Bipartisan Breakthrough? McDonnell, McAuliffe Should Join and Set National Example.

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    by Paul Goldman

    Both outgoing Republican Governor Bob McDonnell – unfairly accused of criminal wrongdoing due to the clever maneuverings of a con man – and incoming Governor-elect Terry McAuliffe – unfairly associated with criminal conduct by the AP and other news outlets during the campaign – could benefit greatly by JOINING TOGETHER to propose ethics reforms for passage by the 2014 General Assembly (or possibly a Special Session at the start of the 2014 General Assembly, when McDonnell would still be technically in office).

    The reasons for this unprecedented joint collaboration are plain enough, helping both men who both could use a great opening/closing WIN at the start/end their gubernatorial terms. McDonnell needs to “clean up” the mess that has been made by all the gifts accepted from con man Jonnie Williams. McDonnell, for his own legacy and to keep faith with Virginians who still have his back according to the polls, should propose a tough, stop-influence-peddling-as usual- ethics reform package. It will help him, our state and…the next Governor.

    Why? Virginia has the weakest laws in the nation on state legislative and executive ethics in the country. Having known a far number of Governors and legislators in my time, their basic integrity has enabled Virginia to do a lot better than states with tougher laws. So yes: A tough law is no guarantee, no panacea. In the end, it takes ethical people to have ethical government. I get that. BUT at the same time, perception is reality in a lot of ways in governing, and moreover, lax laws allow a lot of things not to be reported, to be shrouded, to happen in the shadows when we need transparency.

    And then, of course, there is this reality: given what has been in the papers and dominated the election in 2013, the kind of tough, stop-influence-peddling-as-usual ethics reform package is going to be a political necessity. That isn’t going to sit well with a lot of General Assembly members who may fell it is an indirect admission of things not being all that right in Richmond.

    THEREFORE: Having a GOP incumbent and his Democratic successor jointly get behind this kind of reform has to be a real WIN-WIN-WIN all around. It gives McDonnell a way to leave on a high note, and it gives McAuliffe a way to come in taking the high ground. It will smooth the way for the best possible package and it will be seen not as a knock on anyone but as a positive all around.

    The “play” would work this way. McDonnell and McAuliffe would jointly announce a bipartisan group of folks to draft a package of reform proposals by December 15. The two guys would meet and agree on what they want by December 22. Then their key legal/legislative folks would get the bill drafters at the GA to write the new proposed laws. Thus, by the time the GA convenes, the heavy lifting would be done. The new bill would then be passed and ready for the new Governor to sign as his first piece of legislation.

    Years ago, I had a fumble pop into my hands at our goal line. I was playing defensive back, and I could run fast – which was good, since getting tackled was no fun for a little guy. 102 yards later, I got me a TD, no Wrong Way Roy Riegels here, only one way to go, straight down the field. Never ran the 100 faster. No end zone dance though,

    The point being: Sometimes you get lucky and things pop into your hands. Given that you will fumble a lot too, then the easy scores simply have to be converted to make up for the turnovers. McDonnell and McAuliffe took a lot of knocks in 2013, and there may yet be more coming. That’s life. But they can start off 2014 with a big partisan win, for themselves and for the rest of us, by simply picking up the ball and running to daylight as Coach Lombardi would say.

    Given all the stories in 2013, ethics reform is coming in 2014. As I say, both McD and McA

    were unfairly maligned in my view, but that’s the nature of the game. What’s past is past, today is the rest of your life kind of thing is good advice. A bipartisan push over the holidays for a big New Year’s win makes all the political sense in the world for them. First impressions/last impressions are key when you rate a GUV term. Neither guy is likely to find another easier, everyone-on-board win anytime soon – or ever?

    • scott_r

      Bob McDonnell hasn’t been cleared yet and I think, certainly in public opinion, that “unfairly accused” is hardly the case.  Yes, a (shockingly) large number of people still approve of McDonnell’s governance, but that’s not the same thing as saying he’s been unfairly maligned.  Whether or not he engaged in criminal conduct, he and his wife both certainly made very liberal use of these lax laws..he isn’t even remotely credible on this issue.  

      He could have declined Johnny William’s largesse at any point – the watch, the car ride back from SML, the wedding expenses.

      McDonnell is tainted and until the investigation results all come in, we don’t know he won’t look even moreso.  

      McAulliffe can certainly pursue ethics law reforms once he’s in office, hopefully with a Senate majority.

    • Andy Schmookler

      Having followed the story, it has seemed to me there is a strong circumstantial case for there having been a quid pro quo for all that quid.

      Can you explain the basis for your assertion, Mr. Goldman, that our present governor is innocent of any criminal wrong-doing?  

    • Andy Schmookler

      I certainly agree with you about the “innocent until proven guilty” idea.

      But it was you, and not I, who pronounced a verdict. I said it has SEEMED to me that there was a circumstantial case.  On the radio early this week, I said that if offered a bet on even odds, I would bet that Governor McDonnell will be indicted.  I never made any pronouncement that McDonnell is guilty.

      The phrase you used was “unfairly accused of criminal wrongdoing.”  I took that as equivalent to an assertion that McDonnell is innocent. Was that a misunderstanding of your intent?  

      Are you saying that for anyone to accuse another of criminal wrong-doing is ipso facto “unfair” until a jury has rendered a verdict?

      To me, the idea of “innocent until proven guilty” means that a) the burden of proof in a trial is on the prosecution, that guilt must be established beyond a reasonable doubt; and b) the accused shall not be deprived of life, liberty, or property until due process has been given.

      I don’t interpret it to mean that we citizens are acting unfairly if we express opinions about possible criminal wrong-doing, prior to a trial, in the face of evidence disclosed to us.

    • DJRippert

      “Having known a far number of Governors and legislators in my time, their basic integrity has enabled Virginia to do a lot better than states with tougher laws.”.

      While that may seem the case from inside the Richmond beltway it is not the sense people have outside the Richmond beltway.  Out in the hinterland, far from the lobbyists playing golf with state politicians at the Country Club of Virginia, the state government is viewed quite differently.  It is viewed as a corrupt cesspool of sleazy liars and indolent thieves.

      Star Scientific, CONSOL Energy, Orion Air, Phil Hamilton, the tobacco indemnification fund scandal, General Assembly members who are practicing lawyers voting for the judges in front of whom they will argue cases, no FOIA for the SCC …

      The laws in Virginia are lax because thieves like lax laws, not because our politicians are so pure that they don’t need laws.