The drip, drip, drip continues with McDonnell

Drip, drip, drip…the Washington Post continues its slow and steady assault on Gov. Bob McDonnell, via his wife, First Lady Maureen McDonnell. Shopping sprees for clothes, jewelry…and now the gift — unreported — of a Rolex to the Governor.

It has the reek of scandal, or so some hope it does. Was any of it illegal? The state’s ethics laws are just loose enough to make it possible for anyone to ply a politician or his or her family with gifts and no harm done — so long as they are reported and there was no quid pro quo. Unlike the case with Del. Phil Hamilton, who was convicted on charges of bribery and extortion in his quest to set up a snug teaching job for himself at Old Dominion University, there is, so far, no indication that either the Governor or Mrs. McDonnell used their positions to grant state favors to Star Scientific.

But it is unseemly. And to use a good old Southern phrase, it’s also tacky.

We could ask questions about who is leaking all this information to the Post. Is it score settling? Is it CYA? It’s almost beside the point. The information is out there. Is it doing the Governor harm? Opinion polls show conflicting results. When the Star Scientific/McDonnell tiff first broke, I suggested that this all be viewed through the lens of the 2014 Senate race. Bob McDonnell, though never really warming to a run against incumbent Sen. Mark Warner, would have been a somewhat formidable candidate.

Not anymore. Each new story about the First Lady’s dealings with Jonnie Williams is an additional nail in McDonnell’s political coffin. And the press will make sure those nails are driven deep.

At least one Republican is ready to thrown in the towel:

Take that for what you will. McDonnell helped drive Frederick from his perch at the RPV, so this can be seen as tit-for-tat.

But I will be on the lookout for others bailing on the Governor, and telling their stories, real, imagined and otherwise, to anyone who will listen.

And I will also be looking for the proof that baubles and fabric swayed McDonnell to pull strings for Star Scientific. Without that proof, all we have is a tale of middle class grasping. Unseemly. Tacky. Downright offensive. But not illegal. Not yet.

The coldest comfort on a hot day.

  • Well, Jeff Frederick knows a thing or two about ethics violations.

    I don’t know what to make of the stories in the Post and I’m hoping the investigation sheds some light on it. I will say this – I would have a real problem if random guys were sending my wife on New York spending sprees. But that’s just me.

    • Bob Wilson

      Brian seems to have not a clue of the fact surrounding Jeff Fredrick’s time at RPV. Ethics violations? Please. Try witch hunt or political lynching.

      • No, I’m well aware of the evidence that was presented against Jeff. There was good reason for his removal.

        • Bob Wilson

          Evidence? Are you joking? I hope you’re not a lawyer because that would be malpractice. If I recall, Morton Blackwell and attorneys Morgan Griffith and Gary Byler were strongly opposed to Jeff’s removal. Apparently that “evidence” was lacking. Tom Davis (also an attorney) even called it a “lynching”.

          • No, I’m not joking. I saw the evidence. The self-dealing and other questionable practices that were presented to State Central made it clear Jeff needed to be removed.

            The evidence was clearly not lacking, as it was sufficient to remove him from office. As for quoting other lawyers, ask three lawyers for an opinion and you’ll get four answers.

          • Bob Wilson

            Brian: It was petty and silly. The only thing there was evidence of is that the committee didn’t want him there in the first place and they came up with any excuse, true or untrue to get rid of him. There’s a reason those behind that effort refuse to discuss the facts publicly. Griffith, Blackwell, and Byler (among others) were on the inside (I don’t believe you were) from beginning to end.  I trust their judgement and integrity far more than yours. I just looked you up, and you might worry about your own ethical challenges and your inability to be even be elected dog catcher.

          • There are only two people left in Virginia who care this much about Jeff Fredericks – Jeff and Amy Fredericks. Which one are you “Bob?”

            The reason why folks refuse to discuss the facts publicly is because they’re trying to do you guys a favor. The other side doesn’t need to see how badly things actually were before Jeff was removed.

            As for me, I’ve run once and lost once. I’ve gotten elected to other things, and appointed to others, too. And throughout those processes, the one thing I’ve never been accused of is “ethical challenges,” so that’s a new one. Given that you went straight to a personal attack, this must be Amy writing.

          • Amy Frederick

            Just seeing this all now. Brain, if you knew anything about me, you would know that I don’t hide behind fake names and I own my words. If you are going to accuse me of something, at least spell my name correctly. As for Bob, karma is a bitch. I can’t wait to see what’s next for our Governor. If I had to guess, he’s going down.

          • As charming as always. Either you or your husband hid behind a fake name. Own it.

            What I find pathetic in the two of you is that you are still nursing grudges after this long. You both need to mature.

          • Morton voted to remove Jeff Frederick, right? The only one’s repeating that “lynching” trope are the Frederick’s themselves. Even folks who voted for him did it out of mercy rather than principle… and it’s a shame, because it didn’t have to be that way.

            Apart from that, most folks have happily forgotten the J-Fred error… um, era.

          • Bob Wilson

            No, Morton supported Jeff.

          • No… pretty sure that Morton held the key vote and didn’t swing it Jeff’s way…

          • Bob Wilson

            No, ask him. Morton even put up his own cash in trying to clear Jeff. Of course, Shaun, you’ve made up your own facts about Jeff from the beginning and continue to perpetuate them, so why would you be interested in the truth now…

          • I mean, it’s not like I’m using a pseudonym to defend myself or anything…

            …and yes, Morton did not vote to keep Jeff. I know that hurts, but inventing a different narrative doesn’t help your cause.

          • Bob Wilson

            Who’s using a pseudonym? And again, you are just wrong. Morton was against the effort to remove Jeff. Again, ask Morton himself. Go straight to the source. Novel idea for you, i know. That is, if you actually care about the facts. Doubtful.

          • Oh we have, as have others, on multiple occasions. You have no idea how many drinks I still have purchased for Bearing Drift contributors based on our coverage on that story. Facts plus context… now there’s a dangerous thing, eh? Just because it didn’t work your way doesn’t mean you get to keep whining about it. Martyrs don’t do that…

          • Bob Wilson

            You obviously have not asked. Looks like Morton also stroked Jeff a $1000 contribution for his last campaign. Odd thing to do if you question the recipients ethics.

          • Think about that one for awhile… Morton stroked a $1,000 check, and what J-Fred did was so terrible, so monstrous, so unethical that he could not bring himself to vote to keep Frederick around.


  • DJRippert

    If McDonnell would have accepted a Rolex from a businessman dealing with the Army while a medical supply officer in the Army – what would have happened? Would the Army need to prove that McDonnell favored the businessman? Or would the Army simply take action?

    If McDonnell had accepted a Rolex from a businessman dealing with American Hospital Supply Corp while McDonnell was an executive at American Hospital Supply – what would have happened? Would American Hospital Supply Corporation have to prove that McDonnell did something wrong before taking action?

    My guess he would have received a court-martial in the Army and would have been terminated for cause from American Hospital Supply.

    The idea that “gifts” are OK unless favoritism can be proven is absurd.

    Beyond that – it seems McDonnell didn’t even follow the minimal requirement to report his engraved Rolex “gift”. I guess there is no penalty for failure to report either.

    Virginia is utterly corrupt. Actions that would have elected officials in jail in other states are hunky – dory in Virginia. And, yes – Kaine did it too.

    Terry McAuliffe has pledged to sign an executive order banning himself or any member of his immediate family from accepting a gift worth more than $100 from any party with any business with the Commonwealth if elected.

    What does Cuccinelli have to say? Nothing? I guess he’s just another scum-sucking Richmond insider who sees elective office as a princely position requiring personal tribute from those who have business in the state.

    The legalized graft in Virginia is disgusting. If the UAW gave Obama a $6,500 engraved Rolex that he didn’t return or report you folks would be through the roof and orbiting the moon.

    • MD Russ

      You argue well for reform of Virginia’s lax ethics laws. However, as you stated, Kaine did it and certainly other Virginia Governors, both Republican and Democratic, did it. That calls into question why the Washington Post has such a newly-discovered sense of outrage.

      As for T-Mac’s pledge to issue an executive order, I would put that in the same bucket with Obama’s pledge to close Gitmo his first year in office, his pledge to not hire any lobbyists on the White House staff, his pledge to…

      • DJRippert

        If elected, McAuliffe will do as he says. Why? First, he’s already rich. If he wants a new Rolex he’ll buy one himself. Second, he’s more sophisticated. There are lots of ways that former politicians can capitalize on their notoriety. I once worked for a company that put on a customer show. We paid Colin Powell (before he’d become Secretary of State) to speak. It was during the Clinton Administration and Powell was a private citizen. His price? $60,000 for a :45 speech. The former governor of Virginia can be on any corporate board, get hired by any number of firms, write books, appear on the McLaughlin Group, etc. Why take $6,500 wrist watches while in office when you can get $650,000 per year “jobs” once you’re out of office?

        What really amazes me is how bumbling McDonnell and Cuccinelli have been. Free turkey dinners, wrist watches and wedding receptions? If you’re going to sell out, at least get a high price.

      • DJRippert

        As for the Post’s new found outrage – purely political. Kaine’s $18,000 vacation “gift” was every bit as bad.

  • BrianKirwin

    Actually, although I don’t think McDonnell did anything illegal here, I wouldn’t exactly mind if Bolling got to be Governor for a few months.

    • Ooooooooo… now wouldn’t that be interesting?

  • Wally Erb

    It is especially disheartening when the words “legality” and “ethics” get intertwined. Semantically, one should agree, ethics is dealing with the values relating to human conduct with respect to the rightness and wrongness of certain actions and to the goodness and badness of the motives and ends of such actions. The wrongness and badness doesn’t have to be illegal yet unethical. I mention this because I am fuzzy on the commentator’s use of “tacky”. Does that mean unethical, yet not unlawful?

    • David Eggleston

      It means unseemly and in poor taste.

      • NormLeahy

        Indeed it does.

      • Wally Erb

        Legalities aside and ethically speaking, in this instance is “tacky” somewhere on the line of ethical and not ethical? Or, is the use of “tacky” just a cop-out rather than being more ethic definitive?

        • David Eggleston

          You aren’t from around here, are you? Just because something is legal, and even ethical, doesn’t mean it is socially acceptable. I was just helping you understand Virginian. You have to do more than obey the law, a minimum moral standard at best, if you want to be elected to higher office.

          • Wally Erb

            I didn’t perceive it would be soooooo difficult to have another concede that the Commonwealth’s first family exploits are just plain unethical. And for that matter, who or what is the source or guide that delineates and defines the Virginian’s guide to “tackiness”?

          • David Eggleston

            I believe it is both unethical AND tacky. Society determines tackiness, as it does all things social. You were asking about the definition of tacky, and I thought I’d oblige. I’m sorry to have confused you as to my intentions. I never intended to defend Gov. and Mrs. McDonnell’s grasping. Some shallow folks might even argue that tackiness is worse than unethical behavior.

  • Chad Parker

    Regarding Terry’s promise:

    I’d be interested to see how that works. Governors go on trade missions, attend events across Virginia, and even cheer on a VCU basketball or Tech football game. Flights, tickets, suites, meet-and-greets, and the like are often gifted to the governor. So the question becomes, if such a gift is over $100, will Terry:

    1. Not attend such events
    2. Pay for it himself
    3. Put the bill on the taxpayers

  • Alex70

    Dear Mr. Leahy,

    “Is it illegal?”
    you ask. My reading of today’s Post story suggests that Governor
    McDonnell did not report the gift of the expensive watch, as he was
    required to do. Please correct me if I’m wrong. Moreover, the
    chronology of Governor and Mrs. McDonnell’s interactions with Star
    Scientific suggests to me that there may well have been an implicit quid
    pro quo. Granted this will be difficult to prove.

    Is the
    Post’s practicing the classic “watchdog role” of a responsible
    journalistic outlet really an “assault”? Is there “score settling”
    taking place? Is the press really making “sure those nails are driven
    deep”? These implications—in my opinion– are a sleight of hand that
    direct attention away the legal and ethical issues that matter here.

    applaud the Post’s excellent reporters for doing a fine job of serving
    the public interest. Let me use that term again: Public Interest.

    God that in this era of debilitating cutbacks in reporting staff the
    Post can shine a bright light on these unseemly practices. And by the
    way it isn’t just the Post, see Jim Nolan’s and Jeff Schapiro’s fine
    reporting/analysis on this story. They work for the Richmond

    The upshot of this salutary journalism–I
    hope–will be an aroused and educated citizenry and the adoption of some
    laws to prevent future instances of this behavior by elected officials
    of both parties.

    Best wishes,

    Alex Leidholdt
    Harrisonburg, Virginia

  • fauquier freedom Boners

    It is tacky. If true, you got to wonder just what the hell he was thinking when he accepted this stuff. Seems like a freshman sscrew up to me. How could he be so foolish?

  • David Eggleston

    Maureen is the one asking and shopping for all this stuff. McDonnell probably doesn’t have the backbone to stand-up to his grasping, social-climbing, blonde cheerleader wife. This is the same lady who got a stripper, whose only political qualifications are inherited money and an affair with Doug Wilder, appointed to the board which oversees the renovation and maintenance of the Governor’s Mansion. Just sayin’.

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  • Herb Smith

    drip, drip, drip is right. The latest total is now about $200k. It gets hard to see it as perhaps the mere appearance of impropriety when the dollar amount and the number of items gets big enough.

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