Benedict Puckett

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    Cross posted at Daily Kos

    Benedict Arnold. Judas Iscariot. Brutus. Quisling.

    Add to the names of history’s traitors one Phillip Puckett. This former Democrat apparently made a deal to resign his Senate seat just to hand the majority to the GOP. In return he gets – no, not thirty pieces of silver, but a seat on the Tobacco Commission and a judgeship for his daughter.

    Judges, you know, those people who are supposed to administer the law fairly, honestly and dispassionately? You might think that obtaining the job through such sleazebaggery would taint the rest of her career a bit.

    Is this act of openly bribing a state official even legal? All I know is that if Republicans want to play such unscrupulous, hardball, no-holds-barred politics, the answer is not to respond by playing patty cake with them. If they are going to take power through dishonest means, just playing along is not the way to honor or maintain a democracy.  

    If they want a fight, let’s give them a fight.  Let’s shout out our protest everywhere from social media to the streets. Democrats should boycott every institution rendered illegitimate by this dirty act, from the General Assembly to Mr. Puckett’s daughter’s courtroom.  

    Virginia was born when the people in this colony could no longer brook the tyranny of King George III. From that fight we gained democratic governance. Now we need to fight to bring that principle back.

    • According to the Virginian Pilot, Washington Post, Times Dispatch, etc, “State Sen. Phillip P. Puckett- D-Russell has resigned his seat, leaving Democrats one vote shy of the majority they need to control the chamber.” Here’s a screenshot of (part of) Puckett’s resignation letter:

      Gov. McAuliffe’s statement:

      I am deeply disappointed by this news and the uncertainty it creates at a time when 400,000 Virginians are waiting for access to quality health care, especially in Southwest Virginia. This situation is unacceptable, but the bipartisan majority in the Senate and I will continue to work hard to put Virginians first and find compromise on a budget that closes the coverage gap.

      Progress Virginia statement:

      ProgressVA executive director Anna Scholl responded Sunday evening to news Virginia State Senator Philip Puckett struck a deal with Delegate and Tobacco Commission Chairman Terry Kilgore to resign his seat in exchange for jobs for himself and his daughter. “Virginians deserve answers over the next days over how state jobs were used as leverage in a political fight over extending affordable health care to Virginia families. Right now, it’s hard to decide who to be more disgusted with: Delegate Kilgore and his GOP colleagues who seem to be treating the Tobacco Commission as their own personal slush fund or Senator Puckett, who apparently has prioritized his personal interests over the best interests of his constituents.”

    • The Richmonder

      Puckett and Kilgore should both be investigated by the U.S. Attorney.  This seems an obvious case of quid pro quo corruption.  Someone explain to me how this differs from what Phil Hamilton did?

    • “He sold out his people, Virginia Democrats and the state for 30 pieces of silver.”

      “Total and absolute betrayal.”

      Del. Mark Keam: “Unfortunately, a beautiful dinner at @VirginiaLCV event turned sour when we learned of Sen. Phil Puckett’s political deal and resignation…”

      Alexandria Democratic Committee Chair Clarence Tong: “Disappointing. Maybe I’m too idealistic, but I have always believed that public service should be about more than self interest. To sell the voters who you represent and your own party for cushy job and appointment for your daughter? Really??”

      Tom Greeson: “I’m amazed and offended by a so-called public servant who puts personal advantage over the good of the Commonwealth. Craven self interest rules! I am so offended by this action!”

      Steven Cochran: “400,000 Virginians need healthcare. The working poor. People who struggle to get by on minimum wage. And now, what do they have to look forward to? One of our Democratic State Senators has sold his soul for a judgeship for his daughter and a job for himself. I hope he reads this before he goes to bed tonight!” (links to 30 pieces of silver Wikipedia entry)

    • “I’m very disappointed in Sen. Puckett’s choice to sell out not only his values but also the 400,000 Virginians desperately needing Medicaid.”

    • kindler

      Hat tip to Ian Millhiser (@imillhiser on Tweeter)

      § 18.2-447. When person guilty of bribery.

      A person shall be guilty of bribery under the provisions of this article:

      (1) If he offers, confers or agrees to confer upon another (a) any pecuniary benefit as consideration for or to obtain or influence the recipient’s decision, opinion, recommendation, vote or other exercise of discretion as a public servant or party official, or (b) any benefit as consideration for or to obtain or influence either the recipient’s decision, opinion, recommendation, vote or other exercise of official discretion in a judicial or administrative proceeding or the recipient’s violation of a known legal duty as a public servant or party official; or

      (2) If he accepts or agrees to accept from another (a) any pecuniary benefit offered, conferred or agreed to be conferred as consideration for or to obtain or influence the recipient’s decision, opinion, recommendation, vote or other exercise of discretion as a public servant or party official, or (b) any benefit offered, conferred or agreed to be conferred as consideration for or to obtain or influence either the recipient’s decision, opinion, recommendation, vote or other exercise of official discretion in a judicial or administrative proceeding or the recipient’s violation of a known legal duty as a public servant or party official; or

      (3) If he solicits from another (a) any pecuniary benefit or promise of pecuniary benefit as consideration for or in exchange for his decision, opinion, recommendation, vote or other exercise of discretion as a public servant or party official, or (b) any benefit or promise of benefit as consideration for or in exchange for his decision, opinion, recommendation, vote or other exercise of official discretion in a judicial or administrative proceeding or his violation of a known legal duty as a public servant or party official.

      (Code 1950, § 18.1-282.2; 1968, c. 552; 1975, cc. 14, 15.)

    • Remember this?

      Republicans would have to wait for the right opportunity.

      It presented itself on Inauguration Day, when Virginia Democrats basked in their second straight presidential win and one in particular traveled to Washington to witness President Obama’s swearing-in: Sen. Henry L. Marsh III (D-Richmond).

      With the civil rights lawyer, who decades ago argued school desegregation cases and served as Richmond’s first black mayor, away in the District on Monday, Republicans saw their chance. They took up a bill that had been on the calendar for days, only to be passed over every time, and gave it the legislative equivalent of an extreme makeover.

    • Link. Any lawyers care to comment?

      § 18.2-447. When person guilty of bribery.

      A person shall be guilty of bribery under the provisions of this article:

      (1) If he offers, confers or agrees to confer upon another (a) any pecuniary benefit as consideration for or to obtain or influence the recipient’s decision, opinion, recommendation, vote or other exercise of discretion as a public servant or party official, or (b) any benefit as consideration for or to obtain or influence either the recipient’s decision, opinion, recommendation, vote or other exercise of official discretion in a judicial or administrative proceeding or the recipient’s violation of a known legal duty as a public servant or party official; or

      (2) If he accepts or agrees to accept from another (a) any pecuniary benefit offered, conferred or agreed to be conferred as consideration for or to obtain or influence the recipient’s decision, opinion, recommendation, vote or other exercise of discretion as a public servant or party official, or (b) any benefit offered, conferred or agreed to be conferred as consideration for or to obtain or influence either the recipient’s decision, opinion, recommendation, vote or other exercise of official discretion in a judicial or administrative proceeding or the recipient’s violation of a known legal duty as a public servant or party official; or

      (3) If he solicits from another (a) any pecuniary benefit or promise of pecuniary benefit as consideration for or in exchange for his decision, opinion, recommendation, vote or other exercise of discretion as a public servant or party official, or (b) any benefit or promise of benefit as consideration for or in exchange for his decision, opinion, recommendation, vote or other exercise of official discretion in a judicial or administrative proceeding or his violation of a known legal duty as a public servant or party official.

      (Code 1950, § 18.1-282.2; 1968, c. 552; 1975, cc. 14, 15.)

    • Answer? A sh**-ton.

      $442,861 Virginia Senate Democratic Caucus

      $195,302 Democratic Party of Virginia

    • “Despite this kind of crap we always hear Democrats talk about ‘working across the aisle’ and ‘healing’ politics by being nice to the GOP. When will Dems learn that doesn’t work and start rejecting the politicians who promise it?”

    • “Wait, an elected official leveraging his office to the benefit of himself and his family?!? Unprecedented… I guess campaign finance and ethics really do matter. Who knew?”

    • he’s toast next year, so get out now and get whatever he can in the process. I agree that he was in BIG trouble in next year’s State Senate elections, but he could have gone out with honor, not covered in dishonor like this. Just appalling.

    • SethM

      Bribery? Conspiracy? RICO?  Time to unleash the full power of the law.

    • Fairfax Voter

      The only thing I can add is Benedict Arnold yes, Quisling yes, Judas Iscariot of course, but please scratch out Brutus, who was honored at the end of Shakespeare’s play as “the noblest Roman of them all.”

      It dishonors Brutus to make this comparison. Shame on this fool. To give away his good name for a seat on the Tobacco Commission of all things and to permanently stain the professional reputation of his own daughter. Disgusting.

    • swvagrl

      As an officer in one of the 9th District Democratic Committees, I have been disappointed and really angry with Phil Puckett for his stands on issues, especially women’s and environmental issues. Personally, I have not been able to stomach seeing him with our other Democratic office holders and candidates when we have rallies, and for the last couple of years, I have walked out of the room when he speaks. Some Democratic friends and colleagues have thought this unseemly, but I cannot abide his disloyalty to Democrats while smiling and pretending to care about his constituents. There have been rumors and whispers in our part of the state about him joining the Republican Party, so I can’t say this move surprises me. In general, I am tired of Democrats who won’t stand up for what the party believes in. I’m all for negotiation and bi-partisanship and personal choices, but not for the Lebanon wolf in Democratic clothing who has voted with Republicans too many times on issues important to SWVA. Yes, I hope he and Kilgore are investigated, and I hope the DPVA, local Democratic Committees, progressive organizations, individual Democrats, and anyone else who cares about the 400,000 Virginians who desperately need health care will join in shaming and discrediting him and his daughter for purloining positions through such ignominious means.

    • “We regret Sen. Puckett’s decision to resign, but we are grateful for his many years of service. We wish him and his family all the best.”

      Wow, that’s strong. Not.

    • The Richmonder

      If you have a problem with what Phil Puckett just did, selling his office to the Republican Party of Virginia, then feel free to contact the U.S. Attorneys for Virginia and ask them to investigate Senator Puckett’s actions.

      http://www.justice.gov/usao/va

      http://www.justice.gov/usao/va

    • NotJohnSMosby

      After this, the only real caveman Dem left in the Senate is Chuck Colgan, and it doesn’t look like he’s running for re-election next year. Deeds isn’t that great but he’s not a complete turncoat like Puckett and Colgan are.

      It will be up to Dems in Loudoun, Prince William and Tidewater to hold the 19 seats we’ll have and to gain a seat or two next year.  I have some confidence in that, but the next 18 months will be a waste.  Terry will be vetoing stuff bills on a regular basis.

    • Diogenes

      What better proof is there that Virginia Republicans are operating in bad faith than this? With this move, they have fully signaled that they have no interest in helping Governor McAuliffe pass legislation of any kind. From Governor McAuliffe’s perspective, he now has nothing to lose by passing Medicaid expansion via executive action. There’s no possible budget deal, there’s no hope of bipartisan deals over the next three years, and there’s no longer a Virginia Senate to lose. What is his incentive to not unilaterally pass Medicaid expansion?

      Furthermore, I think this episode should be (yet another) wake up call for Virginia Democrats. If Virginia Democrats invested resourced more intelligent into state Senate races   or so Obama/Kaine 12′ House districts, we likely wouldn’t be talking about this controversy (anybody remember Ed Houck?) There is no excuse for the number of state Senate and House seats that Virginia Democrats have lost in districts that voted for Obama in 2012. There needs to be a serious reform movement in Virginia Democratic party, but no one seems to want to talk about it.  

    • Sunnyjane

      How many Virginians will die because of this man’s amoral self-interest?

    • The resignation of Phil Puckett, reportedly as part of a backroom deal, should entail a swift response by Democrats both inside and outside of government:

      Governor McAuliffe should make clear that, with or without Puckett, he will veto any budget that does not include Medicaid Expansion.

      Attorney General Herring (or another appropriate official) should investigate to determine if there was a quid pro quo involved in the Puckett resignation and, if so, whether any criminal laws–bribery or otherwise–were broken.

      Virginians without health care should march on Richmond to protest their plight and draw media attention to it. The birth of a new occupy movement is in order. This will increase pressure on recalcitrant Republicans to cave in.

    • “Frankly, I think this goes back to redistricting [3] years ago, when Saslaw accepted a measly (and slim) 20 seat Senate in return for a guaranteed House to the Republicans. Instead of expanding our reach (and, yes, taking a risk), we Dems ended up being servants to the right-wing yet again. Charlie Brown’s to their Lucy with the Football.”

    • Waldo Jaquith absolutely NAILS it. I would just remind everyone of Dick Saslaw arguging in crude language that ethics laws are irrelevant and unnecessary, it’s all because there are some people with a “computer chip in their head that’s not working, telling them the difference between right and wrong.” So, I guess Phil Puckett, who Saslaw spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on trying to keep in the Senate, has a “computer chip” that’s “not working?” Well, sure, that appears to be the case, but strong ethics laws would at least have made this illegal and possibly sent Puckett and others (e.g., Terry Kilgore) to jail for this crap.

      Let us now consider a series of odd coincidences here. Puckett was wooed away to run the Tobacco Indemnification and Community Revitalization Commission, which paid $309M to Virginia tobacco producers to persuade them to stop growing tobacco…

      But, wait, there’s more. The tobacco commission actually gave a $2M grant to Star Tobacco to help them promote their cigarettes and chew, appallingly. And-get this-a big part of what McDonnell is in trouble for was that he allegedly tried to persuade the tobacco commission to provide a grant to Star Scientific, by way of funding clinical trials of one of their tobacco supplements at the University of Virginia and Virginia Commonwealth University, to provide a sheen of legitimacy to what is now clearly a useless substance.

      And it gets better still! The chairman of the tobacco commission is Terry Kilgore, the Republican legislator who is said to have struck the deal with Puckett. Kilgore’s twin brother, Jerry Kilgore, isn’t merely a former attorney general of Virginia, but he’s also the attorney representing Johnny Williams, the CEO of Star Scientific, in the McDonnell case.

      […]

      These two tobacco-related scandals aren’t about the power of tobacco, it’s about the profound lack of ethics laws in Virginia.

      We talk a good game here about “the Virginia Way.” This is the notion that rhetorical civility, bipartisanship, comity, and transparency are all that’s really necessary. We don’t need laws about ethics, because everybody in government is honest and everybody in the public knows it. We don’t need regulation of businesses, because their inspections are on file in a cabinet in Richmond where anybody can go between the hours of 9-5 (but not during the lunch hour) and ask to look at them, and isn’t that transparency? The people in power claim to truly believe this, and they put on a very convincing face while explaining that they truly believe it. I know these people. I have spoken on panels with these people (in opposition to them, confessedly), and I have put on events at which they have spoken about the Virginia Way. It is now entirely evident that these people are utterly, humiliatingly wrong, but, much like legislative Republicans and Phil Puckett right now, they just don’t care, because it’s working out for them.

      Kilgore and company will get their majority, and they’ll be able to keep 400,000 Virginians from getting health insurance and the state from getting $1.7B in federal taxes already being collected from Virginians, which are very important to them for some reason that they can’t quite explain. Puckett will get a job, with a salary that Kilgore says he’ll determine at a later date. (Can you believe that Puckett is quitting his Senate seat in exchange for a job with an undetermined salary? Yeah, neither can I.) Apparently that moral calculus-he gets a job, 400,000 people don’t get health care-makes sense to him.

      This entire sad show-bound to make Virginia a national laughingstock yet again-is the cherry on top of the General Assembly’s completely useless ethics reform bill which, of course, does absolutely nothing to prohibit this. Selling your seat in exchange for a couple of state jobs is something that they never considered, despite its obviousness, because the entire bill was a charade, a performance for the benefit of voters. Well, perhaps “benefit” isn’t the word. The only people benefiting from this are the 140 members of the legislature. I can think of nineteen senators who might be wishing they’d written a better bill.

    • ir003436

      Benedict Puckett has accepted bribes:

      1.  His daughter gets to be a judge with a lifetime sinecure.

      2.  He gets access to the tobacco trust fund money, with which he can line his own pockets and make gifts to his friends.

      Benedict Puckett has committed sodomy on Virginia Democrats, who have showered money on him for years.  

      Hmmmm.  Bribes, sodomizing his friends . . . he’ll make a perfect Republican.

    • While I am disappointed that Senator Puckett has resigned, I remain focused on working with a bipartisan group of Senators and Governor McAuliffe to close the coverage gap and provide healthcare to 400,000 hard working Virginians. In the weeks to come, I will work hard with our nominee in the 38th Senate District to keep this seat Democratic.

      I am proud that in this past November’s elections Democrats won all three statewide offices after a robust campaign based on a clear articulation of our principles and values. Voters spoke- and they spoke loudly- in support of closing the coverage gap and this resignation does not change that.

    • BARF!!!

    • hereinva

      If there were any advance “rumblings” from Puckett on possible departure or was this a “caught with knickers south” moment for the Democratic Senate Caucus. Any others out there? Regardless, smells like “graft” spirit.

      VA citizens who are skeptical of their elected officials “allegiance” to citizens interests…take note. Voters need to know that who they vote in may not stay in..especially if there is $$$ involved. Would suggest a brochure disclaimer:

      “DISCLAIMER: please note I may resign or “switch” party affiliation when it proves financially beneficial to my self interest..which of course there is nothing you can do about it. Don’t forget…your vote counts!”

    • Ron

      The most interesting part of the way this came out is that someone behind the scenes (almost certainly from Kilgore’s office, right?) leaked to the Post reporter what the almost-but-not-exactly-certainly quid pro quo is for this resignation.

      This is an issue Democrats need to run on in 2015. This is straight out bribery. AG Herring (and/or the US Attorney’s Office) needs to investigate and get subpoenas issues before the emails disappear.

      Virginia is an ethics cesspool. The pay-to-play system across the river in DC is bad enough, but this is cartoonish.  

    • How does this reflect on our party’s leadership in the Senate? Ever since I found out about this last night, I’ve been trying to assess how this reflects on Sen. Saslaw as the party leader in the chamber and Sen. MacEachin as the chair of the party caucus in the chamber. But for the life of me, I can’t seem to figure out a fair assessment of the situation from their perspective. Do we just not know enough about the situation from their point of view at the moment?

    • hrprogressive

      For a wholesale overhaul of anyone with a D next to their name in the Virginia State Senate.

      Maybe there’s one or two who would still be valuable to the Commonwealth, but after this disaster, and apparent lack of fire to find justice (based on the Code that was pasted here, how is this not patently illegal??), I’m not sure how we or anyone else can trust anyone left in there.

      Unfreakingbelievable.

    • Cashelrock

      Our character is established by our actions, not our words.

      It is moral to consider that 400,000 needy Virginians may lose out on healthcare coverage.  The expansion of ACA impacts many more than these persons as part of the ACA is funded by a shifting of funds from Medicare & Medicaid to different categories, essentially from one pocket to another.  To qualify to continue to get these funds plus new dollars, Medicaid expansion, or an alternative, needs to be passed.  Without such expansion, the loss of funds will be felt first by the major medical centers in Virginia, but also by all Virginia. The University of Virginia Medical Center and MCV will each lose in the tens of millions.  INOVA and Norfolk hospitals will each lose many millions.  

      Approximately 20% of private insurance premiums are the result of increased charges by the health care providers to make up for losses occasioned by rendering services for the poor.  Small community hospitals will be in danger of closing.  

      Lee Regional Medical Center was located in Pennington Gap Virginia until last year.  One of the major final factors in it’s closing was the failure of the General Assembly to expand Medicaid.  (Incidentally, Pennington Gap is in Lee County Virginia, which is represented by Del. Terry Kilgore 1st District and also chair of the Tobacco Commission which promised Puckett the job.)

      Loss of local hospitals may literally mean a serious risk to one’s life as great distances may have to be traveled for emergency services, loss of specialists associated with the local hospitals, and a large impact on the locality’s economy by loss of jobs and less desirability to locate future businesses in areas without adequate healthcare.

      Our actions say everything about our character, and our sense of morality.