Saturday, July 13, 2013

It's Time to Move On Governor McDonnell

The Virginia Governor's Mansion, Built in 1813
Over 237 years ago, a handful of Virginia’s leaders put their lives on the line to declare the independence of the Commonwealth of Virginia and start a new Democratic experiment in the East Coast wilderness. 

Since that time, Virginia has seen seventy-one Governors.  They included men like Patrick Henry and future presidents such as Thomas Jefferson, James Monroe, and John Tyler.

Only two Virginia Governors have not finished their terms voluntarily.  John Tyler resigned when he was elected to the U.S. Senate and George Smith died at the end of the first year of his term.  No Governor has ever resigned in scandal – ever.

Other states have not been as fortunate.  Illinois has lost four of their last seven Governors to felony indictments.  North Carolina’s ex-governor was convicted of a felony relating to failure to properly disclose a helicopter ride in 2010.  Alabama’s Governor was just released from prison this year after being indicted in 2006.

Northern Virginians also know the difference a river can make.  The District of Columbia’s Mayor is under scrutiny related to a "shadow" election campaign, among other things.  Marion Barry was just fined $12,000 for illegal gifts last week and is on his second political life after being caught by the FBI smoking crack.  One councilman recently resigned after paying for a car with campaign funds and the County’s Executive just across the Potomac from the 44th District recently went to prison after his wife was caught flushing checks down the toilet and $80,000 in her bra.   Virginia has been spared these kinds of embarrassments – until now.

Serving as the Governor of the oldest government in the western hemisphere is a great honor and privilege.  Along with that honor comes a responsibility to be transparent, honest and to conduct the public's business with the highest integrity. 

I am dumbfounded by our current Governor's  personal behavior.  Governor Robert McDonnell shares local Mt. Vernon ties and a public reverence for George Washington who was a foundational pillar of American integrity.  He did not stand for corruption or using campaign donors to enrich his lifestyle.  The total amount of undisclosed cash, loans, gifts and miscategorized transactions involved in the McDonnell Family's emerging scheme - $270,000 - is shocking, and the number of transactions involved is outrageous. 

The public have cannot have confidence in a Governor's honesty, integrity, and duty to act in the best interest of the Commonwealth if he takes two separate “loans," each larger than what most Virginians earn in one year, one Rolex, a New York shopping spree, gifts for two weddings for two separate daughters spread over a period of years from a wealthy donor who is litigating a million-dollar tax dispute with our state and seeking validation for his diet supplement business to boost stock prices.

His decision to place his signature, each year, under oath, on a misleading financial disclosures cannot be explained as momentary singular judgment lapses.  They were a repeated part of a broader personal, and possibly family, decision to secretly benefit from public office over a period of time. 

These decisions strike deeply into the heart of the integrity of his decision-making and destroy the public’s confidence in his ability to make decisions in Virginia's best interests.  They also point to the conclusion that he and his family did it not because they were naïve or unsophisticated, but because they read the law closely, were sophisticated, thought they deserved it and could get away with it by splitting fine legal lines. 

The legislative branch has a sworn independent responsibility to address corruption and malfeasance when we see them independent of criminal investigations.  As Senator Chap Petersen said two weeks ago, silence implies acquiescence, and I cannot continue to stand silently.  It’s time for Governor Robert McDonnell to resign so the Commonwealth can continue its focus on improving the lives of its citizens, and he can shift his focus to resolving his family's mounting legal problems. 

It's also time for other members of the legislature to remember their oath to the Virginians they represent and speak up as well.  If he has not resigned by the end of this week, then other measures should be on the table. 


  1. I am surprise that you would ask for Gov McDonnell's resignation before he is proven guilty. This from the Virginia Politics on demand: "From the Post’s reporting, there is a key section that must be taken into consideration when writing/blogging/commenting about this investigation:

    “Virginia law allows elected officials to accept gifts of any size, including money, provided they annually disclose those worth at least $50. The law does not require the disclosure of gifts given to members of an elected official’s immediate family, nor gifts provided by relatives or “personal friends.”.....

    However, is what McDonnell did illegal – or unethical enough – to warrant imminent resignation?

    By what has been reported thus far, it does not appear that McDonnell has done anything that technically violates Virginia law.......

    Therefore, the only way resignation is even a possibility is if the federal prosecutor is certain that he will get an indictment from the grand jury and proposes to the administration that the governor resign and pay a fine.

    So, why the rumors of resignation? Is that wishful thinking? Is there a vendetta against McDonnell?


    McDonnell is unpopular with a number of conservative factions for his role in former Del. Jeff Fredericks ouster as RPV chair and being a key lynchpin in passing the latest transportation initiative. And, he is unpopular with liberals for how he dismantled Sen. Creigh Deeds in 2009 to become governor and their desire to drive up GOP negatives and drive down McDonnell’s approval in advance of the November general election.

    While McDonnell may be unpopular with elements of the political chattering class, though, two wrongs don’t make a right.

    I caution my friends and colleagues to ask questions. FOIA papers. Conduct interviews. Cite your sources – even if they are on background, such as “a former federal prosectutor.” But, by all means, don’t toss caution to the wind and post things in hope of generating controversy or driving up the hit count.

    You’re better than that – and your readers, colleagues, and, frankly, McDonnell and his administration, deserve better. They gave us the benefit of the doubt at one time. We rightfully should return the favor."

    And even the BlueVirginia site offers to give Gov McDonnell the benefit of the doubt.

    And these good facts from Gov McDonnell's record:
    "Virginia closed Fiscal Year 2013 with a preliminary revenue surplus of $261.9 million. That brings our revenue surplus total over the last four years to $930 million.

    We've gotten this done by making tough decisions, cutting back where we needed to, and investing in the core functions of government that best spur private sector job-creation.

    Today’s great news is further proof that Virginia’s economy is getting stronger. Since we took office over 170,000 net new jobs have been created in the Commonwealth, and our unemployment rate has fallen from 7.3 percent to 5.3 percent; nearly Virginia’s lowest unemployment rate in over four and a half years.

    Here’s what the AP said about it -

    “The administration credited strong growth in taxes paid largely by the self-employed or on dividends, lower refunds and robust growth in a tax that reflects a resurgent real estate market. Four years of unspent balances is something Virginia last achieved about 20 years ago under former Gov. George Allen.”

    For fourth year in a row, Virginia ends its fiscal year with a surplus, assuring state raises – Associated Press"

    Let's not play politics without giving a person a chance to prove guilt or innocence before demanding resignation. It appears that some may fear Gov McDonnell as a future Presidential candidate and trying to remove that concern now.

  2. There is the letter of the law and the spirit of the law. If one is conducting oneself in such a way that a team of lawyers is needed to determine if the letter of the law has been violated, then clearly the spirit of the law has been violated. For me, that equates to perceived corruption regardless of whether the Governor and his legal team can weasel him out of his problems on legal technicalities.

  3. I believe Scott was very clear that regardless of technical legality, the actions of Governor McDonnell and his family show a lack of integrity Virginians deserve in their elected officials. His decisions over time to file misleading financial disclosures, at the very least, should give us pause in our trust of his decision making process. In fact, the scope of both the amounts and number of the gifts from one wealthy donor certainly points to expectations on the donor’s part, but even giving the benefit of the doubt on that front, the governor had to realize that both he and his family were personally benefiting from the public office we, his constituents, entrusted to him. His actions were intentional and therefore corrupt or he is incredibly naïve or his ethics are, at best, doubtful. In any of these cases, his ability to make good decisions on the part of Virginia voters is questionable and he should resign.

  4. $270,000 is a lot of money. In some cases, there is no disclosure of substantial gifts. Are Virginia's laws so lax that one can make an argument not to disclose to the public when receiving large sums from a company? It is sad that a gentleman could have disclosed all, but chose not to. If Virginia needs to have laws so that elected officials are required to disclose all donations received from entities , the law should be clarified that all gifts received while in office to one's family must be disclosed. It is unfortunate that commonsense seems to be lacking with the current govenor.

  5. First of all I admit that I did not vote for Gov McDonnell but I still have a right to expect that my governor is an ethical individual. However, it appears to me that the governor, his wife and daughter were wrong to accept all of this money from a supporter. If you lack the money to pay for a big wedding for your daughter, then have a smaller wedding. Not enough money to buy a Rolex, then by a Timex. Not enough money or credit to buy a house, then buy a smaller house or rent an apartment. If you need additional funds, either borrow from a bank with the standard loan charges or from a member of your family. If you borrow from a supporter and even if you are able to prove that the supporter did not receive anything in exchange for the gifts, it still appears that the supporter must have received something in exchange for his gifts. Who gives this much money to a politician without getting something in return. Gov McDonnell's record of past accomplishments has no bearing on this issue. He needs to try and explain his actions or resign.

  6. I hope Democrats are as quick to investigate and question Terry McAuliffe and the money changing hands for this investment and McAuliffe's story telling about how long he was an owner and founded Green Tech Automotive. Let's be fair and not play politics.

  7. So, what is going to be done about this? I'll bet you a dollar that nothing will be done. Here is a very clear example of blatant graft, but nothing will come of it. If you have politicians in charge of a politician,... Knowing that the legislature cannot be called back to session early (except by the Governor--see, what did I just say) it's a great political opportunity (with zero risk because you can't be held accountable to provide some action) for you, Scott Surovell. Don't think we aren't onto you and your cheap exploitation of opportunity. Well done--like a Dixie Pig on the smoker!!!