mcauliffe-cuccinelli-genericBy Peter Galuszka

Virginia’s nasty gubernatorial race fills television screens and Web sites with suggestions of corruption by both candidates, involving everything from gifts to natural gas rights to a struggling electric carmaker in Mississippi.

There’s anything but a smoking gun, but no shortage of innuendo. And I think it is important to point that out.

My first concern is the furor over Democratic candidate Terry McAuliffe’s misadventure with GreenTech Automotive, which makes small electric cars in Northern Mississippi after skipping past Virginia during its search for a plant site.

The campaign of Republican contender Kenneth Cuccinelli is making  a lot of hay over some rather vague accusations’ involving McAuliffe, and that seems to be as much as they have on Terry. The New York Times and The Post have weighed in with stories about the car company and a related financial firm that involves Hillary Rodham Clinton’s brother.

Basically, McAuliffe got into business with a man named Charles Wang to build little battery-powered cars. Part of the strategy involved getting visas for some business people from China under a legal program that has been around for about two decades. McAuliffe may have done a bit of informal lobbying to expedite the visa process, as far as I can tell.

Meanwhile, GreenTech is floundering, has hired far fewer people than advertised and isn’t churning out many cars. The Securities & Exchange Commission is probing whether the firm misled some investors by guaranteeing them a profit.

In essence, that’s it so far. McAuliffe quietly left the firm before Dec. 1 and didn’t tell anyone for months. And he apparently left under bad terms. According to the Times: “Still, there are days when Mr. Wang says he wishes he had never gone into business with a politically connected partner. ‘I learned a lot of things, he said. ‘Politicians or people with political backgrounds are dangerous to business.’”

In sum, at least from what we know so far, McAuliffe got involved in a business that didn’t live up to expectations. He should have told voters he’d bailed on the firm sooner than he did. McAuliffe did try to offer some context in a Washington Post op-ed he wrote Sunday but what could have been a good opportunity didn’t go far.

A little perspective. He could have said there are lots of business problems out there. Here in Richmond, the region lost some big companies during the Great Recession, including mass retailer Circuit City, mortgage firm Land America and chip-maker Qimondo. The Post has such financial problems that it is being bought by Jeff Bezos of Amazon. Media General was lame with its balance sheet in unloaded 60 plus newspapers including the Richmond Times-Dispatch to Warren Buffett for something like $2 million a paper.

Where’s the smoking gun in these cases?

It’s hard to find one in Cuccinelli’s affairs, too, but there seems to be more of substance there. The attorney general bought stock in a firm involved in a tax case his office was prosecuted. He did not immediately disclose the holding. He also accepted $18,000 in gifts from the owner of the firm, but a prosecutor has since cleared him of any illegality. One of his assistants was criticized by a federal judge for acting as an advocate for two large energy companies in a legal battle over natural gas rights. One of the firms is a major contributor to Cuccinelli’s campaign.

Nothing here is going to send Cuccinelli to jail, but how do McAuliffe’s problems with GreenTech measure up as ethical transgressions when compared to Cuccinelli’s?

The fact is, they don’t, barring more revelations about GreenTech.

Meanwhile, the drum keeps beating for Bob and Maureen McDonnell, and, whether he likes it or not, Cuccinelli. Federal prosecutors met with separate lawyers for the McDonnells and the governor insist he will serve out his term but still dodges questions about the mess.

The latest Qunnipiac poll is 48-42 in favor of McAuliffe. If memory serves that’s a small improvement, but he could use a bigger lead. Cuccinelli, meanwhile, is seeing Main Street Republicans like Boyd Marcus sign up with Dems, along with other prominent GOPers like builder Dwight Schar.

And it’s not even Labor Day yet.

Share this article


(comments below)


(comments below)


7 responses to “Innuendo vs. Substance In the Governor’s Race”

  1. Breckinridge Avatar

    Peter, I’ll say you do make the official D talking points far more readable and reasonable. The GreenTech story is not about making electric cars in China and only slightly about selling green cards to investors but is mainly about creating doubts that McAuliffe will deliver on what he promises. There is a bit of Professor Harold Hill and the imaginary boy’s band that is always lingering in the background when I hear him speak.

    What bothers me about the way the Republicans are playing it is that they are copying the playbook used against their own candidate for president last year. He was attacked for making business decisions that didn’t measure up to political correctness, he was attacked for overseas investments. There is an underlying hostility to big business in the message that is not being missed by anybody and is not winning friends in the business world.

    This will still be a choice between two candidates with high negatives and lingering doubts, and despite the recent poll it will be decided by intensity and turnout. Given the Summer of Star Scientific, it is no small thing that Cuccinelli is only six points back.

  2. DJRippert Avatar

    Cuccinelli’s campaign has been lost in the ozone for a while now. The campaign strategy was supposed to be:

    1. Screw Bolling with a convention.
    2. Paint Mcauliffe as corrupt.
    3. Pretend to be moderate.
    4. Win election.
    5. Resume far right wing behavior once inaugurated.
    6. Start national political career 6 – 12 months before end of term.

    It was paint-by-numbers easy.

    But a funny thing happened between #1. and #2. – Star Scientific. Suddenly, it was the Republicans who were defending themselves against charges of corruption. Meanwhile, Cuccinelli had no platform and no policies beyond his well established social crusades.

    The hapless RPV and its mouthpieces on right wing blogs just keep trying the GreenTech angle. And it’s failing miserably. However, Cuccinelli himself seems desperate enough or smart enough to have adjusted his approach. Suddenly, he has a reasonably detailed education plan. Suddenly, he has a plan for using federal tax breaks (i.e. subsidies) to renovate old schools.

    I’m not saying that these are good or bad plans. I am just saying that he has developed some plans.


    Because the GreenTech attacks aren’t working in the face of the Star Scientific fiasco.

    Breckenridge has it right. The best message about GreenTech is that McAuliffe over-promised and (so far) under-delivered.

    Of course Cuccinelli promised to block same-sex partners of public university employees from getting state funded health care, promised to overturn Obamacare, promised to make Michael Mann’s e-mails public, promised to preserve Virginia’s anti-sodomy law.

    So, like with ethics, Cooch might want to tread lightly on the “you don’t always make good on your promises” schtick.

    He might even be forced back to the issues and his platforms in an effort to win the election. I am sure that possibility is absolutely terrifying to his handlers in the RPV.

  3. I tend to agree with Breckinridge. I thought Romney was smarmy in the same way that McAuliff is being portrayed.

    what does this tell you about the RPV?

    that they think they can snag votes from the middle with that message.

    It’s bad that the left demonizes business – no question about it.

    what does it mean when the GOP does it?

    I think the GOP will do just about anything to win including prostituting their own claimed beliefs…

    in their mind – winning is so important that whatever it takes to put their guy in office is justified… then they’ll govern according to their “principles” ….

    yet another reason to not admire the GOP…

  4. Please give me a break larryg. The GOP will do anything to win? I’d say that applies as well to the Democrats. Politics now is all about winning. And having won, to keep winning. I’m writing in LtGov Bolling on the ballot when the time comes. I can’t trust either of these guys we have on the ballot.

    1. you’re correct… no arguments.

  5. I too may write in Bolling. I have concerns about Cuccinelli and I think McAuliffe is as greasy as they come. I often see him in church and automatically grab for my wallet in response. Just want to make sure it’s still there.

  6. re: doing anything to win

    it’s as if the Dems would come out against unions, demonize teachers, say that civil rights legislation was wrong, etc.

    that’s what the GOP is doing now… they’re demonizing good old fashioned
    rent-seeking crony-capitalism… their bread and butter!

    As soon as I see the left come out against Medicare and Social Security – I’ll issue my mea culpa!

    seeing the RPV AD ask “scary” questions about dealing with “chinese”… my very first question was WHO they were targeting that AD to.. certainly not their Base who would be rolling on the floor in laughter…


Leave a Reply