So far in the race for Democratic Party of Virginia (DPVA) chair, a handful of leading Virginia Democrats – only a small number have spoken publicly, with the vast majority remaining silent, for whatever reason(s) – appear to have concluded that it’s perfectly alright for that individual to hold a full-time “day job” and to do the DPVA job on a (very) part-time basis. This small number of leading Virginia Democrats also (apparently) has determined that it’s fine for that “day job” to be working as a lobbyist for an industry that’s been condemned (or at least sharply criticized) by no less than the United Negro College Fund and the National Council for La Raza, the Washington Post ombudsman, U.S. Senators Jim Webb and Dick Durbin, U.S. Senator Tom Harkin, an ABC News report by Chris Cuomo, a blistering FRONTLINE story, and the Obama Administration (among others). In addition, these people appear to have determined that all this is perfectly fine even if there’s a law that says, “The chairman or any full-time paid employee of a state political party, as defined in § 24.2-101, or a member of his immediate family, as defined in § 2.2-3101, shall not be employed as a lobbyist by any principal.” (note: they got out of this one by a reading of the law which said it only applied to Virginia – not federal – lobbyists, completely missing the broader issue here)
To date, as far as I can tell, there appears to be minimal if any concern – ethical, political, or any other way – about any of this among these leading Virginia Democrats, several of whom have even endorsed the for-profit “education” industry lobbyist for chair. OK, fine, that’s these peoples’ decision, with which I happen to strongly disagree, but it’s their right to support whoever they want for DPVA chair. However, it does lead me to ask these folks, “what ‘day job’ would NOT be acceptable for DPVA chair, in your opinion?” A few examples:
*How about a lobbyist for outsourcing American jobs to boost the profits of the world’s largest technology companies?
*Perhaps a lobbyist for mountaintop removal coal mining might be a good fit as DPVA chair?
*Maybe a lobbyist for the tobacco industry would do the trick?
Would any of these “day jobs” not be acceptable for the DPVA chair to hold?
Now, let’s just reverse this for a second and consider which “day jobs” wouldn’t be acceptable for the head of the Republican Party of Virginia. What if the individual’s “day job” was lobbying for abortion rights? For gun control? For gay rights? For higher government spending and taxes (if you can even imagine such a person being in the running for RPV chair)? For strong unions, labor rights, “card check,” etc?
Are you laughing yet? If not, you probably should be, given that there is no way in hell the RPV would choose any of these people as their chair, at least not without an uproar of some sort. Current RPV chair Pat Mullins is “a longtime Republican activist and former Fairfax County GOP chairman” who currently “sells insurance policies on horses.” No conflict there, unless the RPV secretly has taken a stand against equine insurance. 🙂 Or, what about Mullins’ predecessor as RPV chair, Jeff Frederick, who is “Chief Executive Officer of GXS Strategies, a Virginia based internet, technology, and communications company.” No conflict there, unless RPV has suddenly come out against making money off of selling “IT solutions.” Or how about Frederick’s predecessor, John H. Hager, who worked most of his life for the American Tobacco Company (but was long retired when he became RPV chair)? No conflict there either, unless Virginia Republicans have suddenly become anti-tobacco. Or how about Ed Gillespie, founder of a firm that lobbies for such things as the “Cayman Islands Financial Services Association,” the Knights of Columbus, the National Association of Realtors, and the US Chamber of Commerce? No conflict there, unless the RPV has suddenly turned into liberals. Finally, we have Gillespie’s predecessor as RPV chair, Kate Obenshain, who had ” served as an appointee of Governors George Allen and Jim Gilmore on the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia, implementing both governors’ vision for budgetary reform and programmatic accountability.” Again, no conflict there, unless the RPV has suddenly become virulently anti-George Allen and anti-Jim Gilmore.
This really isn’t that complicated: a political party should pick – and almost always does pick – someone who shares its values to be its chairman. And a political party should not pick – and almost never does pick – someone who does not share its values. This doesn’t take a rocket scientist or brain surgeon to figure out.
So, here’s the bottom line: the for-profit “education” industry, as it has been operating – the “corporate welfare” extension of an overall education system that New York Times columnist Bob Herbert said the other day was a growing pox on the poor and the country because it was leaving us further and further behind our economic competitors – is the exact opposite of what we Democrats claim our values to be. Given that this industry is currently running a TV ad war against our Democratic President, you don’t have to be Dr. Freud to understand the message the Virginia Democratic Party’s Central Committee would be sending, possibly without even consciously realizing it, if it chooses a leading lobbyist for this industry as its new chair. Don’t. Do. It.