Category Archives: Scandals

How UVa Can Make a Useful Contribution to the Northam Black Face Scandal

University of Virginia President James E. Ryan

Poor University of Virginia. The College of William & Mary hogged the glory among progressives when Katharine Rowe, W&M’s new president, gratuitously inserted herself into the Ralph Northam blackface controversy by uninviting the governor from attending the annual celebration of the university’s 1683 founding.

Responding to news of the racist image in Northam’s 1984 Eastern Virginia Medical School yearbook, Rowe announced four days ago, “That behavior has no place in civil society – not 35 years ago, not today. It stands in stark opposition to William & Mary’s core values of equity and inclusion.”

How, oh, how could UVa signal its virtue as well? UVa’s newly installed president, James Ryan, had no event from which to retract a gubernatorial invitation. I have an idea on how UVa could make a useful contribution to the controversy, which I’ll get to in a moment. But Ryan opted for expressing his politically correctness in an open letter to the Board of Visitors and the university community:  Continue reading

Why Virginia Democrats Are Pushing Ralph Northam to Resign

by Peter Galuszka

Virginia Democrats were on a roll politically until a story broke Friday that a photograph on Gov. Ralph Northam’s (D) 1984 medical school yearbook page showed a man in blackface and a man in Ku Klux Klan garb.

Democrats had seemed to be in a good position to win control of both the state Senate and the House of Delegates in this November’s General Assembly elections.

A strong anti-Trump spirit showed up in last year’s congressional elections in which three moderate Democratic women won. A court recently ruled that the latest Republican-led redistricting disenfranchised African Americans. Demographic changes seem to be making make the state less conservative. Continue reading

Who Is the Dude in the Plaid Pants?

Who is the dude in the plaid pants?

This angle on the Northam blackface story is at least two days old — it appeared Sunday in Zerohedge — but it has yet to be reflected in any of the reporting I have seen on the controversy by Virginia mainstream media, so I summarize the details here. (I’m just back from traveling out of town, so I may have overlooked some reporting. If so, my apologies.)

Some resourceful Internet sleuth — I’m not sure if it’s Zerohedge blogger Tyler Durden or someone else — noticed the remarkable resemblance between a pair of plaid pants worn by Blackface Guy in the infamous 1984 yearbook photograph that threatens to take down Governor Ralph Northam and a pair of pants worn by an unidentified blond guy standing in front of a car below the title “Hi-Y,” the name of a YMCA high school program. A caption below the Hi-Y photo indicated that Northam was the group’s president.

The plaid-pants connection raises the interesting possibility that Blond Guy and Blackface Dude are one in the same, which would rule out the theory that Northam was the man in blackface — supporting his strained, widely mocked contention that he was not in the photo. Continue reading

Facts? We Don’t Need No More Stinking Facts!

As Donald Rumsfeld famously said of the Iraq War, there are known unknowns and unknown unknowns — things we know we don’t know, and things we don’t have a clue we don’t know. The same thing could be said of Governor Ralph Northam’s now-infamous medical school yearbook photo of a young man in black face and another in KKK attire — either one of whom, or neither, may be Northam himself.

Northam told the nation in a press conference that he believes he was not in the photo, and he doesn’t know how the photo came to appear on his personal page in the yearbook. No one appears to be paying much attention to his denial, which conflicted with an earlier apology and was undercut by his own admission in the press conference that he had appeared in black face during a Michael Jackson dance contest — in other words, that he’d dressed in black face, just not in the particular photo in question.

Democrats made up their minds about Northam’s irredeemable guilt even before the press conference. Almost every conceivable Democrat-affiliated group from the Democratic National Committee to the Virginia League of Democratic Dogcatchers has demanded his resignation. Republicans, only too happy to kneecap a Democratic governor, have called for the same.

Here’s what’s extraordinary about the episode: No one seems terribly interested in finding out if Northam’s version of events holds water. With minds already made up and political commitments made, no one is thinking about what we know, what we don’t, and what entirely unexpected evidence might be lurking out there. In another moment in our political history, people might say, “Yeah, this sure looks bad, but Northam says he’s innocent, so let’s sort through the facts.” What we hear now is, “Facts? We don’t need no more stinking facts. We’ve got all the facts we need.” Continue reading

Whatever happened to Terry McAuliffe’s GreenTech Automotive venture?

Photo credit: NewsAdvance

Seems like yesterday.  In late 2012 Terry McAuliffe was the only Democrat running for Virginia governor in the upcoming 2013 election.  One of his central campaign themes was that he was an entrepreneur who would bring jobs to Virginia.  He was also an investor and recently resigned Chairman of a venture called GreenTech, a would be manufacturing company that hoped to make energy efficient electric cars in the United States.  Prior to announcing his second campaign for governor Terry had been out trolling for government subsidies in return for bringing GreenTech’s manufacturing plant to some lucky American community.  During McAuliffe’s tenure as chairman, GreenTech had announced that it would locate in Tunica, Mississippi rather than Virginia.  Candidate McAuliffe was asked why he didn’t bring GreenTech to Virginia at a Dec 5, 2012 press conference.  He claimed that Virginia “decided not to bid” on the automobile plant.  The truth was more complicated resulting in a Politifact article citing McAuliffe’s claim as “false”.  It seemed that Virginia lost out on at least 1,500 GreenTech manufacturing jobs.  The relatively small flurry of controversy over GreenTech subsided, McAuliffe became governor and Mississippi gained thousands of jobs.  Or did they …

Virginia smells a rat.  The Virginia Economic Development Partnership (VEDP) did hold conversations with GreenTech about locating in Virginia during 2009.  GreenTech was scheduled to tour potential plant sites in Danville, Martinsville and Waverly on Oct 7th and 8th.  But then came GreenTech’s surprise announcement to locate in Mississippi on Oct 6.  Was the VEDP just a day late and a dollar short?  Not quite.  Virginia officials were not at all convinced of the overall GreenTech business model.  In a letter from the executive director of VEDP to Virginia’s Secretary of Commerce and Labor those concerns were spelled out.

Mississippi buys a rat.  Apparently, Mississippi saw no problems with a start-up car company building $15,500 to $18,000 electric mini-cars with a top speed of 45 mph for export to China.  Mississippi inked the deal and GreenTech opened a temporary location in Horn Lake, MS in July, 2012.  Bill Clinton and the governor of Mississippi joined Terry McAuliffe for an opening celebration at the site.  The good people of Tunica County (where 33% live below the poverty line) were well on their way to an economic miracle.  Or were they …

Failure to launch.  Virtually nothing came from the promised GreenTech deal.  GreenTech never ended any year with more than 100 employees.  In early 2017 GreenTech shut down its Mississippi operations.  Later that year Mississippi sued to get its money back.   Last February GreenTech filed for bankruptcy.

Peter the Great Pretty Good.  As GreenTech started to unravel ahead of the 2013 election erstwhile Bacon’s Rebellion columnist Peter Galuszka wrote an opinion piece declaring that Green Tech was a mess but not a scandal.  At the time Galuszka wrote that opinion piece GreenTech was still in business and employed about 80 people.  That would roughly mark the zenith of GreenTech’s operations.  Now that the company is dust in the wind lawsuits have been filed.  As Mr. McAuliffe is rumored to be considering a run for president GreenTech may yet graduate from mess to scandal.  It would be interesting to know how Terry McAuliffe fared from a personal financial perspective with GreenTech.  If he lost his own money maybe GreenTech is still just a mess.  However, if he made money on the failed deal it would be a scandal.

Caveat Virginia.  While VEDP’s BS detector seemed to work brilliantly in the GreenTech matter … that’s not always the case.  Bacon’s Rebellion readers should keep an eye out for an upcoming update to the Tranlin deal in Virginia.  It seems likely that the Tranlin deal is not going to end well for the Commonwealth.

— Don Rippert 

Fear and Loathing in the Era of Weaponized PC

John Accordino

I don’t know John Accordino especially well, but we’re more than casual acquaintances. He and I had lunch a couple of times to discuss a partnership between Bacon’s Rebellion and Virginia Commonwealth University’s Center for Urban and Regional Analysis, which he headed at the time. He struck me as friendly and collegial. He was assiduous about consulting his colleagues before committing to an agreement with me. He never gave any sign of temper, prejudice, profanity, or any other off-putting trait.

So I was startled to read a couple of weeks ago that former Governor L. Douglas Wilder, a professor at the L. Douglas Wilder School of Government and Public Affairs, had sued Accordino, who by then had become dean of the school.

L. Douglas Wilder

Wilder’s lawsuit alleges that Accordino violated university rules when he verbally assaulted and abused Wilder’s administrative assistant, Angelica Bega. He allegedly called her “obscene names, accused her of violating VCU human resources rules, questioned and insulted her intelligence, threatened her employment with VCU, and generally disparated her humanity.”

His abuse “was such that others within the department, throughout the building, heard his harangue.” Although Wilder did not personally witness the incident, Associate Professor Dr. Kristine Artello allegedly informed him that she heard the event through her closed office door and volunteered to provide a written account of Accordino’s alleged abuse. 

I suppose it’s possible that Accordino presented one face to the public and an entirely different visage to his subordinates, and I acknowledge that my interactions with him were too limited to reveal the inner nature of the man. Furthermore, I have never met Ms. Bega and have no basis upon which to comment upon her credibility. But given the toxic environment in higher education and the #metoo movement today, I’m not willing yet to start casting stones at Accordino.

Angelica Bega

Apparently, VCU President Michael Rao and Provost Gail Hackett had their own issues with the accusations against Accordino, for Wilder sued them, too. He alleged that Hackett did not fairly process Bega’s complaint. After an unsatisfactory meeting with Hackett and Rao, Wilder then went to VCU’s H.R. department, portraying the incident “as sexual harassment and racial and sexual discrimination.” The university, he charged, failed to protect Bega from Accordino’s abusive behavior. Despite Wilder’s insistent personal appeals, Rao refused to discipline the dean.

That was then. This Wednesday, VCU removed Accordino as dean of the school of government, striking an agreement to supplement his $220,000 salary with $80,000 in supplemental pay over the next three years. After spending the next year and a half on paid “study-research leave,” he will return to teach as a tenured faculty member in the fall of 2019.

Gail Hackett

Meanwhile, Accordino has filed a counter-suit against Wilder, accusing him of defamation and interfering with his VCU contract. He is seeking $150,000 in damages, reports the Richmond Times-Dispatch.

In the filing, Accordino accuses Hackett and Rao of privately supporting him but acting to remove him anyway out of fear of Wilder. … “Hackett told Accordino that she had no cause to reassign him, but due to her certainty that Wilder would go after Accordino with a vengeance, she strongly encouraged Accordino to ‘step down as dean,’ the countersuit alleges.”

Hackett allegedly told Accordino that he and VCU “would not win in a fight against Wilder.” Further, she implied that VCU refused to confront Wilder’s “disruptive, disrespectful and bullying behavior” because of “a fear that Wilder would make up unfounded and false claims of racism and discrimination.”

Bacon’s bottom line: Judging from the T-D‘s coverage, Accordino did not dispute in his counter-suit that an incident occurred. I’m speculating here, but it’s not hard to imagine that Accordino did confront Bega over violating VCU H.R. rules — taking too much time off, perhaps? — and that voices rose and tempers flared. It’s also not hard to imagine that Accordino and Bega had markedly different recollections of what happened. Finally, it’s not hard to imagine that Accordino construed his behavior as a justified chastisement of an employee for failing to follow policy, while Bega felt emotionally abused. Did he throw a temper tantrum? Or was she being a snowflake? At this point the public has no way of knowing.

We do know that VCU authorities initially sided with Accordino. Was that because his side of the story was so believable? Or because Hackett and Rao sided with him because he was “one of them,” a member of the university’s inner sanctum?

It also seems clear that Wilder immediately embraced Bega’s version of events, and he went after Accordino like a bulldog. He put the VCU brass in an untenable situation. Wilder wasn’t just any ol’ adjunct professor. He was Virginia’s first black governor, and the school of government was named in his honor. He also had the reputation of never backing away from a fight. In the end, Rao faced a devil’s dilemma. Who could embarrass the institution more — Wilder or Accordino? It wasn’t much of a choice. When he characterized the incident in his lawsuit as “sexual and racial discrimination,” Wilder indicated a willingness to go thermonuclear. 

Wilder has been embroiled in another lawsuit recently. He sued former Democratic legislator Joe Morrissey, notorious for misconduct allegations arising from his relationship with a 17-year-old employee who is now his wife, for work he had performed for Wilder and the Virginia Slavery Museum. Two of Wilder’s three allegations were thrown out of court after Wilder failed to appear in court in answer to a subpoena from Morrissey’s lawyers.

This case has all the markings of a controversy in which bystanders pick sides based upon their ideological preconceptions. Before we go that route, let’s try to keep an open mind until we see the evidence.

SOL Hanky Panky in Patrick County

SOL reading pass rates for Patrick County elementary schools. Stuart Elementary can be seen in red. Image source: Cranky’s Blog

After butting heads with Patrick County school Superintendent William D. Sroufe, Muriel Waldron, a principal of Stuart Elementary school in the mountain hamlet of Stuart, was removed from her position in 2015. A key source of contention was her administration of programs for treating children with cognitive disabilities.

When children are found eligible for special education, they are exempt from taking the Standards of Learning (SOL) test and placed in the Virginia Alternate Assessment Program (VAAP). Sroufe’s gripe with Waldron was that she failed to ensure that Stuart Elementary teachers applied the participation criteria properly. Waldron contended that the superintendent wanted her out because her reading of the policy was depressing average SOL scores.

After getting canned, Waldron alleged that Stroufe had libeled her, and sued for damages. Last week a Patrick County jury awarded her $500,000 in damages. Here’s how the Martinsville Bulletin summed up the underlying issues:

Waldron’s lawyer contended that significantly more students at Stuart Elementary have qualified for VAAP since Waldron was reassigned, arguing that Patrick County Schools wanted more students to be placed in VAAP in an effort to get schools’ test scores up on state measures. Sroufe’s lawyer and some school system officials denied that.

However, Karen Wood, formerly Patrick County Schools’ director of the Phonological Awareness Literacy Screening (PALS) program, testified that in late March or early April 2015 she overheard an office conversation in which she alleges Patrick County Schools Assistant Superintendent for Instruction Cyndi Williams expressed to Special Education Director Ann Fulcher that there were not enough students in VAAP in Patrick schools, especially at Stuart Elementary School. Wood alleged Fulcher then told Williams that she would see what she could do.

Williams denied ever discussing with anyone the possibility of moving students into VAAP as a way of getting schools’ test scores up, and she said no Patrick schools have improved their accreditation statuses by moving students into VAAP.

Patrick County elementary schools SOL math scores.

John Butcher, author of Cranky’s blog, got wind of this story and did a little checking. Regardless of who said what and who was telling the truth, one thing can be verified for certain. After Waldron was removed, Stuart Elementary showed a dramatic improvement in its SOL scores.

Is it possible that school administrators thought some Stuart Elementary students really, truly needed to be classified as having cognitive disabilities? Or were Patrick school administrators gaming the system for the purpose of bolstering SOL pass rates?

That’s hard to say. But between the testimony and the statistics, I share Butcher’s suspicions that Patrick officials were trying to stack the deck. I just can’t say for certain without more data. It would be helpful, for instance, to compare the percentage of children with cognitive disabilities at Stuart Elementary with that of other elementary schools, as well as elementary schools statewide. Was Stuart Elementary an outlier? Was Patrick County an outlier?

Patrick certainly would not be the only school district that has tried to game the SOLs. The bigger question is whether the public education system has any accountability. Will the school board dig deeper? Will the Virginia Department of Education take a closer look? Or will the educational establishment just look away?

Butcher thinks accountability might come from the legal system. Writes he: “The good taxpayers of Patrick County now can look forward to the possibility of … lawsuits by the parents of the kids who might claim their children were misclassified in order to cheat on the SOLs.”

Update: Children with learning disabilities are not “placed in” the Virginia Alternate Assessment Program (VAAP), as I wrote. Rather, the program is used to assess students with the most significant cognitive disabilities, Charles Pyle with the Virginia Department of Education informs me. Most special education children take the SOL tests, he says, although some may take alternate tests if determined to be appropriate by their IEP teams.

Newly Scrupulous Legislators Reporting Fewer Gifts

The giving of gifts to members of the General Assembly — or perhaps I should say the acceptance of them — has declined precipitously since 2013 when former Governor Bob McDonnell was indicted in a scandal best remembered by favor-seeker Jonnie Williams paying for his daughter’s wedding reception. Although McDonnell was ultimately cleared by U.S. Supreme Court of breaking the law, his political career was finished. Lawmakers took note. The graph above shows the declining value of gifts reported by legislators, courtesy of the Virginia Public Access Project based on the latest public filings.

The most dramatic drop occurred in the category of “gift items” — objects of value — followed by invitations to sporting events and hunting, fishing and outdoor activities. Even “meals/receptions” were down sharply, which I find surprising, for that would be one category the acceptance of which could be defensible. If you’re an elected official, it’s one thing to attend a UVa basketball game or a theatrical production, true diversions, and quite another to go to dinner or a reception, during which you spend the whole time talking to lobbyists — not much different from your day job.

Be that as it may, all such gifts are down sharply.

Another VPAP infographic shows the breakdown of gifts between Republicans and Democrats. The largesse flows heavily in the favor of Democrats. The imbalance would be even more pronounced if one took into consideration the fact that Republicans are more numerous, especially in the House, than Democrats. It’s hard to know what to make of this, though. My hunch is that Republicans, scalded by the example of McDonnell, a fellow Republican, are more acutely worried about how gifts might be perceived by the public than Democrats are.

All told, says VPAP, fewer than half of the 140 General Assembly members accepted meals, gala tickets or other gifts valued at more than $50 in the last eight months of 2016. Whatever the gifts and whatever the party affiliation, that’s a big improvement. Let’s hope legislators’ new-found scruples reflect lasting lessons learned.

Meanwhile, in Bucolic Rappahannock County…

Rappahannock County winery.

Rappahannock County winery.

As the Newport News/Williamsburg Airport scandal reaches its denouement (see previous post), we also hear of troubles in rustic Rappahannock County, set in the foothills of the Blue Ridge mountains and described by the county website as “a scenic masterpiece made perfect by nature.”

From RappNews:

Rappahannock County Treasurer Debbie Knick is accusing her own county government of mismanagement, including failure to follow proper expense and payroll procedures and lack of oversight of budgeting and spending by senior county officials.

Among her grievances lodged to the supervisors, Knick cited cases of “overpayment” of county funds, including one recent instance involving former Rappahannock County Commonwealth’s Attorney Peter Luke and his successor Art Goff.

Bacon’s bottom line: The alleged abuses focus on the use of credits cards and county-owned automobiles. Admittedly, even if the allegations turn out to be justified, we’re talking about irregularities measured in the thousands of dollars, not millions or billions. Still, this grain of sand adds to what seems to be spreading fiscal carelessness and recklessness at every level.

(Hat tip: Tim Wise.)

Axes Fall after People Express Loan Guarantee Blows Up

People Express aircraft at Newport News/Williamsburg Airport. Photo credit: Daily Press

The executive director of Newport News/Williamsburg International Airport has been placed on administrative leave in the wake of a scandal involving the use of $3.55 million in state funds to help make good on a loan guarantee made to People Express airline.

The airport had backed the loan as part of a deal to get People Express to provide discount passenger service to the Newport News/Williamsburg area. The episode did not turn out well. People Express fell $100,000 behind in its passenger facility charges, and the Peninsula Airport Commission told the airline in 2014 to leave after less than three months of operation there. The company subsequently filed for bankruptcy.

Meeting in a closed session, the commission approved using the $3.55 million state funds plus $1 million in federal funds to meet its loan obligations. Such a use violated a 30-year state policy. Virginia’s transportation secretary Aubrey Layne called it the largest unauthorized use of state aviation funds ever, reports David Ress with the Daily Press.

Support for the airport evaporated as the state, the City of Hampton and the James City County Economic Development Authority decided to withhold payments to the body. In the most recent developments, reported this morning, the Newport News City Manager has resigned as an airport commissioner, the commission ended its six-decade-old relationship with its law firm, and the airport’s executive director Ken Spirito was put on paid administrative leave until completion of  a state audit.

Bacon’s bottom line: Let this be a warning to citizens serving on local commissions, authorities and other public entities. It seems easy and painless to guarantee a loan as a way to lure a business to your community. But if the loan needs a guarantee, there’s probably a lot of risk attached to it, and you could very well be on the hook for it. That’s what officials of the Peninsula Airport Authority learned to the detriment of their careers.

Kudos to the Daily Press, by the way, for bird-dogging this story every step along the way.

A New Book Examines the Virginia Way

virginia-politicsby Peter Galuszka

Over the past several years, Virginia has seen plenty of high drama and low politics.

There was the tawdry corruption trial of former governor Robert F. McDonnell (R) and his wife, Maureen. At the University of Virginia, Teresa Sullivan, the school’s popular president, was temporarily ousted in a mysterious coup. Everywhere were unlimited amounts of political money, revolving doors and public benefits for rich individuals and companies.

Taken together, the events might be a tipping point for the Old Dominion, ending, or at least reining in, the so-called “Virginia Way” of lax ethics rules and the assumption that players are honest gentlepeople.

An excellent summation of how and why the stars have so aligned can be found in a new book, “Virginia Politics & Government in a New Century, The Price of Power,” by Jeff Thomas (The History Press).Thomas, a Duke University engineering graduate who worked in non-profits in the District, lays out in painstaking detail how largely unregulated money donations have led to an extraordinary web of conflicts of interest. This paradigm has been going on for years and has been largely unquestioned, until now.

Drawn largely from the work of Virginia journalists and political analysts, Thomas finds that:

Thomas Farrell, the head of the power utility Dominion Resources, set up his young son Peter, an “amateur thespian,” to get the Republican nomination to be a delegate from Henrico County. Later, the Farrells used their clout to get more than $1 million in state aid for a Civil War movie they wrote and produced and in which Peter Farrell acted.

Sinecures abound. After he left the state senate in 2013, Henry Marsh, 80, became a part-time board member of the Alcoholic Beverage Control at a salary of $122,000. Del. Bob Brink 66, became a deputy commissioner for aging for $110,000 a year. Del. Algie Howell, 76, got a parole board seat worth $122,455 a year.

McGuireWoods, one of the state’s most prominent and wealthiest law and lobbying outfits, got more than $4.6 million in help from Richmond, otherwise crippled by a 25 percent poverty rate and crumbling school buildings, to build a new headquarters downtown.

The Washington Redskins, the fifth richest team in the National Football League, got $11 million from Richmond to build a summer training camp that the Redskins use only three weeks a year.

The state created a fund, with money from Virginia’s share of a huge health settlement with four large tobacco companies, to help Tobacco Road counties. One of its directors ended up in prison with a 10-year sentence for fraud and self-dealing. Still, the tobacco fund has paid money for new factories in the southern and western parts of the state that haven’t created anywhere close to the number of jobs advertised.

Exhibit A, of course, is the McDonnell case. The couple accepted more than $177,000 in cash, gifts, loans and vacations from vitamin supplement salesman Jonnie R. Williams Sr. The Supreme Court vacated the governor’s convictions, and he and his wife are now free. But their six-week-long trial in 2015 revealed extraordinary conflicts and hubris in the Executive Mansion.

Since then, the state has applied some cosmetic limits on accepting gifts. But donations can run sky high as long as they are reported. Even gift-giving still has plenty of loopholes, provided the giver is a “personal friend.” Travel funded by corporations is okay, too.

Thomas, a native Richmonder, has done Virginia residents a valuable service with his book. The depth of his research is impressive although the text is overly chopped up, making it a more difficult read.

In sum, he writes: “The Virginia Way cannot change as long as politicians’ self-conceptions hinge on their own righteousness, for if there can be no fall, there can be no catharsis.”

This review first appeared in the Washington Post’s “All Opinions Are Local” section.

Give It Up, Dudes, There’s Nothing There

The McCabe family

The McCabe family

by James A. Bacon

The Wall Street Journal editorial page has doubled down on the newspaper’s insinuation that Governor Terry McAuliffe’s financial support for state senatorial candidate Jill McCabe was somehow linked to her husband Andrew McCabe’s handling of the FBI investigation into Hillary Clinton’s private email server. Drawing upon the Journal’s news report the previous day, the newspaper’s top editorial finds significance in the fact that “[McAuliffe], a longtime friend of Hillary and Bill, steered money to the campaign of the wife of a top FBI official.”

But the article did not demonstrate a quid pro quo, or even suggest what the quid pro quo might have been, and neither did the editorial.

As far as I’m concerned, former Secretary Clinton deserves all the scrutiny she gets for her Clinton Foundation ties, her decision to buck State Department policy by setting up her own jinky home-based server, her decision to destroy 30,000+ “personal” emails, thousands of which turned out not to be so personal, her repeated lies to the public, and the obstruction by her allies and even State Department officials to delay and thwart the email releases. There’s plenty to investigate. But the Journal does a dis-service by creating a flimsy distraction that can be used as evidence that Republicans and conservatives are just making stuff up. .

Here is the Journal’s logic:

Mrs. McCabe announced her candidacy the same month (March 2015) as the news broke about Mrs. Clinton’s private email server. Mr. McCabe was running the FBI’s Washington field office at the time, and he was promoted to the No. 3 FBI spot not long after the formal FBI investigation began in July 2015.


The FBI said in a statement that none of this is an issue because Mr. McCabe wasn’t promoted to the No. 2 position until February 2016, months after his wife lost her race, and only then did he assume “for the first time an oversight role in the investigation into Secretary Clinton’s emails.”


All of this asks voters to believe that Mr. McCabe as the No. 3 official at the FBI had nothing to do with the biggest, most sensitive case at that agency. This strains credulity. Before he became No. 3 at the FBI Mr. McCabe ran the bureau’s Washington, D.C., field office that provided resources to the Clinton probe. Campaign finance records show that 98% of the McAuliffe donations to Mrs. McCabe came after the FBI launched its Clinton probe.

McAuliffe, of course, has denied any skulduggery. He began recruiting Mrs. McCabe to run against Sen. Dick Black, R-Leesburg, for the 13th senatorial district, in February 2015, before the email scandal broke, said the governor’s office in the Times-Dispatch today, The recruitment efforts were led by Lieutenant Governor Ralph Northam as part of a larger bid to re-take control of the state senate. I would conjecture that Democrats considered the seat, occupied by one of the most conservative members of the senate, to be more vulnerable than most. It is not implausible to think that the Dems targeted the seat and plowed money into Mrs. McCabe’s candidacy because they thought she could win.

One way the Journal could have buttressed its story was to talk to Northam and other leading Democrats. Did they find McAuliffe’s support for McCabe controversial in any way? Were they baffled that he poured so much money into her race? Or did Democratic Party leaders share the perception that McCabe was the best candidate with the best chance of beating Black? For the record, although McCabe lost the election, she did put in a strong showing against an incumbent, garnering 47.6% of the vote.

The Journal also could have talked to Thomas V. Mulrine, an Army veteran and attorney who had announced his candidacy before McCabe did. The T-D‘s Graham Moomaw did talk to him, and it turns out that he was a little miffed that McAuliffe had backed McCabe, calling it “unseemly” that the governor would recruit one Democratic candidate to run against another. “I think the citizens of the county ought to choose who their representatives are and not just have somebody foisted on them by somebody from afar,” Mulrine said.

One might ask why McAuliffe chose to intervene on McCabe’s side before the nomination. Is it unheard of in Virginia Democratic Party politics for the governor to get so involved in selecting candidates? If so, McAuliffe’s intense interest in McCabe might be cause for suspicision. But if McAuliffe involved himself in the selection of other candidates, then there is no need in McCabe’s case to invoke another explanation entailing a corrupt desire to influence the outcome of an FBI investigation. Continue reading

The McAuliffe-Clinton Email Nothingburger


Andrew McCabe

by James A. Bacon

So, what do we make of the front-page revelation in today’s Wall Street Journal that Governor Terry McAuliffe, a long-time ally of Bill and Hillary Clinton, gave $475,000 through his Common Good VA PAC to Jill McCabe, a Democratic candidate in 20015 for a Northern Virginia state senate seat, who … was married to Andrew McCabe, then the chief of the FBI’s Washington field office… who later ran the investigation into the Hillary Clinton email scandal?

Trust me, I am not one to minimize the significance of the Clinton email scandal. I believe that former Secretary Clinton set up a personal email server to avoid public scrutiny of the tangled conflicts engendered by the Clinton Foundation and her state department service, that she put national security at risk by transmitting classified documents over that server, that her communications were likely hacked by foreign intelligence services, that she obstructed justice by deleting the infamous 30,000+ “private” emails, and that she should have been prosecuted on multiple accounts. Her actions, lying and cover-up disqualify her from the presidency every bit as much as Donald Trump’s history of predatory groping, kissing and sexual advances disqualify him. (Yes, I am totally disgusted with the choices we have for president this year.)

However, as much as it would satisfy me to see confirmation of my jaundiced view of Clinton and her emails, I don’t think there’s much to the WSJ story. There certainly isn’t anything in the article that discredits McAuliffe.

Here are the facts presented. In a bid to regain Democratic control of the state senate, McAuliffe urged Jill McCabe, a hospital physician, to run against Sen. Dick Black, R-Leesburg, for the 13th senatorial district. McAuliffe’s PAC contributed $475,000 to her campaign, and the Virginia Democratic Party kicked in another $208,000, accounting for about a third of all the funds she raised.

A spokesman for the governor said McAuliffe “supported Jill McCabe because he believes she would be a good state senator. This is a customary practice for Virginia governors. Any insinuation that his support was tied to anything other than his desire to elect candidates who would help pass his agenda is ridiculous.”

McAuliffe met with Mr. and Mrs. McCabe on March 7, 2015 to urge her to run. That is the only time McAuliffe recalls ever meeting the FBI executive. As it happened, Clinton’s use of a private email server was just coming to public light in early March. The FBI announced its probe four months later.

The Journal article notes that Mr. McCabe played no role in his wife’s campaign; he appeared in no events and participated in no fund-raising. He sought ethics advice from the bureau, and followed it, avoiding involvement with public correction cases in Virginia. At the end of 2015, Mr. McCabe was promoted to FBI headquarters, where he assumed the No. 3 position. In February 2016, he became the second-in-command to FBI Director James Comey. His supervision of the Clinton email case in 2016 was not seen as a conflict because his wife’s unsuccessful senatorial bid was over by then, and McAuliffe was not part of the probe.

The article provides no evidence whatsoever that McAuliffe tried to influence the outcome of the Clinton email investigation. It did note that McAuliffe has been under investigation for months by the FBI’s Washington field office for donations made on behalf of a Chinese businessman, possibly in violation of a law requiring people to register as agents of a foreign entity. Stated the Journal: “It was unclear the extent to which Mr. McCabe may have recused himself from discussions involving Mr. McAuliffe.”

Bacon’s bottom line: The article presents not a scintilla of evidence to suggest that McAuliffe backed Mrs. McCabe for any reason other than what he stated, which was to win a Democratic majority in the senate. Unless concrete evidence surfaces, any insinuation to the contrary cannot be taken seriously.

What the article does illustrate, however, is how inbred and incestuous Washington government and politics are. We can infer by Mrs. McCabe’s allegiance to the Democratic Party that Mr. McCabe likely is a Democrat as well — although even that cannot be assumed. (Politically mixed marriages do occur.) If it can be documented that Mr. McCabe is a Democrat, one might be justified in asking whether his partisan leanings had anything to do with his ascent through the Obama administration FBI or if they affected his oversight of the Clinton investigation. Those are not idle questions given the controversial decisions that someone in the FBI hierarchy made (a) to tightly limit the scope of the investigation and (b) to grant immunity agreements to five Clinton insiders, including Secretary Clinton’s chief of staff Cheryl Mills. (Google “clinton email investigation fix” for more concerns.)

If the Journal had written an article focusing on the role Mr. McCabe played in the FBI’s questionable decisions, then it would have been reasonable to ask if he was motivated by partisan considerations. But the Journal didn’t write that article. It wrote an article that emphasized McAuliffe’s connection. And, based upon what we know, there just isn’t any “there” there.

Update: The Republican Party of Virginia is jumping on the story. “Today, at my direction, the Republican Party of Virginia is filing a Freedom of Information Act request with Governor McAuliffe’s office for any and all communications related to Dr. Jill McCabe’s 2015 campaign for state Senate,” said RPV Chairman John Whitbeck in a press release. “While the Governor’s PAC is not a public organization, we also call on Terry McAuliffe to release any and all emails to and from that organization related to Dr. McCabe’s campaign.”

Good luck with that.