The Democratic Party of Virginia Uses the “B” Word

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    The official Twitter feed of the Democratic Party of Virginia has just accused the Republican Party of Virginia of bribing a Democratic State Senator in order to block Medicaid expansion.  These are very strong words: bribery is a crime.  In fact, bribery is two crimes–when a bribe is offered or paid both the person offering the bribe and the person accepting the bribe are potentially guilty of bribery.

    The principals in this case are State Delegate Terry Kilgore (R) and State Senator Phil Puckett (D).  News reports are alleging that Kilgore arranged a cushy, highly-compensated job for Puckett at Virginia’s Tobacco Commission in exchange for Puckett’s agreeing to resign and tip control of Virginia’s state senate to the Republican Party of Virginia’s control.  You can read more at these links:

    “GOP Straight Up Bribes Democratic Senator In Effort To Block Obamacare”

    “Report: GOPers Persuade Virginia Dem To Resign In Effort To Block Medicaid Expansion”

    “A Lawmaker May Have Just Accepted An Illegal Bribe In Order To Flip The Virginia Senate To The GOP”

    To be perfectly clear: the Democratic Party of Virginia has alleged that an instance of illegal activity has occurred, specifically, bribery.  The question is, will the Democratic Party of Virginia request a criminal investigation of this incident by state or federal law enforcement authorities?

    • STATEMENT OF DELEGATE SCOTT A. SUROVELL ON RESIGNATION OF SENATOR PHILLIP PUCKETT

      Mt. Vernon, Virginia – For the last three months, the Commonwealth has remained deadlocked in an unprecedented budget crisis driven by conservative opposition to providing health insurance to 400,000 low income Virginians.  Most of the attention on this issue has been focused on Medicaid policy and the state budget, not inner legislative workings.

      The Washington Post, Virginian Pilot and Richmond Times Dispatch have all indicated that the employment of State Senator Phillip Puckett may be under consideration by the Virginia Tobacco Commission.  While resignations by state legislators to take jobs are common, resignations during the heat of a budget crisis is unprecedented.

      The Virginia Tobacco Commission has scheduled an Executive Committee Meeting on Wednesday, June 9, 2014 at 2:00 p.m. at the Hotel Roanoke:

      http://www.tic.virginia.gov/me

      The Virginia Tobacco Commission’s Website indicates that “Meeting Information Updated May 23, 2014.”  The public website also shows nothing listed under current “Employment Opportunities.”

      http://www.tic.virginia.gov/em

      Last week, the House Appropriations Committee moved its committee meeting from June 16 to June 11.

      The drafting and negotiation of our $90 billion state budget and the expansion of Virginia’s Medicaid Plan deserves maximum transparency.  It is not hard for Virginians to understand that the resignation of Senator Puckett potentially alters who will draft our state budget.  Virginia is also the only state in the Union that also entrusts the election of judges solely to the state legislature.

      Given what has occurred over the past twelve months in the Commonwealth, many Virginians likely have questions surrounding the circumstances of scheduling and timing of the Virginia Tobacco Commission’s actions and Senator Puckett’s resignation that require answers.

      First, the Virginia Tobacco Commission should make public all records relating to (1) their employment policies, (2) the current vacancies of any positions, (3) the potential employment of current or former state legislators, and (4) the scheduling and/or rescheduling of its Executive Committee meeting on June 9, 2014.  Most importantly, the actual meeting on June 9, 2014 should be conducted in public, outside of executive session, so that the press and public can attend and observe the proceedings and draw their own conclusions.

      Second, all parties involved should provide complete disclosure about all conversations relating to these issues including the election of Martha P. Ketron to a six-year term as a Juvenile and Domestic Relations District Court Judge.

      If the public is not provided with complete disclosure from all parties relating to these issues and as to what pressures may have been brought to bear on Senator Puckett or his family, then the matter should be fully examined by those having the power to do so.

    • We’re very troubled by the news that Democratic Sen. Phil Puckett is resigning, paving the way for jobs for himself and daughter. Although Puckett is ‪#‎antichoice‬, loss of Democratic control in the VA Senate will have HUGE consequences for women’s rights — not to mention healthcare for over 400,000 Virginians.

    • I got the following email about Phil Puckett from a close observer of Virginia politics:

      quit your job

      screw over your party and constiuents

      and then when people call you out for taking a bribe

      TURN DOWN THE BRIBE??

      IS HE THE STUPIDEST MAN IN VA POLITICS?

      Along the same lines, Dave Weigel tweets, “So do we now call it ‘Pucketting’ if you take a bribe but get caught before you can cash in?”

    • ericd

      I haven’ had time to read through everything today (please forgive), but are we absolutely positive he resigned to take this job/get his daughter a judgeship, and it’s not because of some other personal issue?  

    • I’m amazed at the lengths some will go to keep hard working folks from having health care, to keep hospitals from staying open and to leave our hard-earned tax dollars with the Feds.

      At the end of the day, all of us have to be able to look at ourselves in the mirror.  I hope Senator Puckett takes a long look and thinks about what his children, grandchildren and friends will think of this.

      And also about the hundreds of thousands whose health and lives are at risk because of this.

      The Virginia Way is being replaced with the Virginia Buy Way and ultimately the voters will have to decide what they think of that.

      We also need to investigate the facts of this case and re-visit our ethics laws.

      With all that said, we have to keep fighting to move our state forward and to help ensure every resident has access to health care and a fair shot to get ahead in life.  That is what we are here to do.

    • From Americans United for Change:

      AUFC: ‘Is There Any Level Republicans Won’t Stoop to Stop Medicaid Expansion in the Old Dominion?’

      SEE: Think Progress: ‘A Lawmaker May Have Just Accepted An Illegal Bribe In Order To Flip The Virginia Senate To The GOP’

      Washington DC – Calling it a ‘new low in GOP health care obstructionism’, Americans United for Change issued the following statement reacting to the Washington Post’s reporting that Virginia Republicans appear to have persuaded a Democratic senator to resign his seat – “paving the way to appoint his daughter to a judgeship”  – which will temporarily tip control of the VA Senate to the GOP and further impede the governor’s push to close the coverage gap under the Affordable Care Act.

      “If these highly suspicious developments are found to be as bad as it looks, it will signal a new low in Republican health care obstructionism,” saidJeremy Funk, Comm. Dir. Americans United for Change. “It shows they are even willing to stoop to bribery to keep 400,000 Virginians without coverage and one health emergency away from bankruptcy.  Resorting to shady backroom deals shows that Virginia Republicans haveseen the polling and know they’ve lost the public debate over closing the coverage gap.  Republicans know they have no good answer for why they want Virginians who do have insurance to continue paying around $1,000 more in premiums every year to make up for uncompensated ER careincurred by the uninsured.  They know there’s no excuse for refusing to accept resources sitting on the table from the federal government to cover 400,000 Virginians for three free years and pick up 90% of the tab after that. Republicans know that amounts to around 5 percent more than what the state would have spent on Medicaid anyways in the absence of the Affordable Care Act.  But in return for that tiny investment three years down the road, it will save thousands of lives, boost Virginia’s economy by $3.9 billion annually and created 30,000 jobs.  The health and economic benefits far outweigh the costs.  We’re talking about hard-working Virginians that are not impoverished enough to qualify for Medicaid but earn too much to qualify for subsidies to get private insurance in the new health law’s Exchange.   But if Virginia Republicans only want to deal in quid pro quos, here’s one where everyone wins: take the available ACA resources today in exchange for saving lives, lowering premiums, and creating jobs in Virginia”

    • SENATOR ADAM EBBIN STATEMENT ON RESIGNATION OF SENATOR PHIL PUCKETT

      Voices concerns about resignation’s effect on Medicaid Expansion, calls for Attorney General Investigation

      Alexandria, VA – Senator Adam Ebbin – candidate for the U.S. House of Representatives in Virginia’s 8th Congressional District – today issued the following statement to address the abrupt resignation of Senator Phil Puckett.

      “Like many of my constituents, I was outraged to learn of Senator Phil Puckett’s sudden resignation. Since the beginning of this session, Senator Puckett had repeatedly assured me and other Senate Democrats that he intended to stay in office. This turn of events is a betrayal of that promise. Worse, 400,000 Virginians may now be denied access to expanded Medicaid coverage, including many who live in Senator Puckett’s former district.

      I remain committed to full implementation and expansion of the Affordable Care Act, including Medicaid expansion in Virginia. In 2012, I passed a law to provide Medicaid coverage to immigrant expectant mothers. I will support Governor McAuliffe as the fight for affordable access to health care for all Virginia families continues.

      Even more troubling were early allegations that Senator Puckett took this action based on the promise of a high-paying position on a government commission. I have reached out to Attorney General Mark Herring to voice my concerns about this situation and to encourage a thorough investigation.”

    • totallynext
    • Jim B

      The repugs are winning this deal hands down. Puckett may not get a job, but the daughter may still get the judgeship. The people that everyone are concerned about getting health coverage probably don’t vote so the repugs haven’t anything to lose. That old saying about names won’t hurt applies to the repugs. We all may be outraged, but the repugs know the MSM will go easy on them.

    • The Richmonder

      It’s unlikely that Terry Kilgore came up with this plan to bribe Puckett by himself; what if one or more Republican state senators are involved?  There’s a distinct possibility that there’s a criminal conspiracy here.  A couple of indictments more or less could tip control of the senate back to the Democrats.

      A full investigation of this incident must be made and every member of the General Assembly that was involved should face serious consequences.

    • The Richmonder

      Terry Kilgore didn’t invent this scheme to bribe Puckett by himself; who else knew about the plan to buy off Puckett? Who knew what when?

    • DPVA Responds to Latest VA GOP Controversy

      RICHMOND –DPVA Executive Director Robert Dempsey released a statement on Virginia Republicans’ shady deals to block health care access for 400,000 uninsured Virginians.

      “Virginia Republicans have taken their fight to deny health care coverage to 400,000 Virginians to extreme new levels,” said DPVA Executive Director Robert Dempsey. “Instead of working on ways to compromise on a budget, they have resorted to brokering shady deals behind the backs of their fellow legislators and constituents. Their desperation to deny uninsured Virginians health care coverage serves as a prime example of their willingness to put their own petty, partisan needs ahead of those of their constituents.”

    • The Richmonder

      From WaPo:

      Meanwhile, Attorney General Mark R. Herring (D), issued a statement decrying the appearance of “political gamesmanship” but claiming no investigative role for his office – despite numerous accusations of wrongdoing and calls for investigation from fellow Democrats.

      So much for going after ethics violations; maybe the State Police or U.S. Attorney will step up.

      http://www.washingtonpost.com/

    • Shocker.

      Virginia Republicans snatched control of the state Senate on Monday, immediately ending a budget stalemate by forcing Democrats to agree to pass a spending plan without Medicaid expansion, Gov. Terry McAuliffe’s top priority.

      The power shift forced Senate Democrats to cave in a protracted standoff that had threatened to shut down state government in less than a month, according to several lawmakers with direct knowledge of the deal. Democratic negotiators emerged from a closed-door meeting Monday saying they had agreed to pass a budget without expanding health coverage to 400,000 low-income Virginians – McAuliffe’s top priority.

      […]

      With no allies in power in the Capitol, McAuliffe will have to sidestep a recalcitrant legislature, perhaps by turning to executive orders, to achieve his priorities, which, aside from expanding Medicaid, include job creation and expanding abortion rights and gay rights.

    • pvogel

      If  we were all members  of a jury,   the unanimous  result  of this thread  would  have    found   puck  guilty, and thrown away the Key.

    • Andy Schmookler

      So with this shady maneuver, it would appear the legislature can pass a budget. Right?

      But to become law, the governor has to sign it. No?

      Is there any reason he should sign it, and reward this kind of dirty politicking?

      Could he not veto the measure and say something like,

      “This kind of political chicanery should not be rewarded. Something so important to the well-being of Virginia as extending health care coverage to 400,000 Virginians should not be decided by an ugly deal like this. A GOP that puts partisanship ahead of the good of the state — and turns down %5.8 million a day that could be coming to our state to help our people — should not prevail because of maneuvers that may indeed even be crimes. So I will veto this bill, and put the issue of the expansion of Medicaid — which most Virginians favor — back on the table where it was before this disreputable deal was struck.”

      Could he do that? And if so, is there any good reason he shouldn’t?

    • The Puckett Decision (Chapter Two)

      Last night, I heard about the decision of Phil Puckett to resign his Senate seat and potentially take a six-figure position with the Virginia Tobacco Commission. I refrained from making any rash comments (for 24 hours anyway) and I’m glad I did.

      Today Senator Puckett followed up with statement that was somewhat explanatory. In it, he thankfully renounced any interest in a Tobacco Commission job. So that’s done.

      Candidly, he did admit that his resignation was tied to his desire to enable the legislative re-appointment of his daughter, who serves as a juvenile judge in southwest Virginia. That’s admirable, selfless you might say, to step aside from public office so your daughter can move ahead.

      It’s also wrong as hell.

      We are still in session. We have not yet passed a biennial Budget. The fate of thousands of Virginians, and their access to health care, hangs in the balance. All of this will be determined in the next couple weeks.

      Sorry, but that’s more important than keeping your child employed in a certain job (and, yes, there are other jobs for law school graduates besides being a state judge).

      The irony is that this act is doing no favors for the intended beneficiary. Instead, it will cast a pall over a promising career. And, by all indications, she is an excellent jurist.

      Phil Puckett is a good man, an honest man. But you cannot put your family interests above the interests of your constituents. Nor can you have a family member seeking a state job which compromises your public service. Once the Kedron candidacy became a political issue, it should have been withdrawn. Period.

      Last year, we saw the worst ethical crisis in the 400 year history of this Commonwealth. And what have we learned? Not a damn thing apparently.