Office holders or candidates of the Commonwealth are annually required by Virginia law to fill out a Statement of Economic Interests (SEI) so that the people can view and make judgment on any and all financial influences that would come with said office holder or candidate.
At the bottom of page four of the SEI there is an area for the candidate’s or office holder’s signature which is preceded by this sentence – “I swear or affirm that the foregoing information is full, true and correct to the best of my knowledge.”
If you have never experienced the joy of filling out the SEI, I can assure you it is nothing like a root canal because the nerve of the tooth in a root canal is dead. This procedure is painful, but extremely important since it is laying open to the public all of your personal financial interests.
To the best of your knowledge.
Every year since his first election to the House of Delegates in 1991, Bob McDonnell has filled out the SEI to the best of his knowledge and did so swear in front of a notary public as the form demands.
While it his hard for me to even comprehend that a man as good, decent, and risk averse as Bob McDonnell would knowingly accept and not fully disclose any gift to the letter of the law, I will submit that it is possible. Just not likely.
Having worked alongside Bob McDonnell in the legislature, on the campaign trail, and in close personal moments of reflection and introspection, I can honestly attest to the man’s character, integrity, and innate goodness. And so can many, many others.
That Bob McDonnell has been an outstanding governor and is a man of great quality, is irrelevant to what is before the Commonwealth.
The Commonwealth deserves full disclosure of all of the gifts and an explanation of the reasons why disclosure was not had in the first place.
Governor McDonnell is also deserving, as a citizen of the Commonwealth, sufficient opportunity to do so. While our political system is not nearly as just as our legal system, our legal system is predicated on discovery of the truth from which it renders judgement.
Overall, Virginia’s political system has been, up to now, patient. The notable exceptions have not been unjust in their discontent as they have not heard anything to make them think otherwise. That responsibility falls to the governor.
The General Assembly, in the meantime, would do well to move the Commonwealth from the era of “to the best of my knowledge” to a fully transparent government worthy of its people.
The Virginia Way of governing is one of the best in the nation thanks to its many self-inflicted restraints – low constitutional debt ceiling, non-successive governor, short legislative sessions, and balanced budget requirement.
There is a great opportunity here for Virginia to shine, once again, as a beacon of limited government of the people, by the people, and for the people.
Policies that would work to restore faith in our governing structure would include, but not be limited to, a total ban on all gifts. While some have argued for a ban above a certain level, a ban is, well, cleaner. And easier.
All campaign contributions should be posted online within 24 hours and so should any changes in a candidate’s or office holder’s Statement of Economic Interest.
Boiled down it would be – No gifts, period. Full financial and economic disclosure in real-time.
A delegate from Virginia Beach, whom I grew to admire greatly, would have voted for those ideas, would have defended them while serving as a competent, successful Attorney General, and would be thankful for them today as one of Virginia’s best governors.
To the best of my knowledge.
(cross-posted at Chris Saxman.com)