From the Washington Post:
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.
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.”
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?”
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.
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.
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.