maureen_and_bob(1)By Peter Galuszka

It seems bizarre to balance news of the worst political corruption scandal in the state’s history and efforts by bloggers and commenters on Bacons Rebellion to dismiss it all as “everyone does it.”

The apologia is getting a little too hot and heavy here. One famous blogger wanted to smack former governor Bob McDonnell on the backside of the head, implying they are closer than brothers and that’s all what he really needs as punishment for doing the bidding of his greedy wife.

What’s being lost here is that the indictment of the McDonnells is a huge turning point in Virginia political history. It means that the old noblesse oblige manners dating to when the state was ruled by a rich and exclusive cabal of white men has long since vanished along with the idea that the “Virginia Way” means serious ethics rules are not necessary.

Big news, this.  It’s not 1920 anymore and hasn’t been for nearly a century. The Old Dominion has emerged into a completely new state where top politicians are born elsewhere (George Allen, Mark Warner, Tim Kaine, Terry McAuliffe and even Bob McDonnell).

Rather than drawing from landed gentry the leadership comes from rich, self-made men, such as Warner who amassed $200 million or more in the cell phone and IT business or McAuliffe who built a fortune in various businesses. The other recruiting ground is service, including military, mayor, prosecutor or attorney general (Jim Gilmore, Kaine, McDonnell).

In the latter track, it is harder to build a fortune. It is harder still when religious or social conservative views make one compelled to breed prodigiously. You end up with a lot of mouths to feed and college tuition to pay. Nowhere was this more evident that with the McDonnells and their five children. In the old days, Scott Junior would have been sent off to “The University” or Washington & Lee while Sarah Jane went to Sweetbriar or somewhere thanks to old family money.

A few more myths to demolish:

  • McDonnell will walk because there’s no “quid” to the “quo.” Admittedly, this is always a tough on in corruption cases. Even Blago from Illinois almost walked when there was indisputable evidence that he was selling Barack Obama’s seat. In West Virginia, they had Gov. Arch Moore accepting a half a million in cash in an envelope from a coal company wanting to avoid black lung fund payments. The donor was even wearing a wire and there was some question. But they both ended up in prison.
  • McDonnnell technically did not have to concretely “deliver” anything for payoffs, just had to imply such. The indictments show a series of events. Maureen asks for favors (sometimes Bob does) and there’s some kind of event to promote Anatabloc, the product upon which Star Scientific’s financial future depended. The Food and Drug Administration since has said Anatabloc is not tested or approved. Star had used medical outlets such as the RosKamp Institute and Johns Hopkins School of Medicine to imply they backed the product. Johns Hopkins pushed back. Jonnie Williams tried to get Virginia Commonwealth University and the University of Virginia to vet it by dropping the McDonnells’ name and pointing to events staged for him by the McDonnells. That could be quid pro quo enough.
  • Where there’s smoke, there’s fire. Federal prosecutors had to act because there was a clear and steady cycle of solicitations from the McDonnells, gifts and loans from Williams and then some activity on the First Couple’s part promoting Williams and his company. There were no isolated events.
  • The “everybody does it” defense. This doesn’t wash. First, it is true that one can drive a truck through Virginia’s ethics rules. No prosecutor could make a case on state law. But the indictments are federal charges. They include wire fraud. Federal law also covers gifts to public officials in exchange for something – perhaps political juice for medical research studies. It doesn’t have to actually happen. Lastly, there’s the nettlesome problem that McDonnell might have falsified loan application documents to hide his relationship with Williams. ”Intent” is always tough legally, but when one gets into bank documents, it’s a new ball of wax.
  • Why didn’t voters know that the McDonnells were in such dire financial straits when they were elected? Where was the media? These days most job applicants go through a credit check. The fact that the First Couple made bad financial decisions and couldn’t manage their credit should have raised bright red flags.
  • McDonnell’s apologists – most of them conservatives – can be aggravating in other ways. They likewise claim to be wardens of public money, but Virginians such as you and I are going to be stuck with more than $780,000 in legal bills defending Maureen and Bob for the designer dresses, the Ferrari, the Rolex and so on. This is because firebrand Atty. Gen. Kenneth Cuccinelli was in a conflict of interest because he accepted Williams largesse, too. New Attorney General Mark Herring has put a stop to this nonsense. So where are the nearly broke McDonnells going to get their legal funding? There is a defense fund that was started last summer but it only has a measly $2,000 in it, showing that Virginians aren’t exactly storming the Bastille over Maureen’s need for Oscar de la Renta clothing.

What this likely means is that the McDonnells, lacking resources for a lengthy court battle, will cop a plea and avoid lengthy jail terms. Point made: “Orange is the New Black.” And maybe the apologists will shut up long enough so we can get some needed ethics reform.

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9 responses to “The McDonnells and Their Apologists”

  1. Well, not surprising – McDonnell and his lawyers are strongly implying that the indictment is motivated by partisanship of the Federal govt.

    and.. as WaPo reports, if McDonnell and wife do walk -you can bet the GOP will attempt a narrative of “partisan” and hope it sticks like skunk stink on a dog for the GOP party faithful. That would be a sorry way to try to rescue McDonnells honor given his own behavior even if he escapes legal culpability.

    I’m not an apologist for the McDonnell’s nor do I justify their behavior by saying “everyone does it” – but on the other hand – unless the Feds have some further more damming evidence especially quid-pro-quo.. McDonnell and wife will end up legitimately tarred but not feathered ….run out of town..on a rail.. yadda yadda…

    But at the least, both of them are going to look arrogant and yes, ignorant.. to think they could play cynical ethical games… without it coming out.. and I guess their judgement was …that if it took a few years to come out – no one would care anymore.. but that presumes he had no future political aspirations.. hmmmm

    But you can’t play those kinds of games and slap around folks who know you done wrong… and can rat on you… that’s dumb and dumber.

    In the end… even if nothing else comes out – the McDonnells are not going to be smelling like perfume.. unless it’s ode de skunk.

    When people in the public eye do things this stupid – all I can think of is
    Leona Helmsley and her own perception of her place in the world relative to “little people”.

    at the least, the McDonnells did stupid stuff that is unacceptable for the office he held… it might be okay for some two-bit car salesman but it besmirches people who represent the public.

  2. Well said, Mr. Galuzka. The old wives used to point out that “everyone else doing it” is the lemmings going over the cliff.

  3. Les Schreiber Avatar
    Les Schreiber

    Please read today’s edition of the “New York Times”they have an interesting take on the “Virginia Way” of doing politics. This story has created more media buzz about the state since 1861.

  4. Peter Galuszka Avatar
    Peter Galuszka

    Please read my story about the same topic in November in the Post> I say the same and lot more. Thanks..

  5. Too bad no one was interested in Gerry Connolly’s vote as Chairman of the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors and vice president at SAIC to add an additional rail station to the Silver Line, with the station located right in front of SAIC’s complex on Route 7 in Tysons.

    I think McDonnell and his wife ought to get whatever is coming to them. But I cannot help but wonder why no one ever investigated and made public exactly what happened in connection with the funding of the Silver Line and resulting rezoning for Tysons. We are talking billions.

  6. Was there money and influence involved in Connolly’s actions?

    did he alone make that decision?

  7. Events are conspiring against McDonnell; we have no national or worldwide disasters dominating the news cycle so it’s been all about bridge-gate which has then spilled over to other perceived “abuses of power”.. i.e. TWO Governors now under investigation and possible indictment…

    MSN is hammering Christie and Fox is hammering MSN for hammering Christie and McDonnell is becoming a nationally-known figure !

    If the McDonnells were rich like some other disgraced politicos, they’d just retire to the relative obscurity at their Villa… and lay low for awhile, but in an almost ironic way, we’re seeing how justice plays out for those who are not rich in comparison though Leona Helmsley did serve 19 months of her 16 year sentence and Madoff is still ensconced in the Butner Federal Correctional Complex.

    I do feel great sympathy for both McDonnells and their kids.. they’re in the middle of a fire-storm that is probably far beyond what either Bob or Maureen ever thought would happen even if it all did come out like it has.

    I was looking at her and I presume one of their daughters as McDonnell gave the press conference and while he made his way through the words, both Mother and daughter were traumatized.×9/Bob_McDonnell_holds_press_conference_to__2130430000_5336361_ver1.0_640_480.jpg

  8. Peter Galuszka Avatar
    Peter Galuszka

    McDonnell was attorney general. He was the highest ranking legal officer in the state.If he was a waif blindsided by all of this, then we were fools for having elected him as atty. gen., not to mention governor.

  9. Peter – you’re saying the man should know the law. I agree.

    I’m still not convinced the Feds have not overreached… but it really
    don’t matter in one respect because by the time all the “evidence” is
    presented – the McDonnells are going to look like Pigpen in Charlie Brown
    and I’m quite sure that McDonnell is well aware of that potential.

    But perhaps he has an ace up his sleeve and he intends to put the Fed prosecutors on trial of public opinion.

    I’m betting out of 100 people who know McDonnell less than one knows the Federal Prosecutor .. his/her history and their political affiliation but they’ll know soon enough.

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