Some call it chutzpah. Some call it cojones. I like to call it arrogance on a massive judicial scale. I'm referring of course to Virginia's Attorney General, Ken Cuccinelli, and the manner in which he has continuously brushed aside real concerns expressed by Virginians about his ties to troubled Star Scientific CEO, Jonnie Williams.
Cuccinelli has stuck to a strategy of what I'll call the "distracted voter conclusion" in the face of questions regarding his knowledge of Gov. Bob McDonnell's extensive gift receipts from Jonnie Williams as well as his own gift receipts from Mr. Williams.
In one response, Cuccinelli decried, "More than anything it's a distraction. I'm trying to run a race and we're talking about jobs and the middle class here." Who doesn't agree that jobs and protecting Virginia's middle class are among the highest policy issues in this campaign for Virginia's governorship? But political corruption is also a big deal, as well.
The bottom-line is that Cuccinelli is making one of the biggest political mistakes any politician can make: ignoring a nuclear political issue that is mushrooming around involved politicians instead of addressing it head-on and putting it in the past. And with the election for Virginia governor scheduled in November, the sooner Cuccinelli can put the Star Scientific debacle behind him, the better it will be for his chances at victory.
Here are a few Virginia (and national) news headlines, political and otherwise, for Saturday, July 13. Also see President Obama's weekly address, which "discusses how a large, bipartisan majority in the Senate voted to pass comprehensive immigration reform, which would add a big boost to our economy, strengthen Social Security, and modernize our legal immigration system to make it more consistent with our value. He calls on Congress to pass this commonsense bill quickly so that we can fix our broken immigration system and keep America strong for years to come."
OBENSHAIN DODGES QUESTIONS, CONTINUES TO STAND BY MCDONNELL AND CUCCINELLI DURING ONE OF THE WORST ETHICS SCANDALS IN VIRGINIA HISTORY
Herring: "Either Senator Obenshain doesn't have the courage of his convictions or he doesn't have any ethics convictions at all."
When asked directly whether he believed that Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli's office has handled the investigation into the financial relationship between Star Scientific and Governor Bob McDonnell's financial relationship appropriately, Republican candidate for Attorney General Mark Obenshain's non-answer tells Virginians all they need to know about his ethical standards. Putting political cronyism ahead of the interests of Virginians, Obenshain strikingly refused to condemn the unethical behavior of Governor McDonnell and Attorney General Cuccinelli, or to address serious concerns that Virginians have about pervasive ethics violations among Obenshain's closest political allies.
In an email response to the Washington Post, Obenshain said he is, "committed to ensuring that the important work of the Attorney General's office is unimpeded by any inappropriate political influence or even its appearance."
Democratic candidate for Attorney General Mark Herring responded to Obenshain's avoidance of addressing the ethics issues of his political allies:
Virginia politicians frequently point out how much better Richmond functions than Washington, D.C. One area where DC has a leg up, however? Ethics rules.
Yesterday, the Washington Post reported that the District of Columbia's ethics board has fined Council Member Marion Barry $13,600 for accepting illegal and unethical gifts. Barry was sanctioned with a fine equal to double the amount of the gifts he received. (Washington Post, July 11, 2013)
Earlier this week, the Washington Post also reported that Governor Bob McDonnell and his family have now received, directly and indirectly, at least $145,000 from Star Scientific CEO Jonnie R. Williams Sr. Star Scientific not only has an ongoing tax lawsuit versus the state of Virginia, but Governor McDonnell and his wife have also been major supporters of the company, a relationship for which McDonnell is currently under federal investigation. (Washington Post, July 9, 2013)
If Governor McDonnell was held to the same ethical standard as DC City Council Member Marion Barry, McDonnell's fine of double the gifts he has allegedly received would equal $290,000. Maybe it's time for Virginia politicians to take that whole "we're better than D.C." line to heart and take ethics reform seriously.
Behold the NC General Assembly(GA), an institution which has been hijacked by the Tea Party. In the latest affront to majority mainstream voters, yesterday the NC House of Delegates continued with its wrecking ball to the 20th and early 21st centuries. Under the guise of making abortion clinics "safer," it came up with its own version of the NC Senate effort to shutter all but one women's health clinics in North Carolina. Following the mocking the Senate took for restricting abortion as part of an anti-Sharia law bill, the House got a "better idea." Essentially the HoD equated women with motorcycles. That's right. To protect "these women" the haughty, arrogant, US Taliban tacked onto a motorcycle provision rules which essentially end the availability of abortion in NC. Also included in the legislation here is the following:
* They used many of the same clinic-rule-tactics used in Virginia in the past year. And then NC one-upped (or rather "7-upped") Virginia.
* A doctor (not a physician's assistant or nurse practitioner) must be physically present for the entire procedure.
*A doctor must be physically present with any patient who takes RU-486, the "abortion pill." Originally, the HoD was going to require docs to be with the women for the entire pharmaceutically induced procedure, but that can take days. That maneuver was transparent and widely mocked for its outrageousness. Even this violates women's privacy and severely limits its use.
Republican National Committee chair Reince Preibus came to Chesterfield, Virginia yesterday to open and office and make the case for Ken Cuccinelli. The problems are legion. First, Preibus has no credibility on anything, after his total #FAIL in 2012 (including blabbering about a "war on caterpillars", lying about pretty much everything, etc. Second, as the press release from the DNC (see on the "flip") notes, this is the guy who just 100 days ago (almost exactly) rolled out an "autopsy" of his party's disastrous 2012, the central thesis of which is to broaden the tent, hold primaries instead of conventions to bring more people into the process, and ultimately nominate more moderate and sane candidates. Now, just 100 days later, he's in Virginia celebrating the antithesis of his own autopsy - autopsy hypocrisy, if you will - in the extremist ticket (nominated by a few thousand hard-core right wingers in a convention, not a primary) of Ken Cuccinelli, EW Jackson (note that Preibus is standing right in front of a Jackson sign), and Mark "Criminalize Miscarriages" Obenshain.
By the way, note Preibus' Big Lie in this video, in which he claims that President Obama has instituted "European health care in this country." In reality, of course, "Obamacare" doubles down on the PRIVATE, FOR-PROFIT health insurance system. Perhaps because it's basically identical to the 1994 Republican alternative to "Hillarycare," as well as to "Romneycare?" Perhaps because it incorporates the conservative idea of an "individual mandate" in it, in order to compel people to purchase private, for-profit health insurance? This is about as far away from "European health care" (motto: "less expensive than America, but much better results!") as can be. But no matter, this is Big Liar in Chief Reince Preibus we're dealing with, so the truth is not even optional, it's an alien concept. And THIS is the clown they've brought in to attest how wonderful the corrupt, extremist Ken Kookinell is? What a farce.
I wanted to post this video, by Eric Byler and Annabel Park, for two reasons. First, to say THANK YOU to Annabel and Eric for the great work they've been doing - as part of their Story of America documentary film project - in covering North Carolina's meltdown from a model for the "new South" into a right-wing loony bin, under Teapublican misrule of course. Second, to show yet again the types of extremism that could await Virginia if we're foolish enough to elect Ken Cuccinelli and his Tea Party clones this November.
P.S. See the "flip" for Annabel and Eric's explanation of what happened today.
The following is an oped piece that will be running this weekend in two of the main newspapers of the congressional district in which I live, Virginia's 6th.
What's better for democracy? Focusing on issues that divide us, and will likely always divide us, or focusing on values and goals that we share?
Anyone who believes that we're better served by focusing on what we can accomplish together rather than on what makes us fight each other should be outraged at what the Republican Party does with the issue of abortion.
Even if one agrees with the policies that Republicans are pushing, one should recognize that the way they have used the abortion issue is destructive, and a disgrace.
During these years when our country faced its deepest economic crisis since the Great Depression, abortion has been nowhere near the top of issues that Americans wanted their leaders to address. But here we are fiercely embattled over abortion in a number of states - Virginia, Texas, Ohio, Wisconsin, North Carolina, and in a number of others. What these states have in common is that they are now under the firm political control of Republicans.
We've got plenty of issues that could bring us together, plenty of goals that could unite us.
Here are a few Virginia (and national) news headlines, political and otherwise, for Friday, July 12. Also, as an added bonus, how about a caption contest for this lovely July 4th photo of three right-wing nuts: 1) Del. David Ramadan (yeah, this guy); 2) Del. Tag Greason (yeah, this guy - ugh); and 3) Sen. Mark Obenshain (yeah, this guy). One possible caption: "a meeting of Virginia's top experts on women's health?" Heh.
The following press release is from Sen. Donald McEachin's office. Also, Sen. Mark Herring says, "I was honored to be endorsed by the Human Rights Campaign this morning and I am proud to be an ally in the fight for equality with Terry McAuliffe and Ralph Northam for Lt. Governor...As Attorney General, I will be committed to protecting the civil rights of all Virginians and to use the powers of the office to promote equality. Virginia cannot afford another four years of an Attorney General like Ken Cuccinelli, and that is exactly what my opponent, Mark Obenshain, represents. It's time for an Attorney General who believes in equality; it's time for fundamental change."
Senators Speak of Progress Here in Virginia on LGBT issues
Richmond - Today, the Human Rights Campaign endorsed Terry McAuliffe for Governor, Ralph Northam for Lieutenant Governor and Mark Herring for Attorney General in a press conference with Senators Donald McEachin and Adam Ebbin and the president of the HRC, Chad Griffin and James Parrish, Executive Director of Equality Virginia.
Mr. Griffin said, in announcing the endorsement, "Virginians have a choice to make this November. One option, [the Republican ticket,] represents harmful beliefs that are not indicative of the mainstream values of either Party. But Virginians can reject that radical fringe, and instead elect candidates who support fairness, freedom and dignity for all."
In accepting the endorsement, Senator Ralph Northam, Democratic nominee for Lieutenant Governor, said, "I want to thank the Human Rights Campaign for their support and confidence in me to advocate for equality as your next Lieutenant Governor. Virginia businesses need access to the best and the brightest workforce, teachers, professors, innovators, job creators, and that includes the LGBT community. That is why we need to turn the 'open for business' light on across the Commonwealth by making Virginia a welcoming and inclusive place for all our families," said Senator Ralph Northam.
That big splash you heard was...? The 200-proof political question in Virginia today, which is: Which major Republican will be the first to jump ship on Governor McDonnell? Splash!
So far, only two Democratic Senators have called on Governor McDonnell to resign. No splash. Both are considered NOVA "liberals" by the press, although this is rather silly in the case of Chap Petersen if you know his voting history. But a backbench Dem calling on a GOP Governor to give up the ghost isn't going to shake McDonnell off his limb. Still, Virginia politics is in uncharted waters. What is liberal, what is conservative; it is all a jumble.
However, confusion doesn't reign over this fact: His Excellency Bob "I've got a Rolex and You Don't" McDonnell is Dead Governor Walking. He is also Bankrupt Governor Walking, if he is really run up a $1 million fee by going all the way in a fight with the federales assuming they indict him.
Politics is a brutal business. Money talks, and everything else walks, as the saying goes. If you have enough money, if you pay off enough people, you can get away with what McDonnell did. Heck, it is penny ante corruption compared to what else goes on.
But this too is clear: Governor McDonnell is in denial, he just doesn't get it. His Governorship is ruined. No Republican thinking about a future in VA politics can defend him. Which begs the question: Who will be the first major Republican to jump the shark and publicly call for McDonnell to either come clean or get lost?
HERRING TO OBENSHAIN: DO YOU AGREE WITH THE WAY KEN CUCCINELLI HAS HANDLED STAR SCIENTIFIC SCANDAL?
Herring Asks Obenshain To End His Silence And Tell Virginians Where He Stands
Democratic candidate for Attorney General Senator Mark Herring sent a letter to his Republican opponent Senator Mark Obenshain today asking him to finally tell Virginians whether or not he agrees with the way Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli has handled the investigation into Governor Bob McDonnell and the company Star Scientific.
On July 3 the Washington Post reported that the Cuccinelli campaign said the Attorney General was "walled off" from the investigation and claimed he had no knowledge of the allegations of improper behavior made against Governor Bob McDonnell by former Executive Mansion chef Todd Schneider.
In his letter, Herring noted that Obenshain has been silent in regards to the scandal involving the close financial relationship between the company Star Scientific and its CEO Jonnie Williams with Governor Bob McDonnell and Attorney General Cuccinelli, and that the people of Virginia deserve to hear his thoughts on how this has been handled so they can better understand how he would address such issues if he were to serve as Attorney General.
"Senator Obenshain, I know you and the Attorney General have enjoyed a close working relationship and a personal friendship. Ken Cuccinelli personally endorsed your candidacy to succeed him at the Republican Convention in May," the letter reads.
"My question for you is simple: Do you believe that the way this was handled by the Attorney General's office was appropriate?"
It's been a tough stretch for us scandal connoisseurs lately. We've had to settle for a lot of pretty lame pseudo-scandals -- Umbrella-gate, Climategate, IRS, Benghazi, birth certificate-gate, etc. -- which have mostly turned out to be figments of fevered tea party imaginations.
So I want to thank Governor McDonnell and Attorney General Cuccinelli for giving us a real live one -- Stargate, the continuing saga of Star Scientific CEO Jonnie Williams' herculean efforts to buy himself a few politicians. Day by day, the revelations keep on coming about the gifts Williams showered on his politician buddies and their convenient ability to forget to report those gifts.
Stargate has now developed all the qualities of a great scandal -- and like the Blob, it just keeps on growing. Consider the scandal checklist:
- Salacious items: Rolex, Ferrari, limos, dog food, tobacco-based supplements...
- Drumbeat: new tidbits leaking out every week (thanks to Rosalind Helderman and her coworkers at the WaPo for sticking to this story like bloodhounds)
- Denials: McDonnell: "I...am not a crook." (Makes V for victory sign with fingers); Cuccinelli: "Actually, I'm the hero who got all the investigations started. Have I also mentioned that I invented the Internet?"
- Suspicious timelines: who knew what by when?
- A mysterious rich guy: Who is Jonnie Williams and how did he worm his way into the corridors of power in Richmond? (And who stole the "h" in his name?)
- A pissed off whistle-blower -- the governor's chef of all people (which genius thought up that plot twist?)
Here are a few Virginia (and national) news headlines, political and otherwise, for Thursday, August 11. Also, see Sen. Donald McEachin's FOIA request regarding Ken Cuccinelli's ties to Star Scientific CEO Jonnie Williams on the "flip."
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