosis, listened politely, Cox said, he feared the episode would reflect poorly on his boss, who at the time was considered a possible Romney running mate.

“I was horrified,” Cox testified. “I thought it was a train wreck.”

How do you do that? How do you go up to a woman with multiple sclerosis and tell her that a dietary supplement produced by one of your top donors might cure her disease?

Are people crazy when they get into politics, or does the process of politics drive them crazy?

Every profession has their share of people who are “crazy”, and your garden variety of eccentricity and odd behavior is in the eye of the beholder. (In the first Blackford Oakes novel, Saving the Queen, a character declares, “Other people’s rituals always seem strange.”) But doesn’t it feel like, with increasing regularity, we hear about behavior on the part of elected officials that might get them steered to a psychiatric clinic, or at least counseling?

Yes, politics always had its share of Jim Traficants and Jesse Venturas. Some would toss Marion Barry into that mix, although I’m not sure mere poor impulse control and disregard for the law necessarily meet the threshold of “crazy” we’re examining. Jim Bunning’s behavior in his later years, perhaps. Mike Gravel’s campaign ad.

Perhaps Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee’s belief that Neil Armstrong planted a flag on Mars qualifies, or her assertion that “Today, we have two Vietnams, side by side, North and South, exchanging and working.” Or perhaps Rep. Hank Johnson expressing a fear during a hearing that the island of Guam could “tip over and capsize” if too many military personnel were stationed there.

How do we explain the behavior of, say, Anthony Weiner? Or David Wu?

“It’s the eye of the tiger, it’s the thrill of the fight, rising up to the challenge of our rival…”

I suppose politics requires a person to be particularly good at two sometimes challenging tasks: 1) being particularly charming and appealing to immensely wealthy people, so charming and appealing that they’re willing to write checks to your campaign and 2) being appealing to the electorate at large.

There’s undoubtedly stress, fear of defeat, desperation, a widening gulf between the private self and the public face held up for approval. Does this, at some point, wear down one’s mental health? Is shamelessness such a prerequisite for running for office that candidates and their spouses lose a sense of what’s abnormal human behavior? Or is political ambition by itself a bit of abnormal human behavior?

Tags: Bob McDonnell , Politics

‘Of course I’m sure. I read it in Newsweek.’



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Oh, Newsweek.

They meant former governor Bob McDonnell, not Senator Mitch McConnell. They have since deleted the Tweet

Everybody makes mistakes. But it’s a little more embarrassing when your slogan for your Twitter account is “get smarter, faster” and you illustrate your Twitter feed with a little word balloon saying “Of course I’m sure. I read it in Newsweek.”

Don’t be so sure!

Tags: Something Lighter , Bob McDonnell , Mitch McConnell

The Cautionary Tale of Bob McDonnell



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From the Wednesday edition of the Morning Jolt:

Bob McDonnell, Once One of the GOP’s Rising Stars, Heads to the Courthouse

Bob McDonnell, you’re a big jerk.

Here’s one detail from the indictment that’s just heartbreaking if you ever thought Bob McDonnell had a bright future as a leader on the national stage:

On or about August 1, 2011, MAUREEN MCDONNELL also met privately with JW (presumably McDonnell donor and Star Scientific CEO Jonny Williams). During the meeting, MAUREEN MCDONNELL noticed JW’s watch and asked what brand it was. JW informed her it was a Rolex. She informed JW that she would like to get one for ROBERT MCDONNELL because he would like a Rolex. JW expressed concern regarding whether ROBERT MCDONNELL would actually wear such a luxury watch given his role as a senior government official. MAUREEN MCDONNELL told JW that she wanted JW to buy a Rolex for ROBERT MCDONNELL. JW subsequently bought a Rolex for ROBERT MCDONNELL. When JW contacted MAUREEN MCDONNELL to ask her what she wanted engraved on the watch, MAUREEN MCDONNELL instructed JW to have “71st Governor of Virginia” engraved on the back of the Rolex.

If these points in the indictment are accurate, even Jonnie Williams — the guy allegedly bribing the McDonnells with these gifts and loans — seemed to sense this was a bad idea. McDonnell earned $175,000 per year as governor — one of the highest salaries of any governor — and obviously doesn’t have to worry about paying rent while he’s governor. But the Rolex cost $6,500. That’s a pretty hefty chunk of change for a timepiece. People would inevitably ask questions about how he could afford it.

It sounds like the McDonnells had well-hidden financial issues from the moment they entered the governor’s mansion. In December 2009, one month after McDonnell wins in a landslide, Maureen McDonnell e-mails “JE,” one of Robert McDonnell’s senior staff members:

“I need to talk to you about Inaugural clothing budget. I need answers and Bob is screaming about the thousands I’m charging up in credit card debt. We are broke, have an unconscionable amount in credit card debt already, and this Inaugural is killing us!! I need answers and I need help, and I need to get this done.”

Painful lesson: You never really know a candidate or public official, unless you’re in the innermost of inner circles. Little or nothing in Bob McDonnell’s past as state attorney general or state legislator pointed to an extravagant lifestyle, serious personal debts, or blind spots in judgment. Even if you know a candidate . . . you never really know how power will change them.

Someone asked how much of this mess is the responsibility of Maureen McDonnell, and how much is the fault of the governor. That doesn’t really matter much, now does it? He’s the governor. He’s got to know that if he’s going to accept a gift, he has to disclose it. He’s got to have the basic common sense to realize that one guy offering more than $150,000 in loans and gifts isn’t just doing it because he’s a nice guy. And if his wife is getting him involved in financial arrangements that appear compromising, he’s got to put his foot down and get himself out.

The legal response from McDonnell’s lawyersciting me! Thanks a heap, guys!* — is that governors get gifts from donors all the time, and that no matter how awful it stinks, nothing actually breaks federal law.

But part of me can’t believe they’ve been reduced to arguing this:

All that Governor McDonnell is alleged to have done for Star or Mr. Williams was facilitate two meetings with Virginia Health and Human Resources officials (who gave Star nothing but a little of their time), make a brief appearance at a Star event in Richmond, attend a private luncheon hosted by his wife (and paid for by his PAC) at the Governor’s mansion at which Star announced the award of research grants to two Virginia universities, and attend a large healthcare reception at the Mansion to which his wife had invited a few Star representatives (invitations indistinguishable from those extended to thousands of other people over the Governor’s time in office).

Yeah, that’s all!

The Commonwealth of Virginia does not provide its governor a mansion so that he can help donors sell their products, and we don’t elect these guys so they can suddenly become enormously popular with rich guys who want to share their vacation homes and buy them watches. You can’t cash in on your office — and if the argument is that every elected official does it, you can’t do it on this scale.

* This is sarcasm.

Tags: Bob McDonnell , Virginia

Bob McDonnell: Lots of Governors Get Expensive Gifts from Donors.



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Swell.

The reference is to this post, which begins,

It’s bothersome when an elected official accepts an expensive gift from a donor or person who has business before the state or federal government; even when there’s no explicit quid pro quo, there’s the nagging sense that the official is profiting off their office.

Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell, a Republican, is ending his term with a daily stream of odious stories of accepting gifts from donors — more than $150,000 in gifts and loans from Jonnie Williams, the CEO of a nutritional supplement maker.

However, it’s worth noting that McDonnell is not the first Virginia governor to accept large gifts from donors while in office. He seems to just be the first one to get a lot of grief from the Washington Post day after day about it.

Of course, those other expensive gifts to Tim Kaine and Mark Warner listed in that blog post were disclosed on the proper public-disclosure forms.

The McDonnell defense is as follows:

The government decided to invent an unprecedented legal theory that eradicates all limitations on federal bribery law. That theory would — if applied neutrally — outlaw basic political practices, making criminals of not only the President, but also the Governor’s Democratic predecessor. After all, the President routinely participates in corporate events which lend credibility to his major benefactors,1 invites benefactors to events at the White House, allows his photo to be taken with benefactors, and includes benefactors in policy discussions with senior administration officials.2

Likewise, Governor McDonnell’s predecessor, Governor Kaine, took thousands of dollars in gifts during his time in office,3 while often taking actions to help those benefactors.4

The federal government has never before indicted a senior public official for engaging in such routine political conduct. That is, no doubt, because such conduct does not violate federal law.

Tags: Bob McDonnell

New Ad: Cuccinelli Launched the Investigation into McDonnell



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Perhaps it was inevitable that eventually, Republican Ken Cuccinelli would end up explicitly running against incumbent Republican governor Bob McDonnell.

Cuccinelli’s ad from last week had generic language that could be seen as a subtle shot at McDonnell’s controversy over accepting massive gifts and failing to disclose them:

Our tax code should encourage middle class families and small businesses, not reward the powerful and well-connected. Special interests shouldn’t get special treatment. As your governor, I’ll fight to make sure everybody has a fair shot.

The newest television ad from the Cuccinelli campaign is much more direct. A narrator declares, “Cuccinelli personally launched the investigation into Bob McDonnell and called for immediate reform to strengthen ethics laws.” The ad begins with a slam at McAuliffe’s GreenTech Automotive scandal, and notes Cuccinelli was cleared by the Democratic state’s attorney for Richmond on any wrongdoing in his own acceptance of gifts.

Tags: Ken Cuccinelli , Bob McDonnell , Terry McAuliffe , Virginia

Virginia’s Long Tradition of Expensive Gifts to Governors



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It’s bothersome when an elected official accepts an expensive gift from a donor or person who has business before the state or federal government; even when there’s no explicit quid pro quo, there’s the nagging sense that the official is profiting off their office.

Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell, a Republican, is ending his term with a daily stream of odious stories of accepting gifts from donors – more than $150,000 in gifts and loans from Jonnie Williams, the CEO of a nutritional supplement maker.

However, it’s worth noting that McDonnell is not the first Virginia governor to accept large gifts from donors while in office. He seems to just be the first one to get a lot of grief from the Washington Post day after day about it.

There was McDonnell’s immediate predecessor, Tim Kaine, now one of the state’s two senators:

Gov. Timothy M. Kaine, a Democrat, accepted an $18,000 Caribbean vacation last year, putting him atop the list of Virginia elected officials who in 2005 accepted nearly $315,000 in gifts, trips, concert tickets and other gratuities from corporations, interest groups and wealthy persons.

The newly elected governor’s winter getaway on Mustique — a private island playground for rock stars and royalty — was paid for by Albemarle County investor James B. Murray Jr.

Murray had contributed $41,000 to Kaine’s campaigns up to that point, according to the Virginia Public Access Project. Kaine reappointed Murray to the Virginia Commission on Higher Education Appointments.

The VPAP site reveals that since 2001, Kaine received $186,899 in gifts and travel – Redskins tickets, cases of wine, etc.

Before Kaine, Virginia’s governor was Mark Warner, now the state’s other senator. Between 2001 and 2004, Warner received $190,362 in gifts and travel – $495 bottles of wine, a $450 “handmade dulcimer,” etc.

Today Terry McAuliffe called on Ken Cuccinelli to give back $18,000 in gifts from Williams. (Compared with Williams’ gifts to McDonnell, perhaps he didn’t like Cuccinelli that much.) We’ll see if McAuliffe finds the gifts to Kaine and Warner bothersome. My guess is, McAuliffe – whose life’s work is ensuring wealthy donors feel sufficiently rewarded by lawmakers – is only bothered by donor gifts to Republican lawmakers. 

Tags: Tim Kaine , Mark Warner , Bob McDonnell , Terry McAuliffe , Ken Cuccinelli

Cuccinelli: Voters’ First Focus Is Still Economic Anxieties



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One of the key still-unclear factors in& this year’s Virginia governor’s race is just what mood the voters are in as Election Day approaches. Quinnipiac finds only 8 percent describe themselves as “very satisfied” with “the way things are going in Virginia today,” but 54 percent say they’re “somewhat satisfied.” Another 26 percent say they’re “somewhat dissatisifed” and 11 percent say they’re “very dissatisfied.”

Back in 2009, the top issue was clear — the lingering recession and economic fears — and Republican nominee McDonnell’s simple “Bob’s for Jobs” signs were ubiquitous all over the state. This year, two topics dominated coverage of state politics: a transporation deal that hiked taxes in Northern Virginia and troubling revelations of a wealthy Virginia businessman giving expensive gifts to current governor Bob McDonnell and his family.

However, Quinnipiac finds McDonnell’s approval rating . . . still pretty high — 46 percent approve, 37 percent disapprove. That’s down from a May split of 49 percent approval, 28 percent disapproval, but still not quite as bad as one might think after a month of brutal press coverage. (Also note the same survey finds President Obama slightly underwater in Virginia, with 46 percent approving and 51 percent disapproving.)

So how do Virginia voters feel about the economy? The state’s unemployment rate is relatively low, 5.3 percent. The state slipped slightly in CNBC’s annual survey of best states for business, but from third out of 50 states to fifth. McAuliffe’s economic message is that Virginia could be at the very top with more focus on spending in transporation and infrastructure and education.

Ken Cuccinelli, meanwhile, says his conversations with voters reveal a lot of not-so-obvious lingering economic anxiety.

“The priority is the same for voters, it’s still jobs and the economy,” Cuccinelli told me in a recent interview. “To the extent that we’re technically in a recovery, it’s a pretty weak recovery and it isn’t reaching everybody. Especially with the implementation of Obamacare, you’ve got small businesses that are frozen in place. Heck, our community colleges are pushing their adjunct professors down below 30 hours, and that’s happening in the private sector as well. That’s causing a lot of dislocation. Add to that furloughs and sequestration in the two most economically stable parts of the state, northern Virginia and southeastern Virginia, and you really get a decent amount of anxiety about the economy and job opportunities. So I still find that’s the first focus of voters.”

UPDATE: By the way, one Quinnipiac survey result may offer a key indicator of public cynicism, and why McDonnell’s numbers haven’t tumbled too far: Asked, “compared to most people in public life, do you think Bob McDonnell has more honesty and integrity, less honesty and integrity, or about the same,” 12 percent said “more,” 17 percent said “less,” and 60 percent said “about the same.”

Tags: Ken Cuccinelli , Terry McAuliffe , Bob McDonnell , Virginia

Why Ken Cuccinelli Can’t Wait to Debate Terry McAuliffe



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Today’s Morning Jolt features a discussion of Eliot Spitzer’s mental state, whether the sequester counts as a “disaster,” and then this account from the campaign trail with Virginia GOP gubernatorial candidate Ken Cuccinelli:

On the Pre-Debate Campaign Trail with Ken Cuccinelli

Ken Cuccinelli isn’t showing any sweat.

This is not to say he isn’t sweating; it’s just that he can hide it well as he walks through the Holly, Woods and Vines nursery and greenhouse in Alexandria, Virginia, in a light blue dress shirt, tie, and suit pants while in 80-degree heat with the region’s traditional wet-mop-to-the-face midsummer 88 percent humidity. I, meanwhile, have arrived straight from CNN’s studios in a dark wool suit and can feel my body rapidly dehydrating as Cuccinelli talks to Vanessa Wheeler, the owner and proprietor of the nursery, about the challenges facing small businesses like hers.

Photo credit: Jim. Pretty good for a writer, huh?

The half-dozen other members of the press in attendance aren’t interested in the shipping costs of begonias; the one big topic on their minds is the new revelation about additional gifts and donations from businessman Jonnie R. Williams Sr. to Virginia governor Bob McDonnell and his family. The latest news means Williams gave a grand total in $145,000 in gifts and loans to the McDonnell family in 2011 and 2012. With any more revelations, the scandal will stop being about a wealthy donor giving expensive gifts in a potential attempt to influence the governor and start being about a wealthy donor who vastly overpaid for alleged influence with a term-limited governor.

Cuccinelli characterizes the allegations against McDonnell as a distraction from what he wants to talk about and what he contends is preeminent in the minds of most Virginia voters, the economy and job creation. (While Virginia’s unemployment rate is relatively low, sequestration and other factors have clouded the jobs outlook in the state.)

NBC’s reporter asks Cuccinelli about his own failure to report gifts from Williams.

“I inadvertently didn’t report some things. I’m the one who went back and found them, and I’m the one who held a press conference and said, ‘hey, here are all my items.’ I missed four or five over the course of four years. That’s part of my commitment to transparency. When I make mistakes, I own up to them. Back in the Senate I supported budget transparency and other changes like that. That’s also a part of why I put out eight years of my tax returns, and I think my opponent ought to do that as well.”

(Cuccinelli also asked the Richmond Commonwealth Attorney to conduct an independent review of his disclosures.)

Cuccinelli feels like he’s got a pretty good defense. He doesn’t merely not do special favors for his donors; he’s something of an ingrate, because as attorney general, he’s actually made decisions and fought suits against them.

“Speaking for my office, the only thing [Jonnie R. Williams Sr. has] ever gotten out of my office is opposition to one lawsuit. So there’s been nothing in our office other than that one case where we came out and immediately opposed their position. . . . The perception is met best by facts, and the fact is that the one occasion that something came across the desk of the attorney general’s office responsibility, they were pushed back on, they were fought, without giving an inch.”

This was a 2011 Star Scientific lawsuit, challenging a sales-and-use tax assessment on tobacco-curing barns the company owns in Mecklenburg, Va.

“Hey, look at my biggest donor in the last ten years. What did they get for it? They got an electricity bill that will drag Dominion’s revenue down $700 or $800 million over the next twelve years. That’s what they’ve got for it. Virginians will continue to get that good policy, regardless of who’s supporting me or not.” He appears to be referring to this case, where the “Virginia Supreme Court affirmed a decision of the State Corporation Commission (SCC) regarding Dominion Virginia Power’s recently concluded base rate case. The court rejected the arguments advanced by Dominion, which would have allowed Dominion to earn a higher return on equity from customers than the SCC’s interpretation of Virginia law allows.” Cuccinelli and his office represented Dominion customers in the court fight.

Cuccinelli is nine days away from his first debate with rival Terry McAuliffe, and there’s a sense he and his team are itching to get the pair on stage, early and as often as possible. Cuccinelli’s campaign proposed 15 debates, with one in every major and minor media market in the state. McAuliffe has countered with five debates, and it sounds like negotiations for the details and rules of the remaining debates are proceeding slowly and with great frustration.

“It took, like, a tractor-trailer to drag him to the [Virginia] Bar [Association] debate,” Cuccinelli sighs during an interview on the ride over to the nursery. “They threatened to walk over one candidate-to-candidate question. So he asks me one, I ask him one. They were going to walk away from the debate for that.”

Why is Cuccinelli so eager to get out on the debate stage with McAuliffe, and so determined to get to ask his rival one question? Well, watch how Cuccinelli used his one question in a debate Steve Shannon back in the 2009 attorney general’s race.

Cuccinelli’s one question: “How many divisions are there in the attorney general’s office? And please name each one and explain briefly what each one does.”

Simple . . . as long as you’ve taken the time to familiarize yourself with the office you hope to win. Unfortunately, Steve Shannon didn’t do the reading.

Shannon responded . . . “So, I’ll talk about that in just a second, but let me go [back] to the 2004 budget real quick . . .” Cuccinelli teased him about not answering the question, but Shannon continued with an answer that meandered slightly more than the Mississippi River:

The first thing is that with the 2004 budget, we had proof that there were Virgina state troopers who were eligible for food stamps. And that budget allowed them to not be eligible for food stamps. We had sheriff’s deputies who were able to get a pay raise. That was important to public safety and important for higher education. We’ve now came to the point of the election cycle where we play a game of gotcha.’ Ken asks questions about the bureaucracy, and then I come back and say, ‘Well, Ken, last week you told a reporter that hitting a cop was a misdemeanor, not a felony.’ Or ‘Ken, are you familiar with the case of Commonwealth vs. Thomas, it’s a Court of Appeals case, very important to the criminal justice system.’ It’s about a prosecutor who went after a drug dealer in possession of firearms. Do you know what the holding in that case was? I know because I was the prosecutor in that case.

But you know what, at the end of the day, it doesn’t really doesn’t matter. Because what matters is that every four and a half minutes, another violent crime is being committed in Virginia. The reality is that presence of gangs is at its worst point since 2000. It’s not getting better, it’s getting worse.

[audience begins to chuckle at meandering answer] The reality is, you can laugh, but there are 357 pedophiles right now who are using computers in Virginia to trade child pornography. We know who these people are, we know how to get them, but we don’t devote sufficient resources to them.

But what does Ken want to talk about? He wants to talk about arcane questions. He wants to talk about details of the bureaucracy. You know what? The reality – the reality is that kids are being abused in Virginia right now, and if you want to focus on the bureaucracy you’re clearly going to vote for Ken. But if you want somebody who’s been a prosecutor, who’s going to go after those pedophiles, who’s going to go after those gang leaders, who’s going to go after drug dealers, who doesn’t need on-the-job experience, those are the people who I want to vote for me.”

I asked Cuccinelli, “Is it safe to assume that given the opportunity, you might ask about some of the specifics of Virginia governance, and that you may, perhaps, have some doubts about Terry McAuliffe’s familiarity with all that?”

For the first time in my presence, Cuccinelli really smiles. “Perhaps.”

Cuccinelli and his team expect McAuliffe to try to shift the debate to social issues, early and often.

McAuliffe and his campaign appear to believe that in order to win the governor’s race, they need Virginians to believe that his rival is really Todd Akin. Cuccinelli and his campaign appears to believe that in order to win, they need Virginians to believe that his rival is really Terry McAuliffe.

Finally, in news you can use, Holly, Woods and Vines features Biker Chick Garden Gnomes.

You’re welcome.

Tags: Ken Cuccinelli , Terry McAuliffe , Bob McDonnell

A Legitimate Need for a Reformer in Richmond



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Virginia governor Bob McDonnell, whose term ends in January, is ending what once looked like a quite successful term with a terrible morass of ethics allegations, including disturbing reports of receiving expensive gifts from wealthy supporters and the use of the governor’s mansion for a campaign donor’s corporate event.

Gov. Bob McDonnell on Thursday refused to answer questions on whether he knew that an expensive Rolex watch he received from his wife was, in fact, a gift from Star Scientific CEO Jonnie Williams Sr.

Following a radio appearance in Richmond, McDonnell was asked whether he realized that the $6,500 timepiece was a gift from Williams — a McDonnell mega-donor and friend whose dietary supplement, Anatabloc, has been promoted by first lady Maureen McDonnell on at least two occasions.

“I’m not going to comment any further on that,” he responded.

The governor did say that his wife did not work for Star Scientific, even as sources said she has received a number of checks from Williams, in addition to numerous expensive gifts that include thousands in designer clothing purchased during a New York City shopping spree in the spring of 2011.

The answers came during and after the governor’s appearance on WRVA. McDonnell, with barely six months left in office, finds himself entangled in three criminal investigations.

For an opposition party, this would normally be a golden opportunity, a chance to campaign in 2013 on the need to clean up Richmond and end a way-too-cozy relationship between elected officials and wealthy donors.

The problem is that the Democrats’ gubernatorial candidate, Terry McAuliffe, is pretty much the living embodiment of a way-too-cozy relationship between elected officials and wealthy donors.

Back in the mid-1990s, McAuliffe was more or less bragging about it:

His closeness to the first couple and the expanding network of political contacts he has built in the Clinton years have also enhanced an enterprise that Mr. McAuliffe has built more quietly: a web of business deals, from telecommunications to real estate, that the fund-raiser keeps far from the public spotlight. His business confederation, a veritable McAuliffe Inc., has generated tens of millions of dollars, but Mr. McAuliffe keeps his affairs so private that he does not even have a business listing in the Washington telephone directory.

His quietly acquired private fortune is illustrative of changes in the political culture here. Raising money for politicians was once a ticket to an ambassador’s post or other influential job in the government. Other presidential money men have hung shingles as lobbyists, openly trading on their access, or peddled influence as lawyers.

Charting a new course, Mr. McAuliffe has transformed the art of raising money for public figures into the art of raising money for himself, leveraging a personal fortune from his political fund-raising contacts.

Mr. McAuliffe lives in a Virginia suburb of Washington but calls a Florida house-building company his main business. And though he is chairman of the Florida company, he was unable to provide its address in a deposition this year. The aide who handles his frenetic schedule has been working out of Mr. McAuliffe’s obscure title insurance company in Florida.

Although the capital is the central nervous system of both his fund-raising and business dealings, Mr. McAuliffe does not have his own Washington office, so when he is in town he often conducts business at restaurants like the Palm and the Oval Room. In lengthy interviews at both restaurants he shed some light on his private deal-making and its symbiotic relationship with his political fund-raising.

”I’ve met all of my business contacts through politics. It’s all interrelated,” he said. When he meets a new business contact, he went on, ”then I raise money from them.”

Among those political contact/business contacts was the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers. That organization gave McAuliffe a deal that is unbelievable . . . in the sense that you cannot believe that there wasn’t some other angle that went undisclosed to the public:

In the late 1990s, some of McAuliffe’s business ventures came under investigation by the U.S. Department of Labor, which filed suit against two labor-union officials, both of them with the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers pension fund, for entering into questionable business arrangements with McAuliffe. Both officials later agreed to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars in penalties for their actions, and the union itself had to reimburse its pension fund by nearly $5 million.

In one deal, McAuliffe and the fund officials created a partnership to buy a large block of commercial real estate in Florida. McAuliffe put up $100 for the purchase, while the pension fund put up $39 million. Yet McAuliffe got a 50-percent interest in the deal; he eventually walked away with $2.45 million from his original $100 investment. In another instance, the pension fund loaned McAuliffe more than $6 million for a real-estate development, only to find that McAuliffe was unable to make payments for nearly five years. In the end, the pension fund lost some of its money, McAuliffe moved on to his next deal, and fund officials found themselves facing the Labor Department’s questions…

On October 16, 2001, Jack Moore and another official named in the suit agreed to pay six-figure penalties for their role in the McAuliffe ventures, and the electrical workers union was forced to reimburse the pension fund for its officers’ failure to act “with the care, skill, prudence, and diligence . . . that a prudent person acting in a like capacity and familiar with such matters would use.” McAuliffe was not charged with any wrongdoing; his $2.45 million payday, while a violation of common-sense norms of business propriety, did not break any laws.

Just the guy Virginians should entrust the public treasury too, huh?

Tags: Bob McDonnell , Terry McAuliffe , Ken Cuccinelli

Suddenly, the GOP Governors Fail Us



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Pardon the depressing portion of today’s Morning Jolt… there’s always John Kerry and laughably inaccurate Obama arguments on the sequester to lighten the load.

Republican Governors, Disappointing Us One After Another

So, my dear righty friends, does this give off a whiff of crony capitalism?

Members of an Iowa board charged with doling out millions to lure business to the state often work for companies that benefit from the incentive programs they oversee, an Iowa Watchdog  review shows.

Additionally, Iowa Economic Development Authority board members donated thousands of dollars to political campaigns, including Gov. Terry Branstad, prior to their nominations to the board. The Republican governor led the charge to create the authority when he took office in 2011 and appointed its entire board, which has to gain final approval from a majority in the Iowa Senate.

The board selected dozens of companies in the past year to receive a combined $189 million in taxpayer money and tax breaks, with the goal of luring more business to Iowa and growing its economy. An Iowa Watchdog review of state campaign donor lists, legislation and records from the authority showed a majority of the money went to fund projects at existing businesses, rather than to land out-of-state or new companies.

“Whenever there is even an appearance of a conflict of interest we abstain,” said Theodore Crosbie, an authority board member and vice president of global plant breeding at Monsanto. “We take the subject seriously. All members have been diligent about this matter.”

But the review found potential conflicts of interest among board members. Specifically, it showed six companies – John Deere, Aviva USA, Monsanto, Cargill, Brownells Inc. and Interstate Companies – received at least $39.6 million in tax incentives and state grants and loans, despite leaders from the respective companies serving on the authority’s board. In exchange, the companies promised to create 983 jobs. State documents did not show a figure for the incentives received by Brownells.

Pretty dispiriting time to be a Republican. Here in Virginia, Bob McDonnell just agreed to a transportation bill that includes way too many different types of tax increases. I think some folks on the Right are understating the fact that the state genuinely needed a steady supply of revenue to pay for transportation projects and repair, but McDonnell began with a plan that would eliminate the gas tax and increase the sales tax. Now the sales tax goes up, the tax on gas is reduced and shifted to wholesale (easier to hide from consumers), AND the  car tax goes up from 3 percent  to 4.3 percent AND there’s a new 0.25 percent sales tax on homes in Northern Virginia AND there’s a new hotel tax. Did you guys forget anything? I mean, for a deal like that, we could have elected Democrats.

We’ve seen Kasich in Ohio and Scott in Florida punt on the Medicare expansion. And now this you-scratch-my-back, I’ll-scratch-yours mess in Iowa. I’m sure everyone involved in Iowa Economic Development Authority will insist the $189 million they’ve spent so far created jobs… but that’s not the point, as it’s hard to spend $189 million and not create any jobs. The point is that any business that has an employee on the Authority board has an enormous advantage in getting economic assistance from the state, an advantage that a small start-up is unlikely to have.

Tags: Bob McDonnell , Iowa , John Kasich , Rick Scott , Terry Branstad

Trading a Sales Tax Hike for Eliminating the Gas Tax?



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The midweek edition of the Morning Jolt offers a look at the ambitions of Stanley McChrystal, the predictable pattern of Obama meetings with foreign leaders like this week’s one with Karzai, a strange entertainment event at the White House, and then this breaking news out of Richmond…

Could Virginia Become the First State to Completely Eliminate Gasoline Taxes?

Would you trade eliminating your state’s gas tax for an increase of eight-tenths of a percentage point in the sales tax?

That’s what Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell is proposing. His spokesman, Tucker Martin, lays it out:

The Governor will eliminate the gas tax and instead tie future transportation funding to Virginia’s sales and use tax, which will move from 5% to 5.8% with the new .8 dedicated completely to transportation.

 This will make Virginia the first state in the nation without a gas tax. Virginia will be a national leader.

 The switch from the gas tax to the sales tax is essentially revenue neutral in its first year.  And Virginia’s sales tax will remain lower than all of our neighbors and the District of Columbia.

 This change simply ensures that transportation receives the new funding it needs in the years ahead by tying it to a mechanism that moves in tandem with economic activity and inflation. That is how every other tax (corporate income/personal income) works. That is what will make transportation funding sustainable again.

 Right now Virginia’s transportation challenge breaks down like this: Virginia is sending $364 million a year from our construction account to our maintenance account. So instead of financing new projects, we’re having to use that money just to repair old roads. That crossover amount is anticipated to grow to $500 million by 2019. Long and short, Virginia needs new transportation funding to the tune of at least $500 million a year by 2019. This plan does that.

 This plan generates $844 million in new, additional annual transportation funding in FY 2019. It eliminates Virginia’s crossover issue. It provides $3.1 billion in new funding for transportation over the next 5 years, including $1.8 billion in new funding for construction projects.

Further, by eliminating the gas tax, Virginians will pay $3.5 billion LESS at the pump over the next 5 years. And there will be no sales tax on gasoline either.

Grover Norquist doesn’t like it. His group, Americans for Tax Reform, offered a counterproposal that, among other things, pulls more money for transportation from the state’s general fund, calling transportation a “core function of government” that must be met before other spending interests of state lawmakers are considered.

The greens are likely to scream bloody murder, as shown on the blog, Bacon’s Rebellion: “The new tax would punish pedestrians, telecommuters, cyclists, carpoolers and mass transit riders, who are doing the virtuous thing of driving less, while subsidizing the voracious appetites of drivers.”

Here’s the thing: all of those virtuous non-drivers still get the benefit of all of those roads and bridges that the state maintains; those groceries don’t just magically appear on the supermarket shelves, nor do the employees of every business they use just teleport into their jobs. So if transportation benefits everyone – I seem to recall Elizabeth Warren emphasizing how universal the benefit of roads and bridges are this summer – why shouldn’t everyone pay for them?

On the other hand, I might prefer paying a tax on something specific rather than a higher sales tax on everything I buy here. Why do I get the feeling swapping one tax for another will amount to a wash?

Pat Mullins, chair of the Republican Party of Virginia, offered this statement:

“Big ideas don’t come along that often in politics. Yet Governor McDonnell’s proposal to end the gas tax and still put more money to transportation is just that – a big idea that addresses one of our Commonwealth’s most serious problems.

 This plan acknowledges the reality that gasoline use has likely peaked, and higher mileage vehicles will only drive those numbers lower and lower. At the same time, it provides a dedicated stream of revenue that will grow as our economy expands.   

 I applaud the Governor for bringing this big idea to the table, I look forward to working with both Governor McDonnell and the General Assembly to both end the gas tax and improve our Commonwealth’s aging roads by seeing this proposal enacted into law.”

Tags: Bob McDonnell , Gas Prices , Taxes , Virginia

McDonnell on Romney’s Chances in Virginia



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Yesterday I had a chance to speak to Virginia governor Bob McDonnell about the outlook for Mitt Romney in his home state.

NRO: How worried are you about [former Virginia congressman and Constitution Party presidential nominee] Virgil Goode? I’ve heard from a few folks on the ground who are worried about him taking a few percentage points in Virginia. As you guys coordinate the Virginia effort, is he on your radar screen or anything you’re worried about?

McDonnell: First we’ve got to see if he qualifies. He got a lot of signatures, but now the signatures have to be checked. As you know, other presidential candidates got signatures, but they didn’t qualify. We have to take it one step at a time and see whether those signatures are valid and if they get him to qualify. Secondly, people in Virginia understand how important this election is.

Virgil’s a good man. I served with him in the [Virginia State] Senate. He’s got generally good, conservative values. But there’s no way he’s got a chance for him to be competitive or to win. So a vote for Virgil Goode is a vote that goes toward electing Barack Obama. People in Virginia are realistic enough to know that. We’re going to do everything we can to make sure that all conservative, libertarian, independent, and clear-thinking Democrats understand that Mitt Romney is the only guy who has the ability to replace Barack Obama and get our country out of debt and back to work.

NRO: Are you seeing anything in your poll numbers that say “we need to focus on this particular issue” or “we need to focus on this region”?

McDonnell: There are clearly regional issues, but it all starts with the overall message. The message is that 42 months of 8 percent unemployment and $16 trillion in debt and no energy policy, and doubling gas prices, is unacceptable. The president has tried, and the president has failed. There’s no way to sugarcoat that. So we need a change in leadership. Mitt Romney’s vision and record in Massachusetts and in the private sector tells you this is a problem solver who can actually get things done. Doesn’t make excuses, doesn’t blame people. Very much the opposite of how Barack Obama has governed.

There are regional issues. Hampton Roads for instance, support for the veterans, is something we’re going to stress down there. We have 350,000 active-duty military, 850,000 veterans. It’s a very important voting block. I think Romney’s got the best ideas overall to support the men and women in uniform now by reversing sequestration, where Barack Obama has been a bystander, and for taking care of the veterans long-term.

In northern Virginia, they’re very concerned about technology and entrepreneurship and being able to start up small businesses, which has been the lifeblood of the explosion up there. Part of his plan for middle-class growth is to promote small-business development. I expect him to talk about that this week, and I think that’s the message that will win Virginia for Mitt Romney.

NRO: You mentioned high unemployment — the Wall Street Journal suggested today that in some swing states with Republican governors, like yourself in Virginia and John Kasich in Ohio, the unemployment rate is lower, which may be helping keep Obama’s numbers up in those states. The message that “jobs aren’t being created, the country is going in the wrong direction” may not resonate as much in Virginia, where things are going better. That may be good for you, but doesn’t that complicate Romney’s task?

McDonnell: That’s a good question, and it really comes down to what policies and who do the voters think are responsible for those lower unemployment rates. In fact, in Republican-governed states, the unemployment rate is a full percentage point lower than in it is Democratic-governed states. Maryland and Virginia are both states that border D.C., but Maryland’s got a 7 percent unemployment rate with Democratic leadership. We’ve got a 5.9 percent unemployment rate. There’s a lot going on that is different, with pro-growth policies to keep taxes and regulation low, in Republican-governed states that I think are accounting for that difference. Twelve out of the fifteen states that have the best climates for business, and seven out of the ten states with the lowest unemployment rates, have Republican governors.

So I think it’s going to be a real hard sell for Barack Obama to say, “Well, it’s all my policies, my bailouts, my stimulus, that’s what’s creating the difference.” It’s not. Voters are smart.

NRO: Completely coincidental that all of Obama’s national policies are only working in those Republican states, huh?

McDonnell: The evidence is undeniable!

NRO: How does the Virginia Senate race look to you? It always seems to be within two points one way or the other. How likely is it that Republicans win the presidential but lose the Senate race, or vice versa?

McDonnell: I think there’s very little opportunity for a split ticket, because the ideas and policies that Barack Obama and Tim Kaine are running on are pretty much the same: more spending, big government, absolute unwillingness to take on entitlement spending — which everybody in America knows you have to do to get us out of debt and get spending under control. Conversely, you’ve got George Allen and Mitt Romney talking about the opportunity society, promoting small business, using all of our energy resources. They’re so joined together on the issues, I don’t see any ticket-splitting at all.

The only caveat to that is that people in Virginia know Tim Kaine and  George Allen well. They’ve both been governors, they’ve both been around for a long time. They know the president and Mitt Romney primarily from the TV, maybe they’ve shaken one of their hands. To the extent that those longstanding personal relationships, or their recollection of how they served as governors, is important, you can see a little bit of a differential there. But overall, if Mitt Romney wins, George Allen wins.

NRO: Have you seen any impact from the Paul Ryan pick on Romney’s numbers in Virginia? Any noticeable impact on any demographics?

McDonnell: I’ve said for a long time, people don’t elect vice presidents, they elect presidents. The vice president can potentially hurt a ticket, or he can be a good complimentary messenger, but ultimately his role is to help you govern. I don’t think any of us expected a major change from that one.

What Paul Ryan brings to the ticket is a seriousness about the incredible challenges facing America. We’re broke, and 23 million people don’t have jobs. That is a serious situation for the greatest country on earth. Paul Ryan is a serious guy who’s had a plan for balancing the budget, for reforming Medicaid and Medicare and reforming entitlements. Everything that Barack Obama doesn’t have the courage to take on, Paul Ryan’s had a plan. Even though some people haven’t liked all of the details, he’s had a plan to get there! So I think he helps immensely with that.

I think a very good messenger to young voters as well — the people who have done worst in the Obama economy, coming out of college, deep in debt, can’t find a job. I think Paul Ryan relates to them well. So I expect a bit of a messenger advantage with him on the ticket, and I can’t wait for that Biden and Ryan debate.

NRO: I realize the standard answer is always, “I’m focused on the job I have,” but in January 2014, you’ll be joining the ranks of the unemployed, or need something to do. So do you ever think about working in a Romney cabinet or an administration position someday?

McDonnell: Nope.

NRO: Never?

McDonnell: You’ve got to get him elected first! And as I’ve said a zillion times, I love being governor of Virginia. It’s the great honor of my life, to have the same job as [Thomas] Jefferson and [Patrick] Henry. I’ve got a big agenda next year on education and transportation and government reform and other things I want to get done. And as I learned as a young lieutenant in the Army, “Take the hill in front of you first, before you try to take the hill behind it, or you end up not doing a good job.”

NRO: I notice there’s a Senate race in Virginia in 2014. Your schedule is free then.

McDonnell: I don’t know if I would want to join a club that has a 14 percent approval rating. We have to turn the country around first.

Tags: Bob McDonnell , Mitt Romney , Virgil Goode , Virginia

Speaking in Tampa: Ayotte, Davis, Jindal, Mack, McDonnell, and Portman



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This morning, Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus announced to Campaign Spot six more speakers for the party’s national convention in Tampa:

  • U.S. Senator Kelly Ayotte, United States Senator from New Hampshire and former New Hampshire Attorney General.
  • Former Democratic National Convention Speaker Artur Davis, former Alabama congressman from the 7th District (2003-2011) who was the first member of Congress not from Illinois to endorse President Obama in 2008. Davis, then a Democrat, seconded the official nomination of Obama at the 2008 Democratic National Convention. He recently announced he is joining the Republican Party and supporting Mitt Romney.
  • Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal, 55th Governor of Louisiana, winning election in 2007 and winning reelection in all of the state’s 64 parishes in 2011; former U.S. Congressman; led the state’s response to the catastrophic oil spill in the Gulf in 2010.
  • Congressman Connie Mack won the Republican nomination for the U.S. Senate in Florida on August 14th and was first elected to the United States House of Representatives in November 2004.
  • Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell, chairman of the Republican Governors Association and chairman of the Republican National Convention Committee on Resolutions, commonly known as the Platform Committee.
  • U.S. Senator Rob Portman, U.S. Senator from Ohio who won election in 2010 by 18 points, winning 82 of Ohio’s 88 counties, and former Congressman from Ohio’s 2nd  district.  He is also a former U.S. Trade Representative and former Director of the Office of Management and Budget.

“This exciting group of headliners includes two successful governors, two outstanding senators, the next senator from our convention state, and a former Co-Chairman of the 2008 Obama campaign,” Priebus said in a released statement. “The perspectives and ideas they bring to the convention stage will show all Americans that Romney and Ryan are the ticket to a better future. Former Congressman Davis especially will give voice to the frustration and disappointment felt among those who supported President Obama in 2008 and are now hungry for a new direction.”

The convention is from August 27-30. Of the above names, Ayotte, Jindal, McDonnell and Portman were among those considered to be potential running mates for Romney. Mack is considered one of the party’s better shots for a takeover of an incumbent Democrat’s Senate seat, taking on Bill Nelson, and Davis is growing in prominence as one of Romney’s surrogates, as an African-American former Democrat. The comparisons of him to Joe Lieberman, who addressed the 2008 Republican convention, are likely to intensify in the coming weeks.

Davis also periodically writes for NRO. In fact, this morning he has a column declaring, “there has always been a measured slickness in how Barack Obama’s political operation has handled race, the third rail in politics.”

Tags: Artur Davis , Bob McDonnell , Bobby Jindal , Connie Mack , Kelly Ayotte , Rob Portman

Obama, Playing the Abortion Card in Virginia’s Suburbs



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The Virginia Virtucon finds the Obama campaign advertising on the issue of abortion in Prince William County.

In 2009, Democratic gubernatorial candidate Creigh Deeds hammered his Republican opponent, Bob McDonnell, over an allegedly extreme thesis and allegedly extreme socially conservative views. The abortion issue was a centerpiece of that attack:

In the Washington suburbs, he is motivating the Democratic masses by attacking McDonnell’s antiabortion record and highlighting the Republican’s past writings that were critical of working mothers, gays and “fornicators,” an approach that could backfire at home, said David Reynolds, a newspaper columnist from Lexington, Va., about 42 miles east of Covington.

And McDonnell won, 59 percent to 41 percent — both in Prince William County and statewide.

Tags: Barack Obama , Bob McDonnell , Creigh Deeds , Mitt Romney , Virginia

Gillespie Heading Up Romney’s Veep Search?



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BuzzFeed reports that Ed Gillespie, former RNC chair and chair of the Republican State Leadership Committee, will be heading up Mitt Romney’s veep search effort.

Gillespie, a friend of NRO, has ties to several figures mentioned as possible running mates for Romney. He headed up Ohio governor John Kasich’s presidential campaign in the 2000 cycle. He was chairman of Virginia governor Bob McDonnell’s gubernatorial campaign in 2009. He ran the RNC in the 2004 cycle, when Oklahoma senator Tom Coburn, South Carolina senator Jim DeMint, and Indiana governor Mitch Daniels were elected.

Tags: Bob McDonnell , John Kasich , Mitt Romney

Crossover Votes in Virginia’s GOP Primary Today?



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I live in a neighborhood I nicknamed Yuppie Acres in Alexandria, Virginia, a deep-blue spot in a deep-blue district of Virginia, represented in Congress for a long time by the infamous Jim Moran. My neighbors are wonderful people, but in 2008 the houses came with Obama yard signs conveniently pre-installed. In 2009, when Bob McDonnell was winning Virginia by the largest margin of any Republican gubernatorial candidate ever, he won only 38 percent in this district and barely 37 percent in Alexandria City, although he did win 45 percent in my polling place.

Today is Super Tuesday, presidential primary day in Virginia, and there is no Democratic contest. As discussed earlier, the only names listed on the ballot are Mitt Romney and Ron Paul. There are no write-in options.

I was told I was the 60th voter at about 8:25 a.m. this morning, which seems a little high for the neighborhood. Way less than a “normal” primary day (with a competitive Democratic primary) or a general election, but significantly more than most other Republicans around the state have reported this morning.

That number could reflect Democrats crossing over. I recently asked McDonnell if Virginia would ever switch to voter registration by party, instead of the current nonpartisan system of voter registration.

“There was some legislation this session to have party registration. I believe it’s been killed,” McDonnell said. “I would support that, because I do think we’re at the point now where, while I want a big tent — and I want people of all conservative stripes to come in and be a part of our party — if a party doesn’t have the ability to control its nomination process for its candidates, it loses its ability to maintain itself as a party. You have seen efforts such as this in other states, and even by the Obama administration this time, knowing that Romney would be its strongest opponent, to try to have Democrats come in and vote for other candidates. That’s what happens. Now I have to say, those efforts are rarely successful. It’s hard to do, and it’s embarrassing when you get caught. But I do think the cleanest way to do that is to have party registration.”

“That’s what you do when you have a [state nominating] convention: You clearly are only going to have Republicans showing up at that,” he continued. “When you have people coming in who might actually be interested in undermining the process, that’s probably not good for the political parties on either side.”

Tags: Bob McDonnell , Mitt Romney , Ron Paul , Virginia

A Long Talk With Gov. McDonnell



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Over on the homepage, I have a long transcript of my Friday interview with Governor Bob McDonnell of Virginia, discussing the ultrasound bill that recently passed the Virginia state legislature, what his days are like now that he’s a surrogate for Mitt Romney, and his view on Virginia’s primary, its ballot-access laws, and whether the state could someday become a closed-primary state.

There was one other note I didn’t include in the transcript; McDonnell began by sharing his sadness at the passing of Andrew Breitbart (we chatted Friday morning).

“I’m just so sorry about Andrew,” McDonnell said. “I know you had a chance to get to know him some, I had got to know him a little bit over the past couple of years. It was really a shock.”

Tags: Bob McDonnell , Mitt Romney , Virginia

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