McAuliffe’s brush with Honest Graft

Buried in the most recent listing of campaign contributors to Terry McAuliffe’s gubernatorial campaign is name that should ring a few bells: Tony Coelho, who gave $1,800.

You remember Coelho…once upon a time, he was the Democratic Majority Whip in the House of Representatives, and one of the sharper political operatives of his generation. His actions earned him a starring role in Brooks Jackson’s excellent book, Honest Graft. Coelho was also forced to resign his House seat in 1989:

Mr. Coelho, the majority whip, had been expected to face a House investigation for a 1986 investment involving the purchase of $100,000 in junk bonds underwritten by the investment firm Drexel Burnham Lambert. He has acknowledged failing to report on his 1987 financial disclosure form the help that he received from a savings and loan executive in buying the bonds. In addition, Justice Department officials confirmed this week that they had opened a preliminary criminal inquiry into the purchase. Called Act a Mistake

Mr. Coelho has called his failure to report the executive’s help a mistake made by his accountant, although one for which he takes full responsibility. He has also denied any suggestion that he lent any regulatory or legislative assistance to the savings and loan industry in exchange for that help.

Ancient history? In many ways it is. But there’s another wrinkle worth noting about Tony and Terry. Terry was on the DCCC payroll when Coelho was in charge, and even lent a hand with the former congressman’s personal finances:

Terence R. McAuliffe, who worked as the committee finance director under Mr. Coelho, also assisted the Congressman in his personal finances, public records show. In 1987, for example, Mr. McAuliffe used a power of attorney to help arrange loans for Mr. Coelho, according to records in Fairfax County, Va., where the Congressman lives.

The records show that in July 1987 Mr. McAuliffe represented Mr. Coelho in a $70,000 loan from the Federal City National Bank in Washington. The loan, which carried an interest rate of 10.5 percent, was secured by Mr. Coelho’s house in the capital’s Virginia suburbs. Mr. McAuliffe was chairman of the bank.

There’s more to this relationship, including McAuliffe tipping off Coelho to other investment opportunities that may have been less than ethical.

But despite the years, the hard times, the court cases, the public disgrace and so much more, it’s heartwarming, in a way, to see that Terry and Tony remain friends. Or just friendly enough to keep the campaign cash flowing.