McDonnell Wins Appeal

Photo credit: New York Times
Photo credit: New York Times

In a unanimous ruling, the U.S. Supreme Court has overturned Bob McDonnell’s bribery conviction. The former Governor had been found guilty in 2014 of accepting more than $165,000 in gifts and loans from Richmond businessman Jonnie Williams in exchange for using his office to promote a dietary supplement.

Prosecutors had charged that McDonnell had committed at least five “official acts” on behalf of Williams, including hosting and attending events at the Governor’s Mansion and arranging meetings for Williams with state employees. He was convicted in a Richmond jury trial, and the conviction was upheld in appeals court.

As Justice John Roberts said in his opinion, the case revolves around the proper interpretation of the phrase “official act.”

We reject the Government’s reading … and adopt a more bounded interpretation of “official act.” Under that interpretation, setting up a meeting, calling another public official, or hosting an event does not, standing alone, qualify as an “official act.”

“There is no doubt that this case is distasteful; it may be worse than that,” wrote Roberts. “But our concern is not with tawdry tales of Ferraris, Rolexes and ball gowns. it is instead with the broader legal implications of the government’s boundless interpretation of the federal bribery statute. A more limited interpretation of the term ‘official act’ leaves ample room for prosecuting corruption, while comporting with the text of the statute and the precedent of this court.”

I’m no legal scholar, but Roberts’ thinking is precisely why I found McDonnell’s conviction so incomprehensible in the first place. The governor opened doors for Williams, but he never strong-armed anyone or intervened in any way to get Williams the state funds he craved.

The trial revealed unseemly behavior and poor judgment by McDonnell that, in my mind, disqualified him from public office — and the Supreme Court ruling does not change that. But McDonnell’s deeds did not rise to the level of a criminal offense. I’m glad to see McDonnell cleared of criminal charges. He has spent two years in purgatory. At last the man can go about rebuilding his life.


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41 responses to “McDonnell Wins Appeal”

  1. Lionel Hutz Avatar
    Lionel Hutz

    Yeah, except that McDonnell was not “vindicated”, but rather his conviction was overturned and set for retrial. SCOTUS held that the jury instructions were overly broad, particularly in the definition of “official act” and, as such, McDonnell’s conviction was in error. But his case was remanded for retrial, he was not “vindicated” as a jury could still well determine that his actions violated the statute. Whether the case will be re-litigated remains to be seen, however.

    1. TooManyTaxes Avatar

      Agree. The jury instructions were bad.

      But I’m also curious as to what the DoJ will do with respect to Hillary Clinton’s massive problems with the law.

  2. CrazyJD Avatar

    I suppose it depends what you call “vindicated”. Any time a case gets reversed because of a bad jury instruction, it always goes back for retrial. But SCOTUS cut the balls out the prosecutor’s case, making it damned near impossible to retry with any real hope of success.

    What’s more interesting to me is the language of Justice Roberts cited by Jim:
    “A more limited interpretation of the term ‘official act’ leaves ample room for prosecuting corruption, while comporting with the text of the statute and the precedent of this court.”

    This gives support to the notion that SCOTUS justices read the newspapers and the polls. Why else would you almost apologize for having to overturn a decision that clearly needed to be overturned? “Don’t worry, great unwashed, you can still engage in political prosecutions; just make sure you get it right?” Can you say –“Marilyn Mosby”?

  3. Well I think what we are really saying right now is that Jim Bacon was vindicated. If I recall correctly, Jim had serious concerns about the validity of the prior conviction, now over-turned for possible retrial. That sentiment was apparently correct. Only the passage of time will tell us if former Gov. McDonnell is vindicated.

    1. Yeah, “vindicated” is probably too strong of a word. I’ll changed the headline.

  4. Had Tim Kaine been brought up on charges for taking a free vacation from a rich guy who he re-appointed to a prestigious board seat and had the jury been given the same instructions as the McDonnell jury …. Kaine would be in an orange jump suit right now.

    Virginia’s political establishment is as crooked as a country road. However, the graft and corruption is evenly spread. You can’t just pick one guy and persecute him. That’s not due process, that’s a witch hunt. Ideally, all of the Clown Show members should be in orange jump suits. Barring that, none of them should be incarcerated. However, the citizens of Virginia should take the McDonnell affair as a teachable moment and throw the bums out. Our politicians are fundamentally corrupt.

    1. CrazyJD Avatar

      Don’t disagree, but of course that’s not the issue. Your complaint is better represented by the now famous campaign yard sign:
      “They all suck 2016″
      The US is”

  5. Reed Fawell 3rd Avatar
    Reed Fawell 3rd

    The Court said this conviction was insufficiently grounded. Hence the prosecution and conviction rested on improper motives. Ones that were no different from the findings of a politically driven “show trial.”

    Unwisely, the Republican Governor opened himself up to such a politically driven result. The Chief Justice, seeing this, rescued the Governor from his own tawdry conduct. Hence the quote:

    “But our concern is not with tawdry tales of Ferraris, Rolexes and ball gowns. It is instead with the broader legal implications of the government’s boundless interpretation of the federal bribery statute. A more limited interpretation of the term ‘official act’ leaves ample room for prosecuting corruption, while comporting with the text of the statute and the precedent of this court.”

    We should not be putting politicians whose policies we disagree with in jail simply for acting like politicians. This opens the door for demagogues and tyrants to kill representative government.

    We got plenty of real corruption in Virginia to deal with. Much of it in plain sight.

  6. And here I’ve been thinking SCOTUS would vacate because the case used Federal guidelines for an employee of a state. I think that if one imagines that their teenage child was indicted for something that looked bad, smelled bad, but didn’t rise to the level of statute violation, they will find their way to the same conclusion as SCOTUS did here. Lots of teenagers have bad judgment, but not all of it is criminal.

  7. TooManyTaxes Avatar

    For a stroll down memory lane, one might want to read the June 2007 letter from Wm T Coleman, O’Melveny & Meyers senior partner and former Secretary of Transportation for the United States, re unusual risks of the Silver Line Design-Build Contract. This starts on page 50 of the document.

  8. LarrytheG Avatar

    Well the SCOTUS essentially ruled: ” As bad as this stinks – it fails to meet the precise legal definition of STINK”.

    Given all the smutty behaviors of McDonnell, his wife and even the kids over stealing food and utensils out of the Governor mansion – I agree the prosecutors erred in thinking that such behaviors “proved” the “quo” part with Johnny Williams.

    I’ll abide by the SCOTUS decision – as I do for all of them – rather than play the current popular game of “wait til we appoint folks to the SCOTUS who will make “correct” decisions …….. 😉

    and… I’d even entertain a thought or two of prosecutorial overreach/misconduct – getting slapped down by the SCOTUS is not inconsequential…

    but I still have no doubt what-so-ever that the McDonnells morals are pure Grade A scum.

    People who steal food, liquor and even pots and pans from the Gov Mansion – you pretty much know what their core ethics are…… whether they get legally held to account for similar skulduggery or not.

    There is no question in my mind at all what the McDonnells were doing with Johnny Williams … given their other behavior with catering and the kitchen but you actually do have to prove it – and that the prosecutors did not do it … and fair is fair even when it comes to disgusting ….

    1. A lot of internet banter is likening this to the Clintons having engaged in a lot of behavior that, while _______ (insert your own word here), hasn’t led to a conviction. While the legal system works its things out, voters may vote as they please if they judge candidates’ conduct to be reprehensible. Mark my words, McDonnell will re-enter public life in less than 5 years.

      1. LarrytheG Avatar

        If the Clintons were guilty of stealing food and liquor from the White House or any other govt facility or doing with someone what McDonnell and wife did with Johnny Williams- I’d have no problem with condemning them similarly.

        However “internet” claims of such behavior is not evidence as those same folks have also accused them of killing Vince Foster and other conspiracies….

        The Mcdonnells were just pitiful stupid – geeze if you’re gonna be THAT crooked at least be skilled enough to evade obvious public knowledge that attracts prosecutors like flies to rotting carrion!!!

        You have a chef that they STIFFED on catering their daughters wedding – the SAME CHEF that KNOWs the Mcdonnells have been stealing food and liquor from the kitchen. If you’re going to be crooked with Johnnie Williams – why not do the same with the Chef to keep him quiet? Geeze!

        Give the Clintons and the Va GA and others credit – if you’re going to be crooked – be good at it!

        1. I probably know a lot more chefs than you and they’re not the most honest bunch, either. I think chef was paid for wedding work…$15K by Jonnie Williams.

          Have you forgotten the $200K worth of goods that the Clintons took as parting gifts from the White House game show? I don’t know if it’s stupidity that causes these misdeeds, or naivete, arrogance, desperation? Maybe it depends on the individual instance. Ask Anthony Weiner.

      2. Whether Clintons or McDonnells, voters these days seem less capable, or willing, than the courts when it comes to dealing with sleaze, or competency for office.

      3. CrazyJD Avatar

        Most Republicans in public life, at least the old line ones, have some semblance of honor, contrary to Democrats in public life who find themselves in similar positions (can you say Alcee Hastings, Eliot Spitzer, Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton, Eliot Weiner, Marion Barry?). You’ll tell me if you can think of that many Republicans who insisted on regaining public life. I would be greatly surprised if McDonnell gets back into public life in 5 yrs.

        Admittedly, this can lead to problems when one side follows a code of honor and the other side doesn’t. I’m reading Eric Metaxis’ book on Dietrich Bonhoeffer. So far, the only thing that appears to have distinguished the situation in Germany before WWII and our current situation would be: 1.) a military corp made up of elite Prussian noblemen who followed a code of honor, assumed others did the same, and failed to act against Hitler, and 2. a country unfamiliar with the workings of democracy.

        1. LarrytheG Avatar

          Crazy – do you really want me to list the GOP scandals like Jack Abramoff, Tom Delay, etc?

          Geeze guy – can you at least acknowledge that both sides own some of it?

          1. CrazyJD Avatar

            As usual, you failed to read and failed to miss the point.

            There have been lots of scandals on both sides. Usually, though, the Republicans don’t try to force their way back into public life like those I named.

        2. Reed Fawell 3rd Avatar
          Reed Fawell 3rd

          CrazyJD –

          Your Dietrich Bonhoeffer comment is extremely apt.

          I am amazed at how few Dietrich Bonhoeffers there were around at the time to stand up to Fascism. After all, the German People were said to be among the most educated and cultured people in the World. Why did so few stand up? Why did it take a German educated in America to stand up? Why did so many Germans go along with Fascism, allowing it to grow into a monster that destroyed tens, if not, hundreds of millions of innocents, and nearly succeed in casting the world into dark age for untold generations? Why?

          I do now know why. But I am no longer surprised. History is now repeating itself. This time, unlike last time (mostly), it’s going on right in America. Most likely what Dietrich Bonhoeffer learned in American back then he would not learn now. So who now will save the world this time around?

          1. Reed Fawell 3rd Avatar
            Reed Fawell 3rd

            Acbar says:

            “Go to VMI today, or the US service academies, and they teach, on the surface, a code of honor. These institutions also teach that there are situations where you have to think for yourself and improvise how best to accomplish the mission; even, when to break rules to get the job done. But honor is simply another rule to break when necessary. Deeper down, I fear, the principal lesson taught today in our military academies is, “to succeed, you must know when to break the rules, but first, learn how not to get caught …
            I wonder if those latter-day academy graduates will ever feel the tug of honor that Mr. Coleman felt, or Mr. Nitze simply assumed others would share.”

            Acbar, I think you have put your finger on the nub a huge problem. One that’s been around since men first started to organize for war and fought them.

            I sense that there is a terrible catch-22 is the maintenance and deployment of effective military organizations, their assembly, training, upkeep, planning, operations and ethos.

            And that, although the reasons for this are complex and many, I sense that the extraordinary group dynamics and demands that victory or loss in war impose on men play an important roll here.

            War is by nature horrible. Submission to authority in all its variant iterations is deemed essential to the cohesive actions needed by one army to impose its will on another in the midst of horrendous chaos. And those who say this also say that such discipline must be strictly maintained in peace if one is to have the best chance deploy it successfully in war.

            And yet, it has also been said by those who have successfully experienced this caldron (I have not) that an effective combat leaders needs a cool head and dispassionate judgement that lifts him out of this caldron while he fights within its midst, if he is to exercise effective command within this system of submission that has now delivered him abruptly into raging chaos and horrible loss. And that he must exercise this cool and rational command often for days on end, as well as during his earlier planning and preparation therefore, and his cleaning up of the mess afterwards.

            In trying to figure all this out (and I have not yet done that) I have at the very least come to believe that being a good and effective war-fighter is the most difficult of all professions. And it is the most noble of all professions if the soldier does it right. And that there are men who rise to the occasion like a Paul Nitze or William Coleman did in their professions, despite what war and military discipline and all the rest throws at them time and time again.

            I’ll try to finish this up tomorrow.

        3. Reed Fawell 3rd Avatar
          Reed Fawell 3rd

          One possibly explanation for the consistent lack of people like Dietrich Bonhoeffer who step up to oppose corruption is found group behavior. As group corruption grows, it becomes ever more difficult to resist within the group and later outside it.

          Group corruption first encourages and too often then demands that its members acquiesce in their group’s corrupt behavior. “Going along” then far too often grows into the active participation by ever more members of the group. These illicit acts of more and more members further binds them into the group as it multiplies the power of the group. Often too it also enhances the status and power of the corrupted members within the group. And this is typically believed to enhance the power and influence of the group over outsiders.

          So the more doctrinaire, ideological, and corrupt the group becomes the tighter its grip over its members becomes, and the more power they group has to dominate others as well as institutions and long established practices that otherwise would thwart the corruption but now can be changed by the group to empower and spread the corruption instead.

          Hence over time it becomes ever easier for more and more people to rationalize or turn their gaze away from corrupt behavior that grows all around them, spreading through institutions and societies. Thus fewer and fewer people stand up against group leaders who become increasingly corrupt as more and more members not only go silently along but become active agents in the corrupt acts of the group.

          An example of how such corruption spreads within a group and then infects other institutions was pointed up by TooManyTaxes. He directed our attention a June 2007 letter from Wm T Coleman, a O’Melveny & Meyers senior partner and former US Secretary of Transportation that highlighted in very strong terms the unusual risks of the Silver Line Design-Build Contract.

          This starts on page 50 of the document:

          Anyone reading this letter would know that its allegations, if true, would waste ten of millions if not hundreds of millions of tax and toll payer dollars. Anyone familiar with public procurement practices, including public and Public/Private infrastructure construction contracts, would know that this Silver Line contract was designed to establish a floor under construction costs while it left the doors wide open to massive cost overruns. Indeed it encouraged practices illegal under state law according to the Coleman letter.

          So what happened? After much ineffectual but highly expensive controversy, the project proceeded to debacle as predicted by Mr. Coleman. Why is this not irrefutable proof of pervasive rot in our systems of governance and industry? Why is it not matched by the prosecution and conviction of Governor McDonnel? Would the Governor have been prosecuted by a Republican Administration? Why do these matters today have to be upset by a unanimous US Supreme Court? Are we now a thoroughly corrupt society?

          1. CrazyJD Avatar

            We may be proving too much here. I’m not sure you can reach the conclusion of pervasive rot now more than any other time, and it’s probably only partly traceable to group behavior as you say. According to Metaxsis, the German generals, early on, all predicted a complete debacle if they went along with what they thought Hitler wanted to do. But they simply didn’t believe he would do it, because they saw it as immoral and a disaster. They failed to realize, as have others, that the other side may not be playing by your rules.

            This was brought home to me in spades when I lived in Washington with Paul Nitze and his wife. Paul was a former secretary of just about everything, one of the principal authors of the Marshall Plan, and Nixon and Reagan’s advisor on strategic arms limitation (SALT talks). When, in 1972, I told him I thought Nixon was into Watergate up to his eyeballs, Nitze said something along the lines of:

            “Certainly not. I meet with him almost on a daily basis. He would not be involved with such shenanigans. There would be no reason to. McGovern is self-destructing, and Nixon will easily win reelection.”

            The problem was: Nitze had a code of ethics, honor, whatever you want to call it, that Nixon did not share. It resulted in Nitze’s miscalculation of events.

          2. Reed Fawell 3rd Avatar
            Reed Fawell 3rd

            CrazyJD –

            I appreciate your comment, and see its merit.

            Here we are dealing with human nature and the behavior that it manifests though us. This is treacherous ground in any venue. Surely a blog comment cannot begin to it justice.

            But I am reminded of Gordon W. Woods’ response to a “young historian.” The fellow claimed that the American Revolution was an obvious failure given that it “failed to free the slaves, failed to offer full political equality to women, … failed to grant citizenship to the Indians, and failed to create an economic world in which all could compete on equal terms.”

            Professor Wood replied that any historian establishing that particular threshold of success for the American revolution of 1776 “tells us a lot more about the political attitudes of that particular historian who make such statements than it does about the American Revolution.”

            He went on to say:

            “The history of the American Revolution, like the history of the nation as a whole, ought not to be viewed as a story of right and wrong or good and evil from which moral lessons are to be drawn. … The Revolution, the whole of American History, is not a simple morality play; it is a complicated and often ironic story that needs to be explained and understood, not celebrated or condemned. How the Revolution came about, what its character was, and what its consequences were – not whether it was good or bad – are the questions this brief history seeks to answer.”

            I suspect your story of Paul Nitze and the German Generals gets to that important point. But so does the fact that the solders of the German Army committed one of histories greatest genocides simply by forcing old men, women and children out of their homes in the dead of winter in the Bloodlands of Eastern Europe to starve and freeze those many millions of innocents to death while the young German soldiers wintered over in the warmth of the hearths belonging those exiled families dying on the cold woods on the other side of the road.

            This story as well as the Nitze story show how difficult all this is. It includes many things, one of which is the power of factions, groups and organizations to fool and otherwise play game with the heads of the very best of men. People like Paul Nitze. Or those hesitant German Generals, including those who later went to the Gallows for their desperate attempt to kill Hitler before he destroyed the world.

            Still only dispassion has a chance to find the truth as best we can. And to get it into the best perspective we can manage, including our own vast limitations, and overpowering urge to rationalize.

            For example what you learn about Lyndon Johnson’s history as a man in a Robert Caro biography is far different from what you would learn from lectures by his key staff and cabinet members at their 4oth year reunion held at the Lyndon Baines Johnson Memorial Library in Austin, Texas. But as you suggest, I suspect that the great majority of those opinions expressed at the LBJ reunion were as just as sincerely held as Caro is sincere about his first four volumes of a monumental study of Johnson the man.

            I guess we are all blind and fools to varying degrees at varying times on different subjects, and are most always mislead by our histories, our times, our places, our experiences, our fears and our ambitions. As well as our groups: whether they be race, tribe, nationality, job, parents, kin, height, sex, width, whatever.

            Perhaps what you are getting at and what I should have been far clearer about is that “corruption” includes all forms of “human failings and blindness.” What makes our behavior so endlessly complex and frightfully mysterious and paradoxical beyond our comprehension. All of it subject to the endless ever changing experiences that impact us by the day and minute and by what we do or is done to us, things that are far too often unknown to us.

            Hence I suspect that Paul Nitze (one of the smartest, experienced,, accomplished, gimlet eyed and character driven men on the planet), even this great man, may have been the last man to realize the truth about Nixon as well were many True Believers.

            Of course the vast majority of people have little option but to go along and remain silent with what the know is wrong. Others refuse to look into ugly closets, or rationalize their way through such terrible times, frozen in fear. Unfortunately many others don’t care either way, so occupy places awash in the banality of evil.

            As regards that contract for the Silver Line. Only a fool would bet his own money on the cost of that project. Only the grossly irresponsible public servant would put their name to it on behalf of looking after the public’s money. Particularly so after Coleman’s Letter. And the past history behind that particular transaction and one’s like it. In fact that bad history goes back well into 19 century Virginia, a history so bad that Virginia’s General Assembly outlawed Public Private Road deals late in the 19 century after a long series of debacles, with very few successes, during that century.

            As to the excuse as to why so many looked away, rationalized, did care one way or the other, were to fearful, or to full of ambition or greed, or think someone else made them do it, TooManyTaxes further explanation set forth below of those times help to put things in perspective.

          3. Thank you, RF and CJD, for these ruminations. The letter from Sect’y Coleman was an extraordinary document at the time and I do remember its being swept under the rug. Putting that devastating attachment into the record with the letter’s conclusions was, indeed, a brave and honorable thing to do, and something very atypical for a bureaucrat.

            I find myself in CJD’s camp on group behavior’s contribution to “pervasive rot.” It isn’t merely the power of the mob, in my view, but the power of the bureaucracy. I have a deep distrust of bureaucracy — because it rewards CYA and punishes risk-takers so predictably — yet here we are, surrounded by thousands of government agencies and their bureaucrats, because there is no adequate alternative to running the government. A bureaucracy has his own special code of honor. A bureaucrat knows that it is noble to defend the rule, and one’s superior if he defends the rule. A bureaucrat knows that in case of conflict, the rule trumps the purpose for which the rule was adopted. A bureaucrat does not care about the cost to others of compliance with his rule, or waiting for him to judge if they are in compliance, because he is the custodian, the guardian, of the rule and it matters (or else, he does not matter, either). Yes, we have done our best to circumvent these trends by bringing in non-bureaucrats at the top to run things, through SES/political appointments, but it’s only a short while before most of them are corrupted by the forces and people they have to manage.

            Go to VMI today, or the US service academies, and they teach, on the surface, a code of honor. These institutions also teach that there are situations where you have to think for yourself and improvise how best to accomplish the mission; even, when to break rules to get the job done. But honor is simply another rule to break when necessary. Deeper down, I fear, the principal lesson taught today in our military academies is, “to succeed, you must know when to break the rules, but first, learn how not to get caught.” Or go to the University of Virginia today and learn how to parse the many inflections of the Honor Code, each appropriate to the situation it addresses, because honor is relative.

            I wonder if those latter-day academy graduates will ever feel the tug of honor that Mr. Coleman felt, or Mr. Nitze simply assumed others would share. I wonder if the University of Virginia’s honor code still inhibits anyone’s behavior, beyond “how not to get caught.” I wonder if any of our politicians worries about honor any more than those UVa students today.

            But don’t call this “pervasive rot.” Like Caesar, we are all honorable men!

          4. CrazyJD Avatar

            >>Deeper down, I fear, the principal lesson taught today in our military academies is, “to succeed, you must know when to break the rules, but first, learn how not to get caught.” >>

            Any real evidence for this latter? I don’t see it. Instead, I see a great deal of ambivalence among some heads of universities about the subject. See, e.g., the ruminations of Princeton’s president on the subject. Oh, so ecumenical. “It’s such a difficult question”, but refusing to come down hard on the subject. No wonder kids are confused.


  9. Peter Galuszka Avatar
    Peter Galuszka

    How about this as a new headline:


    Builds showcase home in Smithfield celebrating ancestors

    1. TooManyTaxes Avatar

      Peter, gotta love it. Great headline.

      1. LarrytheG Avatar

        a closer look at Bacon’s Rebellion – a curious thing:

        ” When Sir William Berkeley refused to retaliate against the Native Americans, farmers gathered around at the report of a new raiding party. Nathaniel Bacon arrived with a quantity of brandy; after it was distributed, he was elected leader. ”

        1. Bacon and Brandy — a good combination!

  10. Vindicated? No, still as corrupt as McAwful and the rest of his cabinet.

  11. LarrytheG Avatar

    re: ” There have been lots of scandals on both sides. Usually, though, the Republicans don’t try to force their way back into public life like those I named.”

    did we talk about Tom DeLay and Ralph Reed in public life today?

    Crazy – methinks you have almost a child-like frame of reference with respect to the good and evil of political parties.. wise up lad.

    1. CrazyJD Avatar

      Yes, my dear Larry, there is also a Santa Claus. I note that you are able to cite two figures, neither of which have tried to push their way back into public office, like Weiner, Hastings, Spitzer, Barry. Got anything else, Larr?

      You need to look in the mirror before making these comments.

  12. LarrytheG Avatar

    I’m obviously no fan of McDonnell because of what is also known about his dealings with the Chef and the kitchen which I think reveals a lot about a person’s personal ethics…

    Common white-collar crooks steal from their jobs…. they often, not always and not quickly, get caught, get fired – sometimes go to court and get found guilty of a crime… Whether it’s the Treasurer of a local rescue squad or a contracting officer for the Navy – it happens – pretty much all the time – and can be found almost daily in the news.

    So I’m not surprised that it happens in all walks of life including politics.

    but we seem to have special contempt for elected officials who behave like common white collar crooks – and I include myself in that – and I care not a whit if the crook is a D or an R or I….

    In McDonnells case – they clearly have the morals of a common white collar crook – not just one thing – a pattern of behavior – just stinky and abhorrent – greed.

    The prosecutors are not common white collar crooks -and not cooking the books for personal gain -but as prosecutors they were in a different way – just as unprincipled.. but let me also remind everyone here – how many ordinary common people have also been falsely convicted – spend decades in jail – died by execution – at the hands of other similar unprincipled prosecutors – that have been doing that – for a long time – decades.

    so – there is no glory on the prosecutor’s side nor on McDonnells side – both sides are unprincipled with lousy morals and ethics and a pox on both.

    There is no way to portray any part of this as “vindication”. This is not much better than being found “not guilty” over a technicality – in this case there was no “quo” – no smoking gun but there was lots and lots of quid.

  13. TooManyTaxes Avatar

    If a federal grand jury looked at the creation and funding of the Silver Line – which costs billions – there would be a significant number of indictments. Those creating the Phase 1 tax district allowed landowners to buy their way out of the tax district. There are parcels in Reston that are closer to the rail station not paying taxes than some parcels that are paying taxes. Yet our supervisors voted to accept the petition and formed the tax district 1.

    I’ve posted numerous times about SAIC VP and Chairman of the Fairfax County BoS voting to create a new station in front of SAIC’s campus on Route 7.

    Despite operating under the PPT Act, Dulles Capital Partners (read Bechtel) did not put up a dime of private money for Phase 1. The state FOIA law was amended to exclude the Phase 1 contract from public disclosure. Only after an aggressive attack by the McLean Citizens Association did MWAA release a redacted version of the agreement.

    Governor Kaine transferred the rights to toll and the tolls from the Dulles Toll Road without consideration to MWAA. No bids were solicited. Despite being told tolls would not exceed a dollar or so, public officials allowed MWAA to raise tolls to cover all costs above what the local service district, the feds and a couple hundred million from Richmond. And this occurred in the face of government documents showing there would be no long-term improvement in traffic flow on the DTR.

    The Project did not meet grandfathered federal funding guidelines, but after secretive lobbying both the landowners and government officials, the Bush Administration caved and funded Dulles Rail Phase 1.

    Landowners within 1/4 mile of a rail station can develop to unlimited density, only subject to a building height limit and state caps in MSF.

    But because this is transit and density, unbridled corruption will not only go unpunished, but subject to the silence of the elites and lack of focus by the public. If Virginia is the most corrupt state in the Union, Fairfax County is located in the Ninth Circle of Hell.

  14. CrazyJD Avatar

    >>Hence I suspect that Paul Nitze (one of the smartest, experienced,, accomplished, gimlet eyed and character driven men on the planet), even this great man, may have been the last man to realize the truth about Nixon as well were many True Believers.>>


    Good comments.
    Actually, the Nitze thing is even a little more complicated than that, if you can believe. Paul was fully cognizant of who Nixon was. He told me the story of when he was a fair haired young protege of Dean Acheson and Nixon was a freshman senator. Acheson sent Nitze to the Hill to brief Nixon on foreign policy matters. Nitze was to do 6 sessions of one hour each, weekly. He arrived, briefcase in hand, and started in. About 10 minutes into the hour, Nixon exclaimed, “That reminds me of the Alger Hiss case” and the rest of the hour was taken up by Nixon regaling Nitze with stories of the Alger Hiss case. Nitze packed up his stuff and left. He came back the next week, and the same thing happened, only this time it only took five minutes. Nitze never returned. But years later when he was the principal advisor on SALT, he was the only one, including Kissinger, who saw eye to eye with Nixon about the Russians. Did he get too close because of that agreement on the issue, to the exclusion of the Watergate problem. Soon after, he told me one should never resign an office in protest, because you will only make a one day splash in the papers and then be forgotten. You can only impact if you are in the game. But two years later he resigned from his post, saying he could no longer accomplish anything with the Watergate distraction. Even great people are complicated.

    1. Reed Fawell 3rd Avatar
      Reed Fawell 3rd

      That is a priceless story. One of great men, ever more sensitive to nuance and complexity while driven by the power of ambition that few of us will ever experience, yet at the same time plunging into the depths of uncertainty and threats under ever increasing pressure that is very hard for most of us to appreciate, while they struggle mightily to come out the other side to succeed and survive, or fail, losing it all out in the open.

      Thank you.

      1. CrazyJD Avatar

        I will always question the ambition part.

        Nitze made his money as an investment banker with Dillon, Read in New York. When I knew him, he told me his principal asset was an unknown (to me) number of Revlon shares. With a partner, he had funded a start up company called United States Pharmaceutical, which had brought a couple of French scientists to this country to develop substances they called “vitamines”. He bought out his partner for $5000, then sold to the company to Revlon for 1,250,000 shares of Revlon. I remember looking up Revlon’s price at the time. 62 5/8. I was unable to determine how many times Revlon shares had split since 1929. He never needed to make another dime. He liked to say that he used his government salary to pay part of his taxes. He married a Standard Oil heiress, who was quite his match.

        So if not money, was there ambition to power? It didn’t seem so to me. He never spoke in terms that led me to that conclusion. His dad was an academic, and he often spoke in academic terms, in terms of “working the problem”. Facing down the Russians was always his thing. He used to say, “The Russians will wait patiently while we unilaterally disarm. That’s why I do SALT. If we are going unilaterally disarm as the Left would have it, we have to try to take the Russians with us.” This was in some contrast to his earlier public statements in which he said that disarmament was simply a matter of propaganda.
        Ambitious? or just smart and lucky?
        Not to say he was without ego. In fact, it was enormous, as evidenced by his famous claim at Paul Warnke’s 1977 Senate confirmation hearings that he was a better American than Warnke, with whom he violently disagreed on disarmament. He also was a bit of a prig. He would claim that the Democratic party, of which he was a member, had become a haven for womanizers, mentioning names that I won’t here.

        With all that, he was the most brilliant man in public life I ever knew well. The only guy who comes close is Mitch Daniels.

        Sorry for the overly long post off topic. These questions of personality complications, integrity, honor, ethics and policy continue to fascinate me. As Adam Smith said in his 1968 book, “The world is not the way they tell you it is”.

        1. Reed Fawell 3rd Avatar
          Reed Fawell 3rd

          I have long been an admirer of Paul Nitze.

          Obviously brilliant, what made him so special in I my view was the integrity of his intellect. And even more important the concurrent character that he brought to the conversion of his brilliant ideas into concrete and effective actions.

          It’s long been my sense that this rare aspect of Paul Nitze’s character derived in part from his unusual strength of independence. And how he put it to such effective use. He was a consummate outsider. One who often defied not only his group, but also directly and personally defied his leader (boss). It was as if he stood on equal ground with them, and yet achieved remarkable success within the group and, more importantly, in harnessing the power of his leaders over the full span of the Cold War ranging up to the President himself, yet how he still retained his willingness to step outside of this awesome derived power he’d won where and when he came to deem his masters actions and his continued agency on their behalf not worthy.

          Truly here was a man for all seasons. One whose soul and/or time and labor could not be bought on the cheap. Or for any price outside his deep values. He struck me as a man who was very secure within his own skin. Who knew who he was, where he came from, and where he was going. One with the rare and precious strength and balance to keep his values whole within the vortex of awful powers contrary to his.

          So, if I am right about Nitze, his life was a splendid and remarkable achievement. One quite rare, broad, and deep, a life whose results are chock full of positive world altering consequence.

          In that vein I am not surprised at how you define Paul Nitze’s “ambition”. It what I would have expected (and hoped for.)

          In my last comment above (dated June 28, 2016 at 7:24 pm) on your “priceless story”, I was not envisioning Paul Nitze alone. I was seeing and speculating on Nitze and Nixon working together, tying to do their dance in effective concert despite mounting obstacles imposed from the outside. The pair of them trying to work through what was possible and not possible to get done jointly and severally, in light of the onslaught of monstrous intrusions of awful circumstances brought on by Watergate. And how Nitze was so succinctly brought to life thought you when he characterized to you a snapshot of those experiences in time.

          What a pair those two giants must have been along together, Nixon and Nitze nearly 30 years after first meeting, men now with such prodigious gifts and powers on so grand a stage, and yet so different, struggling with forces spinning far out of control, how it all must have played out, in how differently they each fit within their own skins. And always had. And how yet again that single fact played such a part.

          1. Reed Fawell 3rd Avatar
            Reed Fawell 3rd

            CrazyJD – “Sorry for the overly long post off topic. These questions of personality complications, integrity, honor, ethics and policy continue to fascinate me. As Adam Smith said in his 1968 book, “The world is not the way they tell you it is”.”

            CrazyJD –

            I am similarly fascinated. And will further try to get into the subject in the context of the Military, the most virulent of group dynamics, and how the forces they unleash, play on “questions of personality complications, integrity, honor, ethics and policy.”

            Ackbar, as usual, raises this subject very well in his comments above on VMI and the US Service Academies and our very own UVA. So I will put my two cents worth in up there.

  15. CrazyJD Avatar

    Don’t forget, it wasn’t until very late in the game that Nitze actually thought Nixon was involved. Prior to that, he thought it was just some of his henchmen who had gotten out of line. So he easily dismissed my protestations to the contrary in 1972. He was partly right in doing so, since I was a young pup and obviously harbored biases against Nixon over the war. We together watched that Marine Lt Colonel (whose name I can’t remember) on Johnny Carson talk about the My Lai massacre and how Marines were in that event up to their eyeballs. In spite of my biases against the war, I liked this guy. Nitze said, “Oh I heard about this guy at the office (Pentagon). Apparently he’s a nut job” I couldn’t see it, and disagreed. He said “Let me check it out, I can’t remember who I heard it from”. The next night he came home and said, “You were right. I heard the nut job comment from Westmoreland”. This was characteristic of Nitze. If he was wrong, he was the first to admit it.

    Every 4th of July, Paul had 100 or so of his nearest and dearest friends to his 2100 acre farm in Maryland ( You go by it every time you cross the Potomac on 301). Class A fireworks that we set off, tennis tournament, trip to Charlies Crab House (still there), a real do. The summer after Watergate (1973), we were all gathered at the farm. Guests included everyone from state department widows like Acheson and Herter to Bud Zumwalt dropping in on a Navy helicopter. It was customary for everyone to form a huge circle in front of the house and make general comments about whatever came to mind. I never said anything in these gatherings because I was the young pup on the block and what the hell was I going to say in that company in any event. When it came Paul’s turn, he stepped into the center of the circle and said he had previously thought that Nixon could not have been involved in Watergate, but that this young guy over here had opened his eyes on the matter, pointing at me in front of 100 people. It was classic Nitze, and one of the reasons why he was so successful: care and feeding of the people around him. He always said, “I spend at least 50% of my time on personnel matters.”

    There are tons of Paul Nitze stories. Probably my favorite was his recounting of how he thought we really beat the Russians. He was doing SALT I in Helsinki (not exactly a pleasure spot). The issue was the throw weights of missiles. This involved a great deal of mathematical calculations during breaks in the negotiations using slide rules. In 1971, prior to one Helsinki trip, his old friend David Packard had given him a prototype of the first hand-held HP 35, which he took with him. An issue about the throw weight of one particular Russian missile came up. The Russians started pulling out their slide rules and leaving the room; Nitze pulled out his HP-35 and said “Hold on, I’ve got it right here.” Nitze said, “You should have seen the faces of those Russians. I knew right then we would have a treaty to our liking.” and SALT I was the result.

  16. Reed Fawell 3rd Avatar
    Reed Fawell 3rd

    Nitze pulling out his HP-35, what a great story.

    I remember clear as yesterday the first time a guy pulled a HP-35 on me at lunch in Downtown DC. I can only imagine the Russian’s horror: Nitze’s hand held lighting fast weapon popping up numbers from the deep within the innards of Nuclear Bombs! Instantly that HP-35 threatened those Russians on slews of levels. Talk about a negotiating gambit! Bright dead canaries suddenly hung everywhere in silos from Vladivostok to Murmask.

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