McAuliffe’s Ethics End Run

mcauliffeBy Peter Galuszka

Kudos to Terry McAuliffe.

Virginia’s new governor has taken strong and important steps to force the state into much needed ethics reform by issuing an executive order setting a gift acceptance cap of $100 for himself, his staff and members of state agencies.

He’s also allocating $100,000 to set up a state ethics commission to collect information on gift giving and probe transgressions, although details of how it would work are still hazy.

McAuliffe is performing an obvious and needed end run past the General Assembly, which for years has done as little a possible to address Virginia’s laissez-faire ethics rules which are among the most lax in the nation.

The only proposal so far after months of scandal involving former Gov. Robert F. McDonnell and Star Scientific, a dietary supplement maker, is lame at best.

Pushed by House Majority Leader M. Kirkland Cox (R-Colonial Heights) and House Minority Leader David J. Toscano (D-Charlottesville), the proposal would ban officials and family members from accepting gifts of more than $250.

It also would set up an “advisory” committee to “educate” officials on ethics but would have no investigative power, making it little more than window-dressing. As now, officials would have to file reports but no one is tasked with officially vetting them.

McAuliffe’s smart ploy takes the initiative away from the General Assembly although his executive order cannot address what elected officials do. That’s obviously a problem, but McAuliffe has raised the bar and legislators cannot ignore that.

I’ve been reporting on Virginia politics off and on since the 1970s and I’ve seen several ethics reform initiatives come to nothing.

This time, there is hope, thanks to McAuliffe who is making a surprisingly strong showing in his first days in elected office.

2 Responses to McAuliffe’s Ethics End Run

  1. Indeed. McAuliffe’s executive order looks good on paper and looks tougher than the House proposal. But then, I still haven’t read the House proposal because it has not be filed and posted on the LIS website yet. I tend not to praise or condemn based on a press conference.

  2. Credit for the intent… but I still think there are so many ways for influence to be peddled that it sort of like the FOIA laws in Va where more and more exemptions are either sought overtly or claimed even when they do not exist.

    The “Virginia Way” essentially … historically… presumes that citizens are not educated or knowledgeable enough to participate in governance beyond electing people who will then take over making decisions …..using their own judgement of what is in “the best interests of Virginia”

    Money in politics combined with the flagrant rejection of the INTENT of the FOIA law in Va depresses me.

    Too many elected , once elected, disappear into the bowels of the bureaucracy to protect the interests of party and others – not citizens.

    I wish McAuliffe well in his efforts to TRY to not be partisan despite the partisan attacks directed at him already. He will, like all politicians, likely disappoint at some point… the politics of getting things done is pure disgusting sausage-making sometimes and the stink can stick.

    good article Peter!

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