The case of Virginia’s First Lady, clothing, PACs, and…Wendy Davis?

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    Imagine for a moment the reaction many Americans would have if it was reported Michelle Obama raided her husband’s Political Action Committee (PAC) in order to purchase clothing and “unspecified items.” There would be a conservative media lynching (and yes, I use these words in full awareness of the historical significance of lynching certain segments of the U.S. population in our country).

    For Maureen McDonnell, who according to the Washington Post “bought nearly $9,800 in clothing with money from her husband’s political action committee and tapped into his campaign and inaugural funds to buy $7,600 in mostly unspecified items, according to records and a representative for the PAC,” there seems to be little more than faint grumbles from Virginia’s electorate, as if this were expected or not such a big deal.

    Fellow Virginians, it is a big deal because it adds to a growing portrait of a governor and his wife who freely spent donated money and gladly took political donors up on lucrative ‘favors’ such as stays at plush vacation homes. It is indeed good to be the king.  

    Whether or not Maureen McDonnell’s behaviors were legal disregards the observation that a “Political” Action Committee is funded by political donors for, one would expect, political purposes. If you donated to a PAC, would you expect that’s candidates spouse to spend your money on clothes? Probably not, unless it’s Wendy Davis and she needs a new pair of shoes.

    Maureen McDonnell’s spending behaviors, along with the gift-taking behaviors of her husband, are a big deal because they point to a culture of graft and conscientious legal loop-hole jumping that fundamentally undermines the integrity of Virginia’s political system. If Virginians cannot trust that the officials they elect to PUBLIC office will spend their political contributions on reasonable items such as campaign ads or to refuse clearly objectionable ‘gifts’ from wealthy political donors, Virginians will lose faith in their elected officials and, perhaps, Virginia’s political system as a whole.

    This may sound like a broad overgeneralization, but the lack of outrage that has been witnessed by Virginia’s electorate in response to the ‘McDonnell debacle’ is an important piece of evidence that demonstrates just how much faith many Virginians have in the honesty of their elected officials to begin with. If someone you trusted stole from you or did something that was clearly unethical, would you just shrug your shoulders and say “that’s a shame”?