Editorial: Lowered expectations
It’s a shame when Virginia politics finds itself living down to the lowered expectations of the most cynical voter.
We’re used to watching crazy political antics from afar, such as the Anthony Weiner fiasco in New York or San Diego Mayor Bob Filner. But we thought, perhaps naively, that Virginia is somehow better than that.
While Virginia’s gubernatorial race scandals aren’t as salacious as those of Weiner or Filner or lend themselves to the type of bawdy jokes that fill late night monologues, they are at some level even more disappointing.
On the one hand, there’s Ken Cuccinelli. The Attorney General and Republican hopeful is embroiled in a controversy over accepting gifts from a wealthy political donor, a spillover from the scandal that initially tarred current Gov. Bob McDonnell. While not as impressive as the largesse that Star Scientific CEO Jonnie Williams bestowed upon McDonnell, the alleged $18,000 in gifts Cuccinelli received is nothing to sneeze at. Unlike McDonnell, he has steadfastly refused to give back these gifts, saying they are not the kind of presents (Thanksgiving dinner, private jet trips, vacation lodging) that can be returned. Of course, he could just write a check to cover the amount, but apparently he’s not interested in doing that.
Instead, Cuccinelli’s campaign strikes back at his opponent, former Democratic National Committee chair Terry McAuliffe. "It’s the height of hypocrisy for the man who rented the Lincoln Bedroom and Air Force One, used his political connections to make millions while others lost their jobs, and whose company is now under two federal investigations to even breathe the word ethics," his press secretary Anna Nix said in response to a question from the NBC Washington, D.C. affiliate.
And there seems to be something to the Cuccinelli camp’s charges, at least as far as McAuliffe’s former company, GreenTech Automotive, is concerned. That company is indeed being investigated by the Securities and Exchange Commission over its conduct in soliciting foreign investors. And, while it’s not the topic of an investigation, it certainly was bad form for McAuliffe to have pledged to build his factory in Virginia to bring jobs to the commonwealth, deciding later to set up shop in Mississippi—especially if you hope one day to be Virginia’s governor.
Both Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling and Cuccinelli have recently come out in favor of ethics reform. Bolling’s proposals, in particular, seem to be quite well thought out, such as: banning gifts in excess of $250 per calendar year, expanding gift reporting requirements to spouses and dependents, and requiring disclosure of additional information regarding board memberships, income, investments and loans.
Cuccinelli’s op-ed, "Why we need ethics reform now," sounds a bit disingenuous, much like the last horse that’s left the barn saying that someone should really close that door. "Why not take up this issue right now when it’s in the front of everyone’s mind?," he writes, with only a cursory mention of why it is on everyone’s mind in the first place.
"As for me, I will be the first to admit that I’ve made my own mistakes when it comes to Virginia’s disclosure requirements. Though I was fully cleared by a Democrat Commonwealth’s Attorney, I’ve learned from my mistakes and believe they make me a more credible messenger in this much-needed debate," he said.
It would be nice if there didn’t need to be a law stopping public officials from taking thousands of dollars in gifts from lobbyists. Ethics shouldn’t have to be legislated. But unfortunately, it looks like it’s necessary.