Good Copy digs in to the Marcus mess

schapiro_hairThe RTD’s Jeff Schapiro devotes his Sunday sermon to darkness, specifically, the darkness that is and his leap to the McAuliffe camp for a five-figure monthly retainer.

Little of this story has to do with ideology. A whole lot of it comes down to money — which Marcus just wasn’t making enough of:

Since 2000, Marcus, his consultancy and family members have been paid more than $1.4 million by Republican candidates and campaigns and allied political action committees, according to the Virginia Public Access Project, an online monitor of money in politics.

Before his switch to McAuliffe, Marcus’ marquee client was Bill Bolling, the Republican who might have had an easier time dispatching McAuliffe. That’s because, unlike Cuccinelli, Bolling sheathes his similarly conservative views in good manners.

Bolling, outmaneuvered by Cuccinelli for the nomination, was paying Marcus about $5,000 a month. The retainer was cut to $2,500 after Bolling announced plans to recruit and bankroll so-called mainstream Republican candidates for state office. It wasn’t much for a consultant who stood to pocket many, many thousands more in commissions and win bonuses had Bolling gone the distance.

Terry was willing to pay. A lot. Far more than Mr. Bolling. And Jeff drops the bomb that the Cuccinelli camp was seeking to lure, or at least quite, Marcus with a salaried position of it own.

That is quite interesting. It is also not the first I’ve heard or read of the Cuccinelli campaign making overtures to the Bolling-ites, only to have the talks go nowhere.

I have also heard that before his switch to McAuliffe was made official, Marcus was making calls, letting people know what he was doing. The obvious question: when did Bill Bolling and Eric Cantor get their calls? And what did they say? The more cynical among my sources tell me that there’s no way Marcus could have made this move without either or both signing off on it. I tend to doubt that. Cantor came out very forcefully — to the point of running paid Facebook ads — in support of Ken Cuccinelli. There’s a somewhat stronger case that Bill Bolling may have offered his blessing, as he and his shop have been very quiet on their consigliere’s defection.

But consulting is a money game. Those with the biggest warchests win. Ideology, old ties…those are sentiment, which only gets in the way of business.

Inside all the money talk, though, are items of history. I wrote about one of those incidents on Friday. Jeff adds a few more that should, one would think, prod others to ask Mr. McAuliffe why he is willing to have Boyd on the payroll:

Boyd Marcus runs Republican campaigns. He can run opponents into the ground with tough talking points and slasher direct-mail. He ran state government as Gov. Jim Gilmore’s chief of staff. He ran off allies as partisan enforcer of the budget-busting no-car-tax plan.

Ah yes, the car tax. Democrats have long loathed this concept, which was, I am told, Marcus’ idea. It put a nearly $1 billion speed bump in the state’s general fund. In his final budget, Tim Kaine tried to kill it in favor of a local income tax option. Kaine was looking for a way to balance the books. Democrats have long looked at it as something standing in the way of their spending priorities.

Some will remember the intramural battles that enforcement mentality incited among Republicans. Yep. Boyd was hunting those moderate, middling RINOs years before it was cool.

How, then, does Mr. McAuliffe square having all this on retainer? According to Jeff, it isn’t easy:

For Democrats, it confirms anew McAuliffe’s slippery, let’s-make-a-deal brand of politics — an approach that made him a multimillionaire and will help keep a roof over Marcus’ head. The democracy-as-kleptocracy story line is diminished by Cuccinelli’s problem: that because of rich friends like Jonnie Williams Sr. and Consol Energy, Cuccinelli seems bought and paid for, too.

Jeff’s never one to let a good point go without slipping the knife in (it keeps the sources greased).

But Marcus is problematic for Democrats. Publicly, it’s no big deal. Terry attracts all kinds, from all walks of life. He’s like Mark Warner, in that way.

Just don’t ask them about the whisper campaign against Mary Sue Terry in 1993, or the late in the game gay bashing from the Brad Marrs campaign in 2005. Or the race card played in 1989, or the car tax. Or all those anti-abortion position papers, direct mail pieces and candidate speeches. Those are inconvenient things. All long past. Best forgotten.

But they do raise the obvious question…

If McAuliffe thinks he is going to win, why did he need to make this hire? It only stirs up the old doubts about his do anything to win past.

And if he thinks he’s in trouble, does the Marcus hire indicate that Democrats are about to go scorched earth on Cuccinelli? Perhaps.

Then again, perhaps Marcus will give the same sort of advice to McAuliffe he gave to his last two high-profile candidates: George Allen and Bill Bolling.