Weasel Word Watch

I apologize, fellow bloggers, but I cannot leave this story alone. As you may recall, Steve Chapman, Republican candidate for the House of Delegates 50th district, has been charged with lying about where he lived when he registered to vote last fall, and then voting illegally in November. In a press release issued Saturday, the Chapman campaign made the following statement:

Steve Chapman is 100% innocent of these outrageous, absurd charges against him. Did he move in to Manassas Park? After paying rent, he changed his driver’s license, he changed his car insurance, he changed his car registration, he changed his mailing address, and he got verification of rental from his landlord, Michael Wilbourn, in order to get a mortgage. But it wasn’t just paper, Steve got to work immediately in his community…

I got to thinking. That’s an interesting list of specifics. There can be little question that Chapman made an effort to change his legal residence to the 50th district. But did he maintain his actual residence there? I posited the following question to Tom Kopko, Chapman’s communications director: “Did Steve actually live in a 50th district residence? As in… sleep there, make meals there, change his clothes there, shower, shave and brush his teeth there? You haven’t said that he did. You haven’t presented witnesses who can confirm that he did. Unless you do so, skeptics will assume that all the actions listed above were nothing more than a charade. Can you please clarify?”

I sent that message Saturday. I’m still waiting for an answer. If Chapman is willing to verify that he did all the normal things that people do at home, that’s good enough for me. I’m willing to drop the subject. Until he does, however, I suspect we’re being weasel-worded.

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  1. Pastor John Avatar
    Pastor John

    harry parrish’s residence is communist russia.

  2. Mitch Cumstein Avatar
    Mitch Cumstein

    Jim – I suspect that you will not receive an answer to your latest batch of questions. In the unlikely event that you do, I would expect it to very carefully worded, though undoubtedly rife with misspellings and bad grammar. Chapman is more frequently compared, in both appearance and action, as a “rat,” but weasel is probably just as appropriate.

  3. Pastor John Avatar
    Pastor John

    how dare you. steve chapman has sworn a blood oath to fight the homosexual agenda. this should be enough for any good republican.

  4. Phil Rodokanakis Avatar
    Phil Rodokanakis


    There have been a number of legislators that simply maintained an address in the District they represented, while actually living outside the District. Does this make it right? No, but I find it really strange that when such a case pertains to the good old boys network, everyone looks the other way.

    I also find it particularly insulting that the good old boys–irrespective of party affiliation–are intent on using their local prosecutors to file charges against their opponents, mostly on technicalities.

    Two years ago, they filed charges against Mike Rothfeld who dared to challenge John Chichester. This year, you have Chapman and Oprison in the hot seat after they challenged the establishment.

    The use of prosecutors and law enforcement to quelch political opposition is the stuff that was practiced in the USSR, Nazi Germany, Iraq, etc. I can’t believe that we are living in a state where we allow our law enforcement to be used to silence political opposition. Our country’s founders must be turning in their graves!

  5. Mitch Cumstein Avatar
    Mitch Cumstein

    Phil – There is a very simple solution to this: Play by the same rules that everyone else plays by and don’t break the friggin’ law! I don’t care who called them out on it. If these guys are willing to cut corners now, what can we expect from them if they somehow get elected. And you think our country’s founders are turning over in their graves over this? Believe me, if they saw what VCAP is trying to put over on us, they’d wonder why they even bothered.

  6. Phil Rodokanakis Avatar
    Phil Rodokanakis

    One other thing. The Chapman camp released the name of the “investigator” that was hired by the Parrish campaign to “dig up the dirt” on Chapman. It would appear that this person is not properly registered with the Department of Criminal Justice Services (DCJS) and consequently cannot legally conduct such inquiries in Virginia.

    Sounds to me like Parrish is breaking the law in his outrageous attempts to silence Chapman…

  7. Phil Rodokanakis Avatar
    Phil Rodokanakis

    Mitch: So it’s OK when incumbents break the same law, but it’s not OK when a challenger may have complied with all the technical aspects of the law, but perhaps failed to comply with the spirit of the law?

    I also don’t get your reference to “what VCAP is trying to put over on us.” Can you elaborate?

  8. Ray Hyde Avatar
    Ray Hyde

    The intent of the law is clear: you should live in the place you propose to represent. whether it is the “Good ol’ Boys” or Chapman who are evading the intent of the rules, it amounts to ethical bankruptcy.

  9. Phil: It sounds to me like (if you’ve got your facts straight) the PI may have violated the law. I don’t get the part about Parrish having violated the law. Are you saying that Parrish has some dirty linen on voting in his district? Seems fairly implausible, given his length of service.

    I take your comments as a telling exhibit of how base politics distorts the reasoning process in otherwise rational people. What’s the problem with Mitch’s suggestion that challengers just play by the rules?

    Again – I don’t know whether this is a technicality or not, but it seems the young man laid himself open to the problems. All this effort to place blame on the whistle blowers (who may well have an interest in this)is pretty lame. It’s very hard to take candidates like Chapman seriously for all kinds of reasons.

    You often have some valid points, but they get undermined by this sort of blind allegiance to lower-grade political opportunism. Just because some opportunistic dweeb spouts your slogans doesn’t mean he is a credible representative of your more compelling philosophical points. Virginia is full of shallow characters who think an easy ride to political power is to talk a bold anti-tax game. Responsible governance is the product I’m looking for. that takes a lot of skill and knowledge. Whoever delivers it (don’t care what party) will rule the roost for the next 20 years. Steve Chapman ain’t one of these titans.

  10. Phil Rodokanakis Avatar
    Phil Rodokanakis

    Ray: I agree. However, how come this hasn’t become an issue before? I personally know of two former legislators (one in the Senate and one in the House of Delegates) that never lived in their Districts, although they maintained a nominal presence by keeping an address in the District. I’m sure that there are currently other legislators that fall under the same boat. These facts were widely known to just about everyone in the legislature. Yet folks like Parrish never bothered to make an issue of this in past elections.

  11. Phil Rodokanakis Avatar
    Phil Rodokanakis

    JC: My comments about Parrish also breaking the law, pertained to his apparent hiring of an investigator that isn’t properly licensed to conduct such inquiries in VA. As a State legislator Parrish should be accutely aware of the law as it pertains to private investigators, since in all likelihood he voted on the governing statute when it was first introduced some 20 years ago.

    On the other hand, I completely disagree with your assessment that guys like Parrish and the other good old boys are promoting “responsible government.” Spending at the State level has exploded over the last decade and it’s because of guys like Parrish that this has been allowed to happen. I don’t consider out-of-control spending as governing responsibly.

    I consider Parrish and the other 18 Delegates that voted for the tax incerase last year to be prime examples of irresponsible governance. My position is completely validated when one considers this year’s surplus, which proved beyond any doubt that the tax increase was totally unnecessary.

    So you’re right I’m willing to support any challenger against the 19 tax-and-spenders. The way I see if, even a less experienced or inferior challenger is better than the more experienced and superior good old boy that is intent on keeping us on a spending spree we can no longer afford.

  12. Anonymous Avatar

    Is there some evidence that Parrish or his campaign hired someone to conduct actual “private eye” work? I’ve seen no such evidence. I’ve seen accusations from the Chapman camp to that effect. And I’ve seen that the Parrish campaign paid a “researcher” to research public records. Anyone can do that. I’ve done that before – and been paid for it. But I’m no private eye – and have never said I was.

    Can you back up your accusation of the Parrish camp engaged in actual illegal activity? Or of someone conducting illegal “private eye” activities?

  13. Anonymous Avatar

    This isn’t about Chapman’s residence for his run for office. It is about his residence for voting in the November election.

    He has purchased a house that needs renovation in the district he is running in, and he has apparently leased out the living quarters of his other house (I think his office is in the basement, but I’m not sure).

    But he has NOT been charged with failure to live in the district he is running in, so there does not appear to be a legal question about his current residence.

    The charges seem to relate to whether the room he rented in Manassas Park was his “legal residence” back when he registered to vote in 2004.

    It is clear that Chapman intended to move into the district and live there for his race.

    So talk about his right to vote in november, but this isn’t about not living in the district he is running in. Not even according to the charges.

    And I doubt his lawyer is going to let anybody answer any specific questions about any proof they may have about his living arrangements during that time. If they believe there are people fudging the truth to get him in trouble, they want to be able to catch them in lies. If they reveal everything they can prove, it just tells the opponents what story they have to work around.

  14. Jim Bacon Avatar
    Jim Bacon

    Anonymous, Thanks for correcting me on the nature of the charges against Chapman. I have corrected my original post. And I apologize for the sloppy error.

  15. Mitch Cumstein Avatar
    Mitch Cumstein

    Phil – While I agree that we need some serious changes in Richmond, I find your statement that you would support any challenger to Parrish to be very disturbing. Maybe I’m an idealist, but I expect a little more out of my public servants. If you’ve been paying attention to the various blogs out there, particularly that of Scott Hirons, you’d see that Chapman has some serious character issues. Irrespective of his views on the issues, he is unfit to hold public office by even the most forgiving standards.

    I find it ironic that you made reference to Nazi Germany in an earlier post. Isn’t blindly following someone of questionable character and motivations exactly what got those folks into trouble? I think the fact that some of the more rational of us feel the need to hold leaders to a higher standard than those who would simply follow along on their jack-booted march is something to take pride in, not villify.

  16. Mitch Cumstein Avatar
    Mitch Cumstein

    I guess I would be remiss if I didn’t respond to Mr. Rodokankis’ request for additional commentary on VCAP. First of all, let me say that I have had many years of experience with PACs and lobbying groups. The represent an important part of our political process. By their very nature, they have a responsibility to the contributors they represent to perform the research and due diligence on issues and candidates that the average voter just doesn’t have time to do.

    If I were a VCAP contributor (and rest assured I’m not), I would be outraged at the group that this organization has thrown substantial contributions at for this election cycle and demand my money back. In their zeal to put up candidates against a few leaders who made compromises to break a dangerous budget impasse, they failed to fully investigate the backgrounds and qualifications of the candidates they chose to support. This is not to say that all of their candidates are unworthy. But in throwing anything they could find at the wall to see if it will stick, they’ve, in my opinion, ruined their credibility. I hope that in the future, contributors to organizations such as VCAP will consider situations such as this before blindly making contributions that may be used in this manner.

  17. Anonymous Avatar

    I’ll stay anonymous but I’ve known the Lester Cooper who did the research on young Mr. Chapman and what he does requires no state license. If you need to hire a profession PI to go to the courthouse to see if a political candidate has paid his or taxes or has a criminal record or voted in the last five elections, or to research how that person has voted on the thousands of bills before the GA, then the cost of campaigns is going to go up a bit more. I’ve done hundreds of hours of “oppo” research and frankly I’ll take my reports over some license PI anyday. Sorry Phil. Put a fork in Chapman. He’s done.

  18. Phil Rodokanakis Avatar
    Phil Rodokanakis

    Mitch: Your original post about VCAP said that “if they [the founders] saw what VCAP is trying to put over on us, they’d wonder why they even bothered.”

    Your follow up explanation of what you meant about VCAP, you accuse them for failing to investigate the candidates they are supporting, in their zeal to mount challenges against the tax-and-spend establishment.

    The way you worded your original post, I thought you had some real dirt on VCAP. Pardon my reaction, but your explanation is nothing short of anticlimatic.

    You also say that you’ve had many years of experience with PACs. Frankly, I don’t know of many state PACs that have the resources to fully investigate a candidate’s background. Most PACs back a candidate if he or she is philosophically attuned to the cause promoted by the PAC.

    But let’s get to the root of your beef. You simply don’t like the fact that VCAP and other conservative organizations are challenging the good old boys. You sound a lot more comfortable with the tax-and-spend mentality of the establishment than electing legislators who are committed to reducing the out-of-control state spending.

    We’ll just have to agree to disagree, since I think that guys like Parrish and the other 19 House Delegates that voted for the tax increase are an abomination, who should be kicked out of the Republican Party.

  19. Phil Rodokanakis Avatar
    Phil Rodokanakis

    Anonymous: I agree–there is a big difference between opposition research and an investigation of a person conducted by a PI. Opposition research does not require a PI registration, whereas a background investigation of a candidate–e.g., where he lives, who he sleeps with, etc.–clearly goes beyond the realm of opposition research.

    However, when the findings of an inquiry are presented to an official body–such as in Parrish’s campaign manager taking the “research report” to the Commonwealth Attorney’s office–they have definitely crossed the line and have carried out a private investigation by an unlicensed and unregistered individual who is in violation of the regulating statute.

    The Department of Criminal Justice Services regulates PIs. 6 VAC 20-171-10. Definitions states: “Private investigator” means any natural person who engages in the business of, or accepts employment to make, investigations to obtain information on (i) crimes or civil wrongs; (ii) the location, disposition, or recovery of stolen property; (iii) the cause of accidents, fires, damages, or injuries to persons or to property; or (iv) evidence to be used before any court, board, officer, or investigative committee.

    Subsection (iv) covers exactly what was done by Lester Cooper and since he’s not a licensed to conduct investigations in the State, he has violated the law. Furthermore, the Parrish campaign is complicit in breaking the law.

  20. Anonymous Avatar

    Lester Cooper gathering info on a person which later “happens” to be forwarded to the authorities is entirely different than Lester Cooper “accept[ing] employment to make investigations to obtain information on evidence to be used before any court, board, officer, or investigative committee.”

    You are assuming he was hired to find illegal activity which would then be turned over to the authorities. That is an awfully large assumption to make and reveals your bias.

    As outsiders, we only know that Lester Cooper engaged in research and then some of that research was turned over to the authorities after potentially illegal activities were discovered.

    Was the intent of the “research” to locate illegal activity for possible prosecution or was the intent to “dig up dirt” on the opposition? The answer to these questions, I believe, is what will determine whether the “researcher” violated PI laws.

    Just because the researcher came across potential illegal activity and then reported it does not make that person guilty of violating the statute.

    And I completely disagree with your assertion that checking out where someone lives goes beyond the realm of opposition research. In contrast, I believe that to be a prudent Step 1!

  21. Anonymous Avatar

    Who they are sleeping with is also something that routinely gets turned up, as well, although in legislative races plenty of folks around town already know! I doubt very much that anything discovered by a traditional campaign opposition research effort would be taken at face value by a law enforcement professional — I suspect at best they would consider it a tip, which then led to the cops or an assistant commonwealth’s attorney to do their own records check. And as Mr. Chapman will continue to demostrate, it is not the facts which will do him in but his own misstatements and evasions. As I said in a previous post, if we end up with some enforceable standards in this area it will be worthwhile. But I think there are legal definitions of “residence” and I don’t think Chapman comes close.

  22. Mitch Cumstein Avatar
    Mitch Cumstein

    Phil – First of all, unless you know something I don’t, I’m not sure what “real dirt” you expected to have dug up. That is not, nor never has been, my intent. As far as my “beef” goes, I have absolutely no loyalty to or, frankly, care about the so called “good old boys.” In fact, I strongly believe we need serious changes in Richmond, due in large part to the system that these folks have helped perpetuate. The budget process and how our tax dollars are spent are a much bigger problem, but tackling these issues requires a bit more risk and leadership than many candidates seem to have. Unfortunately, many simply regurgitate the “I’ll never raise taxes” mantra without offering real solutions to real problems.

    I have absolutely no problem with the anger that many fellow Republicans have with the votes cast on last year’s budget. And if good candidates rise up to challenge those that voted for the tax increase, that’s great. But maybe where we depart is in the definition of a “good candidate.” I have the utmost respect for our public servants, and with that respect comes a certain set of expectations. First and foremost, I expect leadership and integrity. Maybe it’s the moderate in me, but I have yet to find a candidate who holds the same position on every single issue that I do. Like everyone should, I have certain issues that are more important to me than others, and a candidate’s stance on these issues is a major factor in who I will support. But equally as important to me, if not more, is the candidate’s integrity and leadership qualities. When I put my trust in a candidate, I want to believe that that trust will be honored. I want to know that, when the rubber meets the road, that candidate is going to make honest decisions that he/she feels are for the betterment of everyone. It isn’t about voting the way I would every time, because that just isn’t going to happen. If you’re an honest leader, I can and will forgive those instances when our opinions are at odds. Having specific and personal knowledge of the candidate in question, I know, regardless of where he stands on the issues, that he lacks the leadership and integrity to be an honest public servant.

    So, now to my real beef. As a life-long Republican, I am saddened and embarrassed by the stringent, hard-line approach that some in the party are taking. The more I see of witch hunts and “RHINO” hunting, the harder it is to be proud to call myself a Republican. It appears that the “Great Communicator’s” previously “Big Tent” is now monitored with armed guards. I fear that, as more and more once proud members are driven away, our party will become the “Once Grand Ol’ Party.”

  23. Ray Hyde Avatar
    Ray Hyde

    It is no wonder that few people in their right mind would subject themselves to this in order to provide a low paid service to the public.

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