Chap stick. Sen. Chap Petersen, D-Fairfax, has posted a blog entry on his web site asking if the General Assembly might take impeachment action against Bob McDonnell. While Sen. Petersen is still calling for McDonnell to “come clean” or step down, he is now adding the possibility of an impeachment trial to his equation.
Petersen, an accomplished attorney, outlines the process of impeachment under the Virginia Constitution. It starts with a special session of the General Assembly which may be called by the governor (highly unlikely) or requested by a petition of the sitting members of the GA. From there, the House of Delegates has to decide whether there is sufficient evidence to impeach the governor for “malfeasance in office, corruption, neglect of duty, or other high crime or misdemeanor.” If the House of Delegates finds sufficient evidence to impeach then the matter is turned over to the Virginia Senate for trial. The senate can convict or acquit.
McDonnell and Hobbs. The crux of the problem for Bob McDonnell is something called the Hobbs Act. Originally enacted as a law to combat racketeering in labor-management disputes, the Hobbs Act has been successfully used to put government officials behind bars. As of today, two former governors are presently cooling their heels in federal lockups after convictions under the Hobbs Act. Will Bob McDonnell be the third? One would think that the Virginia General Assembly would prefer to act on its own rather than do nothing and have the feds act in their stead. But will the General Assembly act?
The tears of our clowns. Realistically, I doubt that the Virginia General Assembly could be persuaded to even seriously consider impeachment, especially in an election year. Certainly the recent revelations of hundreds of thousands of dollars in unpaid, no interest loans to a McDonnell family company moves the matter to “possibly impeachable.” In addition, plenty of Republicans in the General Assembly still have a biter taste in their mouths over McDonnell’s transportation tax hikes. But impeachment proceedings?
Lame duck under (magnifying) glass. Some will say that McDonnell is a lame duck. Therefore, under the phony genteelness of “the Richmond Way” the governor should be allowed to exit his office on schedule and fade into political oblivion. Remember, there are still parts of Virginia where the bloody, amoral and unnecessary U.S. Civil War is still sometimes called “the recent unpleasantness with the north.” The U.S. Civil War resulted in the deaths of 625,000 Americans. As a percentage of today’s US population that would be about 6.1M. Unpleasant indeed.
Dereliction of duty. The Virginia General Assembly has a duty to convene in special session and decide whether Gov. Bob McDonnell has committed impeachable offenses under the Virginia Constitution. This duty transcends party loyalty and the fact that 2013 is an election year in Virginia. However, The Imperial Clown Show in Richmond is nothing if not feckless. Beyond a few brave souls like Sen. Petersen there are too few in the General Assembly with the courage to actually uphold the constitution they are sworn to defend, and too many who will simply think of McDonnell’s misdeeds as a most recent unpleasantness.
- D.J. Rippert