Baril Challenges McDonnell to Name Clients He Represents before State Agencies

Republican Attorney General Candidate Steve Baril is pulling no punches in his duel with Del. Bob McDonnell, R-Virginia Beach. In today’s campaign missive, he accused McDonnell of “wielding his influence in the General Assembly to make money and intimidate state agencies.” Stated the press release:

Over the last six years alone, McDonnell has represented dozens of clients before 17 different state boards and agencies. He has made between $150,000 and $700,000 as a result of the unethical practice. This was brought to light in a Virginian-Pilot editorial in 2003, which stated, “McDonnell led the pack far-and-away” of representing clients before state agencies. The Pilot added that McDonnell routinely fails to “identify his clients by name,” and “Republican McDonnell is repeating the mistakes of prominent Democrats when their party was in power.”

“How can an ordinary citizen expect to get a fair shake in a dispute before state boards or agencies when wealthy corporations and special interest groups hire the powerful Chairman of the House Courts of Justice Committee to plead their side?” Baril asked. “The obvious answer is, they don’t.” Baril called on McDonnell to disclose every case and every client, because “the voters have a right to know.”

If elected, Baril promised, he would ill re-introduce the same bill Jerry Kilgore proposed in 2001 to prohibit legislators from representing clients before state agencies. Of course, if McDonnell is guilty of what Baril accuses him of, so are a lot of other state senators and delegates. Baril’s statement didn’t note why Kilgore’s bill never became law. My guess is that Baril’s bill wouldn’t be any more likely to win the approval of…. who? legislators who represent clients before state agencies?

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  1. Anonymous Avatar

    Why does Dave Albo put in bills that directly benefit his DUI defense law firm…?

  2. Anonymous Avatar

    because he can. Same reason Dickie Cranwell used to help Trigon.

  3. Anonymous Avatar

    what a bunch of scumbags…

  4. Will Vehrs Avatar
    Will Vehrs

    This is a downside of having citizen-legislators and I think we have to be careful in carving out prohibitions, but representing a client before a state agency should be an easy call.

  5. Jerry Gray Avatar
    Jerry Gray

    As a Democrat, I really want McDonnell to win the Republican primary.

    Steve Baril seems to be a straight up guy, but it looks like the establishment Republicans are lining up behind his opponent.

    I think Creigh Deeds can beat either of them.

  6. Sorrel Avatar

    Will has it about right. Being in the General Assembly is not enough (economically) to sustain life except for those who have attained much in other fields (e.g., Joe May) and those who have done so poorly that it looks like up to them (no need to name names in this context). So the folks who hold these offices have to have other employment or income. But it does seem that it should be out of bounds to appear before (formally or informally) state agencies on behalf of commercial clients. I realize it does happen, but persons of strong ethical sensibility should just say no. I say this without an axe to grind against Mr. McDonnell, whom I may well vote for. Still, the practice is more widespread than it should be and, although not prohibited, the moral leaders in the GA should simply refuse.

    That Baril raises it now makes it seem a tactic, rather than a principle. It should have been talked about through the entire campaign, not just as a mudpie at Mr. McDonnell, but as an element of evaluation of all candidates trying to move out of the GA into statewide office i.e., Baskerville, Chap!, McDonnell, Puckett, Bolling. The ones who would catch my attention would be those who had the opportunity to make money this way but who declined to do so.

  7. Unless I’ve missed something, Steve Baril hasn’t done anything in this campaign other than:

    1. Raise money
    2. Release a transportation plan (in an AGs race?)
    3. Attack his opponent.

    That about covers it.

  8. Steven Avatar

    JB, please add:

    4. Publish OpEd to Bacon’s Rebellion to in order to debunk Blue Dog satirical post of his zillion dollar transportation plan and gimmicky campaign for Northern Virginia and Hampton Roads votes.

    But color me blue, because Democrat Deeds will probably win in the end.

    ~ the blue dog

  9. Anonymous Avatar

    Either Baril or McDonnell are likely to win in the fall. Bob has my support. Perhaps there is a problem with legislators representing clients before state agencies, but it really is no different than when they practice in court in front of judges they vote on and whose salaries they set. And if you prohibited that there would be no practicing lawyers able to run for the GA (a goal some would like, of course.) We could let the people elect judges, but then Katie bar the door. Baril is grandstanding and engaging in cheap theatrics. Not that he is the first or will be the last. What would be an issue would be any evidence that Bob actually used his House position to gain an advantage, tried to pressure an agency or took revenge on its budget — and Baril has no sign of that and I really don’t think Bob would consider doing that. Hey, do you think Baril ever let a judge know he was married to John Dalton’s daughter? Ya think?

  10. Oh please. This is open corruption, and if we weren’t so overly cynical we’d all be throwing a hissy fit.

    The kind of stuff that the John Watkins/Dave Albos/Bob McDonnells of the world do has become common practice. But that doesn’t mean we need to sit back and watch them do it.

  11. Anonymous Avatar

    Paul: perhaps you are the one who is overly cyncical in accusing people of corruption and I think some people are throwing a hissy fit, led by Baril. If Bob McDonnell’s career was tied to his legislative seat, I suspect he would have arranged to keep it as a backup should he lose this nomination. To go back to Baril’s original comments, perhaps hiring a legislator does give somebody an edge but you can also get that edge with a top $500 a hour litigator who belongs to the same country club as the judge. Baril may have a point that the clients who hire legislators should be reported as some point, so the voters can see for themselves and so a little disinfecting sunshine can apply, but this really is the price of a part-time citizen legislature and I for one think that is still a better system.

  12. McDonnell hack:

    That’s a great argument. “Corruption is everywhere! If you can hire an expensive lawyer who’s best buds with the judge, then why can’t Bob use his seat in power to enrich himself? Come on. Let’s let boys be boys, [wink wink, nudge nudge].”

    Give me a break.

    This is why Virginia needs to adopt a tougher conflict of interest law. This sort of stuff happens every day. There is no reason why legislators can’t stay away from conflicts of interest. And if it’s not practical for them to stay away from an issue that effects their livelyhood, then they should be forced to publicly declare the conflict so that the public can make up their minds.

    I could care less whether Baril beats McDonnell. In fact, I hope McDonnell wins. He’s WAYYYY out there and will be easier to beat.

    As for John Watkins: I’m referring to route 288 and the fact that it went through his property (instead of closer to Chesterfield County where it wouldn’t promote as much sprawl). He stands to make millions from development.

    And Dave Albo: this is the guy who tells his clients, “I wrote the DUI laws, so I’m the best guy to defend you!” And don’t forget the abuser fees bill last year. Better known as the “bring more business to traffic attorneys” law.

    How many other examples are there? Someone above cited Dickie Cranwell. What does that refer to?

    I know we have a part-time legislature. Tough cookies. These people should be doing the people’s business, not their own.

  13. I’m not asking for much, really. Just disclosure. A public admission that the law that you propose/vote on/co-sponsor could provide you with a financial benefit that is greater than the average citizen.

  14. Waldo Jaquith Avatar
    Waldo Jaquith

    As Will points out, there are both upsides and downsides to having citizen legislature.

    At a Sorensen Institute session a few months ago, we spent many hours on the matter of ethics. We were broken up into groups and all presented with the same scenario:

    A legislator who serves on the Insurance and Financial Institutions Subcommittee is asked to join the advisory board for a Virginia Bank. Serving on that board comes with a salary — something like $10k a year. What should the legislator do?

    I was in the group pretending to be the legislator, IIRC. We all immediate decided that it didn’t pass the gut check — it felt wrong. The potential for serious conflict just seemed too strong. We figured on the one hand that receiving money from the very industry being regulated just wasn’t right. We were particularly concerned that this individual was being asked to join the board solely because of their committee position, as opposed to for their financial knowledge — a desire for favoritism is perhaps implicit. On the other hand, do we really want a Insurance and Financial Institutions Subcommittee that consists solely of people who have nothing to do with insurance or banking? Should bankers in our citizen legislature have to quit their jobs? Or should we have them not serve on the committee at all because they’re simply too knowledgeable? How much sense would that make?

    The groups came back together, and something approaching consensus was come to. It seemed that nearly everybody felt that something was wrong with this, though we disagreed precisely what action should be taken. My favorite solution to this was that the guy should take the position, but he should make it known publicly, and he should donate the whole of his board salary to a political watchdog organization. (Which raised another ethical question as to whether it would be ethical for them to take the money — would be it seen as hush money? 🙂

    All of that said, this thing with McDonnell definitely doesn’t pass the gut check for me. This seems like a pretty strong case of profiting from power. I’m all for a citizen legislature, and I have no problem with many scenarios where people end up representing their self-interest. But this is a step beyond that, and seems quite clearly in the realm of impropriety.

    That said, I hope he gets nominated. I look forward to finding out whether McDonnell has ever engaged in sodomy, since he believes that public officials should be barred from holding office if they have. Perhaps his memory has been jogged in the past couple of years? My man Creigh Deeds will beat this guy much more easily than Baril.

  15. Waldo –

    Yes, disclosure would be a great step in the right direction. Especially on the sodomy question.

  16. Anonymous Avatar

    Paul, you are succinct.


  17. Larry Sabato's Hairpiece Avatar
    Larry Sabato’s Hairpiece

    Someone posted earlier that they though Deeds could beat either Baril or McDonnell. I actually once thought that but today I would say the poster is out of his mind.

    I saw all three candidates speak at the VPAP breakfast a few weeks back. While none were stellar, Deeds was by far the worst. He came off like a bumbling, inarticulate fool. Could not get one sentence out with stumbling over it or mis-speaking a word.

    How this guy represents people in court is beyond me.

    And why would you come to urban Richmond and talk to a group of public affairs types about meth issues…which are predominantly rural at this stage? And why would you propose tougher penalties if the meth factory was close to a school or a church versus if it was not? Someone at my table referred to it as the as the Planning and Zoning Theory of Criminal Law which I thought was a hoot. So, I can cook my meth in an office park, and that is somehow more OK to Creigh than if I happen to cook it near a school? When is going to zone red light districts and drug markets for us?

    No, my friend, while Baril is a stiff and McDonnell is a nut, Deeds is a total trainwreck. No way that guy wins. Not in a million years.

  18. Larry Sabato's Hairpiece Avatar
    Larry Sabato’s Hairpiece

    If Bob McDonnell DID engage in act of sodomy and he cannot remember, I wonder what that does for Mrs. McDonnell’s self-esteem?

    And if VA repealed the sodomy law, would Bob get his memory back?

  19. Anonymous Avatar

    I do know that when Bob told that reporter he couldn’t remember, he was smiling.

  20. Anonymous Avatar

    Waldo said:

    “My man Creigh Deeds will beat this guy much more easily than Baril.”

    I hope all Democrats are as optimistic as you are. Anyone even remotely familiar with Virginia state politics knows that Virginia voters like “law and order” types serving as Attorney General. Those in the know also remember that in the past three statewide elections, the Republican candidate for AG has won by double-digit margins, getting many more votes than any other candidate.

    Either Baril or McDonnell will beat Deeds by at least 10 points… probably 15. Deeds isn’t really running for AG — he knows he can’t win. He’s running for governor in 2009.

  21. Anonymous Avatar

    Those in the know also remember that in the past three statewide elections, the Republican candidate for AG has won by double-digit margins, getting many more votes than any other candidate.

    Post hoc ergo propter hoc?

  22. Anonymous Avatar

    Just learning from history. Try it sometime.

    Gilmore, Early and Kilgore all received more votes as the AG candidate than the winning governor did. Early won his race in ’97 by over 60%, then lost badly to Warner in 2001. Virginians like conservative AGs. Mary Sue Terry was the last Dem AG because she was a well known prosecutor, with a good rep for being tough on crime.

    Deeds will make a great candidate for governor. He’s quite moderate, and very likeable. If Deeds is the Democratic nominee in ’09, either Bolling or McDonnell would have a hard time winning. But Gilmore is probably running in ’09 anyway, and he’d beat just about anybody.

    Then again, that’s just me making illogical future predictions based on past events. Nevermind.

  23. Rural Not Stupid Avatar
    Rural Not Stupid

    Larry Sabato’s Hairpiece-
    In response to your comment about the VPAP breakfast. You said that you couldnt understand why Creigh Deeds would talk about Meth to the crowd of Richmonders. Though I doubt the VPAP guests were enthralled with the subject matter. I did notice that the day after the breakfast I got multiple google alerts with news articles about Deed’s Meth plan. Even if VPAP could have cared less, the media cared, and in this realm that’s what matters most.

    Also, I can’t imagine that he came across worse than his Republican opponents.They whined and refused to sit next to each other during the debate. Simply embarassing.

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