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WaPo editorial: Virginia, the McDonnells, and ethics

September 5th, 2014 7 comments

From the Washington Post:

September 4 at 5:58 PM

IN THE end, it didn’t take long. After months of legal wrangling and public spinning; after five weeks of courtroom testimony; after two hours of a judge’s instructions in the legal niceties of the case, the jury in Robert F. and Maureen McDonnell’s trial knew public corruption when it saw it. Scarcely 48 hours after they got the case, the jurors rendered their verdict with no minced words: The McDonnells are guilty.

Until today, too many politicians in Richmond had convinced themselves of the commonwealth’s alleged exceptionalism — the supposed civility and ethical uprightness of the so-called Virginia Way. Convinced of its own abiding rectitude, Virginia’s political class has refused to enact laws with teeth to hold elected officials to decent standards of conduct in carrying out the people’s business. At the least, the McDonnell verdict should disabuse the old boys of their smug self-righteousness and their conviction that the state’s egregious absence of laws on public ethics is somehow all right. At the very least, it should end, once and for all, the common, cosseted view that legislation will not eradicate moral obtuseness. Of course it won’t; but a vacuum of laws will only encourage it.

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Categories: Va Politics, Virginia Tags:

Virginia ethics laws: It seems that anything goes in the Old Dominion

September 1st, 2014 3 comments

Washingtonpost.com:

 

But the perfectly legal, unlimited-cash culture that has long pervaded Virginia campaign giving has been on display right alongside McDonnell and his wife, Maureen — and it has renewed the question of whether that culture is broken and needs a fix.

Although it enjoyed a reputation for clean government, Virginia had some of the loosest ethics rules in the nation before the McDonnell scandal prompted reforms by the General Assembly this year. Even now, elected officials can accept campaign contributions of any size and unlimited “intangible gifts,” such as vacations and meals.

Some legislators expect the closely watched trial to inspire even tougher standards. Others say the case seems too extraordinary to form the basis for broad policy.

“I don’t think you can write a law that can cure what’s going on in the McDonnell trial,” said state Sen. William M. Stanley Jr. (R-Franklin), expressing a common sentiment among state politicians who point to trial evidence of Maureen McDonnell’s possible mental illness and infatuation with Williams as unique circumstances to this case.

But there’s one thing the case has exposed: how subjective and mutable the rules are for who can give and how much.

For example, the legislature capped gifts at $250 this year. But gifts from “personal friends” remain unlimited. In 2013, McDonnell described Williams as a personal friend.

 

It doesn’t seem that Virginia really has any ethics rules.  What seems even more amazing is the fact that Virginia lawmakers didn’t race in to shore up their loose-knit, obviously problematic non-ethical standards.  It appears that current legislators wanted to keep the status quo of “you scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours.”

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Categories: Va Politics, Virginia Tags:

No new taxes? BS

August 27th, 2014 7 comments

From the Virginia ABC website:

Prices are subject to change without notice.

Effective July 1, 2013, legislation enacted by the General Assembly increases the state sales tax by 0.3% statewide. An additional 0.7% state sales tax has been added to localities in the Northern Virginia and Hampton Roads regions.

  • Distilled spirits retail prices include 20 percent state tax.

  • Wine retail prices include 4 percent state tax and $.40 per liter wine tax.

  • A 6 percent sales tax will be added at the register to the retail price of wines and distilled spirits in the Northern Virginia and Hampton Roads regions.

  • A 5.3 percent sales tax will be added at the register to the retail price of wines and distilled spirits in all other regions of the state.

  • A 2.5 percent sales tax will be added to the retail price of non-alcoholic beverage items at the register in all regions of the state.

  • A 6 percent sales tax will be added at the register to the retail price of non-food/beverage items in the Northern Virginia and Hampton Roads regions.

  • A 5.3 percent sales tax will be added at the register to the retail price of non-food/beverage items in all other regions of the state.

There are several issues here.  First off, will these legislators who set these tax increases admit to raising taxes?

Secondly, is Northern Virginia getting hammered again?  How about Hampton?  Which localities?  All localities?  Why are these target areas for higher taxes?  What localities constitute “Northern Virginia?”

Categories: Virginia Tags:

Is McDonnell just an innocent chump?

August 25th, 2014 21 comments

Washingtonpost.com:

Former Virginia governor Robert F. McDonnell had just explained, with a heart-breaking letter and a sotto voce delivery, that his marriage was in shambles. He went on from there to describe how those personal woes sucked him into a public corruption case.

He testified that first lady Maureen McDonnell was seeking money, attention and maybe even affection from a charming, free-spending businessman. McDonnell told the jury he was in the dark about his wife’s affairs, both financial and (non-physically) romantic.

And so the first criminal case in history against a Virginia governor could come down to this: Does McDonnell, self-professed micromanager and 2012 vice presidential prospect, make a convincing chump?

“Maureen, I manage the finances,” McDonnell said he told his wife upon learning (belatedly, he claimed) that she had borrowed $50,000 from then-Star Scientific executive Jonnie R. Williams Sr.

Did he manage them or not?

I have been sucked into this political soap opera just like it is Dallas, back in “Who shot J. R.” days.  I tune in after each day in court.  It isn’t even that I dislike Bob McDonnell.  I dislike some of the things he did–extremely dislike. (Gov. Ultra-sound)  On the flipside, I also like some of the things he did, like just saying NO to Common Core.  So this isn’t a matter of like or dislike.  It’s a matter of just being incredulous.

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Categories: Va Politics, Virginia Tags:

The ex Va Governor’s Mansion: The Divine Soap Opera?

July 29th, 2014 21 comments

Maureen 3

 

Washingtonpost.com:

 

Former Virginia governor Robert F. McDonnell (R) and his wife on Tuesday unveiled an unorthodox defense to the federal corruption charges against them: Maureen McDonnell had a “crush” on the charismatic executive who lavished gifts and cash on the couple.

Maureen McDonnell’s intense — even romantic — interest in Jonnie R. Williams Sr. helps explain why she let him pay for expensive shopping trips and vacations for her and her family while she promoted a nutritional supplement he was trying to sell, defense attorneys said during opening statements. She was not hatching a scheme with her husband to get rich by abusing the prestige of the governor’s office; rather, she was a woman in a broken marriage who craved attention.

“Jonnie Williams was larger than life to Maureen McDonnell,” said William Burck, Maureen McDonnell’s lead defense attorney. “But unlike the other man in her life, Jonnie Williams paid attention to Maureen McDonnell.”
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Don Shaw: Democratic candidate to run for the 13th Delegate seat

July 22nd, 2014 12 comments

Bristowbeat.com:

Democrat Don Shaw declared his candidacy Tuesday for the 13th House of Delegates District seat, which voters will decide in November 2015.

The district covers portions of the Brentsville, Coles, Gainesville and Occoquan Magisterial Districts in Prince William County as well as all of the city of Manassas Park.

His campaign announcement means that he will not seek the office of Brentsville County Supervisor in the special election that would be held if current Supervisor Wally Covington receives a judicial appointment from the Virginia General Assembly.

So that leaves the race for the Brentsville Magisterial District supervisor  to the Republicans unless someone else jumps in.  Meanwhile, this can’t be very good news for Del. Bob Marshall.  Marshall has been in office for years and is seen as a politician with a not so hidden agenda.   While he takes  up a few popular causes in his district, he is mainly known around the  State Capital as an anti abortion extremist.

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Categories: Va Politics, Virginia Tags:

Smackdown in the Old Dominion

June 21st, 2014 16 comments

Image: Virginia Legislature

Washingtonpost.com:

Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe vetoed portions of the state budget Friday and vowed to defy the legislature by expanding Medicaid without its approval, setting up a legal showdown with Republicans even as he averted a government shutdown.

McAuliffe’s actions — cheered as bold leadership from the left, denounced as brazen overreach on the right — represent a bid to reassert his power as chief executive following the GOP’s recent takeover of the state Senate. They plunged a Capitol that puts a premium on gentility more deeply than ever into harsh, Washington-style enmity.
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Categories: Va Politics, Virginia Tags:

VRS returns to pre-recession levels

March 17th, 2014 4 comments

Dailypress.com:

As state and local government employees — including some 110,000 in Hampton Roads — dug deeper to contribute to their pension plans last year, surging financial markets finally bumped the totals in the Virginia Retirement System’s pension trust funds above where they stood before the Great Recession.

But those sums still aren’t enough to make VRS executives, or the financial experts who advise them, comfortable that it has the resources it needs to pay pensions and retirement benefits far into the future.

VRS’ main fund, a $55 billion pool of stocks, bonds and real estate investments, can cover about 65.6 percent of what insurance statisticians say it is going to have to pay by the time the last of its 324,000 participants and 164,000 retirees pass away, its latest annual report disclosed. Ideally, pension fund advisers like to see 100 percent funding, but they say 80 percent can suffice.

Was the amount the state owes the VRS calculated into these figures?  Part of the problem with VRS is that the General Assembly refused to fund it to recommended levels.  Now who pays the piper?  The participants.

Despite the dooming and glooming, the VRS remains a good pension.  It used to be considered one of the best in the nation.  Too bad the politicians ruined it, then tipped in it like it was their own  ATM.  Time to pay the piper, General Assembly.

Categories: General, Va Politics, Virginia Tags:

Gov. McAuliffe: Virginia charm and better booze

February 6th, 2014 21 comments

Washingtonpost.com:

RICHMOND — Gov. Terry McAuliffe has added a potent weapon to his bipartisan charm offensive: better booze.

Desperately in need of Republican friends to get his agenda through a divided General Assembly, McAuliffe (D) has restocked the executive mansion bar and thrown open the doors for nightly receptions. In at least one case, he sniffed out just which craft beer a GOP bigwig likes and made sure to have it on hand.

To the discount hooch and Bud Light normally on tap at the mansion, the governor has added top-shelf liquor and microbrews at his own expense — a move made possible by his enormous personal wealth and made necessary by heightened scrutiny to mansion spending amid his predecessor’s gifts scandal. While appealing to the legislature’s more discriminating tipplers, McAuliffe has not forgotten the teetotalers: For them, he serves up daily breakfasts, picking up the private catering tab personally.

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Categories: General, Va Politics, Virginia Tags:

State Republicans attempt legislation to control Attorney General Herring

January 18th, 2014 49 comments

mark herring

Washingtonpost.com:

The Republicans who dominate the Virginia House of Delegates are gearing up for legal battle with state Attorney General Mark R. Herring, the first Democrat to hold the post in twenty years.

Del. C. Todd Gilbert (R-Shenandoah) has put forward a bill that would give General Assembly members legal standing to represent the commonwealth when the governor and attorney general choose not to defend a law.

If the bill succeeds, it could set up a situation like the one in the U.S. House of Representatives, where Republicans hired a private attorney to defend the Defense of Marriage Act in court.

The attorney general’s office declined to comment directly on the legislation, but spokeswoman Ellen Qualls noted that “the constitution of Virginia provides for a duly elected attorney general to do this very job.”

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Categories: Va Politics, Virginia Tags:

Proposal for Virginia voters to register by party

December 4th, 2013 5 comments

 

dem repub 2

Dailypress.com:

Del. Scott Lingamfelter, R-Prince William, wants voters to be able to register by political party.

He has proposed a bill that would add party affiliation to the information people are asked to provide when registering. People could say they are independents, as well.

The state party chairman of each political party would have to notify the State Board of Elections of the party rules governing who may participate in the party’s primaries.The bill is similar to ones introduced in 2012 by Del. James LeMunyon and Del. Timothy D Hugo, both Fairfax County Republicans. Their efforts died in the Privileges and Elections Committee, without a vote ever being taken.

Thumbs down.  Why does this seem like the Republicans love the plan?  Have you every heard a Democrat like this proposal?  How about Independents?  Something must be broken if the Republicans want to fix it.

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Categories: Elections, General, Virginia Tags:

I voted for the marine and math teacher, Atif Qarni

November 5th, 2013 35 comments

marine

marine2

Atif is also a dad, a husband, a soccer coach and a progressive thinker.  He was endorsed by the Washington Post:

“District 13: After more than two decades in the House, Republican Robert G. Marshall has a well-earned reputation as a culture warrior more interested in right-wing doctrine than in his constituents. His contempt for homosexuals is surpassed only by his disregard for women who have abortions; he suggested that God exacts vengeance on women who abort their fetuses by assuring that their next pregnancy will produce a disabled child. His constituents in Prince William County would be much better served by Democrat Atif M. Qarni, a personable public school teacher and former Marine whose plain sense and temperate politics distinguish him from the incumbent.”

When Bob Marshall first ran for office, he favored term limits, or so he said.  I guess he got power hungry.

At any rate, its time to give Atif Qarni a chance.  He has put forth good ideas.  Its time to implement them.  It’s time to send a pro education delegate to Richmond.

Those who can, teach.

Those who can’t, pass laws about teaching.

Atif can!  His reputation as an outstanding math teacher is known throughout Prince William County.  Let’s send Atif Qarni to Richmond to show them how it’s done!   He is even a math teacher so he can show them how it all adds up.

 

 

Candidate haunted by “Cuccinelli Compass”

October 31st, 2013 12 comments

“The first time someone shows you who they are, believe them.”
―     Maya Angelou

Washingtonpost.:

Throughout Virginia’s gubernatorial race, Terry McAuliffe, the Democratic candidate, has cast Cuccinelli as a tea party extremist, incapable of forging the centrist consensus necessary to manage the commonwealth. The portrait has stuck, according to recent polls; McAuliffe appears to be ahead in the race — and Cuccinelli’s conservatism is a leading reason.

For years, he articulated that conservatism in the Cuccinelli Compass, honing a combative political persona and providing opponents with material that has now driven up his negative poll ratings and lifted McAuliffe. At the same time, Cuccinelli has accused Democrats of turning him into a caricature, seeking to scare off voters by distorting and lying about his record as a state senator and Virginia’s attorney general.

The Cuccinelli Compass is where Cuccinelli presented himself as an unbridled firebrand, venting about the “left-leaning media,” “gun-grabbing liberals” and “liberals wigging out” over, say, his proposal to allow employers to fire workers for speaking inadequate English.

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McAuliffe leads in polls by 12 points

October 28th, 2013 8 comments

terry

Washingtonpost.com:

Democrat Terry McAuliffe has opened a double-digit lead over Republican Ken Cuccinelli II in the race for Virginia governor, in a new poll capturing increasing dissatisfaction among voters with Cuccinelli’s party and his conservative views.

According to a new Washington Post/Abt SRBI poll, McAuliffe tops Cuccinelli 51 percent to 39 percent among likely voters in the Nov. 5 election. McAuliffe led by eight percentage points in a poll taken last month. Libertarian Robert Sarvis, who has capitalized on voter unrest with the two major-party candidates, is at 8 percent, according to the new poll.

The margin between the two major-party candidates is driven by a huge gender gap. Among men, the two candidates are running even, with Cuccinelli at 45 percent and McAuliffe at 44 percent. But among women, Cuccinelli trails by 24 points — 58 percent to 34 percent.

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Virginia governor’s race analysis: Beware of unintended consequences

October 10th, 2013 4 comments

There are some interesting facts in this video. The most dangerous thing to either candidate is that each man’s respective base grow complacent and stay home.

With less than a month until the election, the heat is on for the heart and soul of the Old Dominion. I never like calling an election. I feel it jinxes things up. However, it might be a subtle reminder to those who want to play a little ‘war on women’ that there can be deadly electoral paybacks.

What the women don’t take care of, the shutdown will.  Unfortunately for Cuccinelli, the antics of his party have bled over into his campaign.  That actually seems a little unfair.  The banana republicans should have thought of that before trying to ignore rule of law.  Their attempt to play hardball to get their own way definitely has had unintended consequences.  The Cooch just might be one of those consequences.