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Winners and Losers: McDonnells’ Conviction Edition

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Here are a few winners and losers from the the McDonnells’ trial and conviction that I believe are worth highlighting. As always, this list isn’t meant to be comprehensive – just a few that jumped out at me – so please add winners and losers of your own in the comments section. Thanks.

WINNERS

1. Sen. Chap Petersen: In early July 2013, Petersen called for Bob McDonnell to “come clean” regarding Star Scientific, Jonnie Williams, etc. Petersen added, “If you are unable to explain (or deny) these reports or return the items, then I humbly suggest  that you should step down as Governor…” Bingo, Chap nailed it, at a time when almost nobody else was willing to go that far, and when high-ranking Democrats were angry at him for saying this. Good for Chap for standing his ground!

2. Del. Scott Surovell: In mid-July 2013, Del. Surovell also called for McDonnell to step down, stating that “silence implies acquiescence, and I cannot continue to stand silently.” Exactly right: evil flourishes while good people do nothing!

3. Sen. Barbara Favola: Also in mid-July 2013, Sen. Favola said that she saw “no point” in McDonnell remaining as governor given the reports of his dealings with Jonnie Williams.

4. Mark Herring: In April 2013, Herring called for “U.S. Department of Justice Thursday to launch an investigation into ties between a food supplement company that is suing the state and Gov. Bob McDonnell and Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli.” Nice.

5. Washington Post reporter Rosalind Helderman: Her reporting on the sordid case of Bob McDonnell, Jonnie Williams, “Anatabloc,” Star Scientific, Todd Schneider, etc. played a huge role in leading to what happened yesterday. Nice job exposing corruption, malfeasance, etc., although obviously with a HUGE assist from former Governor’s Mansion Chef Todd Schneider, who clearly helped “feed” (pun intended) them the story.

6. U.S. Justice Department Public Integrity section/Prosecution: Great job all around — very tight case, thorough presentation, well-conceived prosecution, and an overwhelming win (in just 2+ days of deliberation).

7. The jury; common sense, American system of justice: The jury did a great job, used common sense, didn’t buy the McDonnells’ b.s. claims about a “broken marriage” and a “crazy wife,” and simply looked at the overwhelming evidence of quid pro quo corruption. Nice job. Also a winner is the American system of justice, which did a great job here, even with very powerful people, in making sure they didn’t “get away with it.”

8. Dominion, Altria, and other big gift givers: It’s legal corruption, but the key word is “legal.” Disgusting, appalling, the opposite of good government, all of that no doubt. Yet Dominion, Altria et al keep on keepin’ on, buying influence and control of our government and elected officials. Case in point: yesterday, when not a single member of the General Assembly attended a “Dominion Out of ALEC” rally in Arlington. What’s THAT all about?!?

9. Williams & Connolly law firm: Unlike John Brownlee (see below in the “losers” list), their strategy for the McDonnells was much more reasonable — essentially, you need to work this out, cut a deal, be contrite, admit you f’ed up, etc. After Brownlee et al stepped in, it got much more aggressive, attacked the process and the system, etc. Not cool.

10. Virginia Pension System: This one’s more humorous than anything, but apparently the Virginia pension system will now save $65,000 a year or so on Bob McDonnell’s pension for many years to come, since convicted felons are not eligible under a law that Bob McDonnell himself signed (ironically).

11. Ken Cuccinelli: Somehow, despite taking gifts (“thousand-dollar turkey dinner”) from Jonnie Williams (gifts which he conveniently “forgot” to report), not to mention his previous, corrupt, quite possibly “quid pro quo” (at least according to former Del. Steve Shannon) dealings with scam artist Bobby Thompson, Cooch managed not only to avoid being prosecuted for corruption himself, but didn’t even end up having to testify at the trial. Amazing.

MIXED

1. Jonnie Williams: Cut a deal, which the McDonnells should have done. Also, his testimony was central to the McDonnells’ conviction, and apparently was (largely) believed by jurors. On the other hand, his company’s a mess, presumably his reputation is in ruins, etc.

2. Todd Schneider: He’s having to work at getting his career going again, but overall he seems to feel vindicated after being fired from his job as  Executive Mansion chef in early 2012. In the end, he played a huge role in convicting the McDonnells of corruption and derailing Bob McDonnell’s (supposedly) rising political star.

LOSERS

1. Dick Saslaw: Seriously, this clown doesn’t believe Virginia needs any stinkin’ ethics laws. Duhhhhh….droooool.

2. Bob McDonnell’s legal team/John Brownlee: Among other things, their defense strategy was arrogant, sexist, ill-conceived, and ultimately failed. Also, as a Virginia Democratic attorney told me this morning, he can’t remember the last time Brownlee was successful. The only question is how much money they made off of this, but my understanding is that McDonnell’s legal defense fund didn’t raise much money, so…#FAIL.

3. The “Virginia Way”: It was always a bad joke, a cover for the system of back-scratching, good-ol’-boy, legalized corruption, crony capitalism, lack of any serious ethics laws, etc. that goes back to the days of the Byrd machine. At this point, it’s beyond being a bad joke and just needs to die.

4. Virginia politicians who take gifts from corporations, lobbyists, etc.: That’s just about all of them. As one Democratic legislator told me last night, essentially, “there but for the grace of god go all of us.” See ProgressVA for a list of 2012 legislative gifts under/over $250. It’s looooong and disgusting, so take a hot shower after you read it.

5. The media: As a former reporter told me, “Yes, the Post broke this, so they get some applause, but ONLY because a chef was mad. Why don’t they cover the ‘pay-to-play’ daily life in Richmond?  Virginia’s laws are supposed to be OK because info is ‘public.’ Shouldn’t reporters use their ability to spread information to shine a light on these things? For instance, what sporting event did Bill Stanley go to on Dominion’s dime for $1,000? What does Dominion ask of Bill Stanley? Why don’t these reporters ask? It’s the same s*** McD did. Dominion clearly paid for Morrissey, Norment, Peace, Sickles and Martin to go to the Masters Tournament. Pretty extravagant gift. What, Dominion just did that out of random charity? It’s astounding, but it is literally someone’s job at Dominion (and elsewhere I’m sure) to figure out does Mark Sickles want Masters or Redskins tickets? Why does the “friendship associations” of various foreign countries take so many NOVA legislators or local Board members to their countries? I’ve actually asked folks and no one answers.”

6. Maureen McDonnell: During this trial she was thrown under the bus, driven by her husband (metaphorically), which then ran back and forth over her a bunch of times. In short, she was blamed for everything, described as crazy and out of control, totally slimed. Despite all that, she may be going to jail, and so might her husband. Amazing.

7. Virginia taxpayers: How many hundreds of thousands of dollars did we spend on legal fees related to this case? How much of our taxpayer-funded food, drink, and other Governor’s Mansion supplies were stolen by the Governor and his family? A lot, that’s all I know.

8. Tommy Norment, Terry Kilgore, Phil Puckett: All three were involved in a quid pro quo, in which Puckett was offered jobs for himself and his daughter in exchange for throwing the State Senate to the Republicans. How is that not corrupt? Got me. Anyway, Norment et al should be a bit nervous today.

9. U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia: I’m told that an attorney’s position there has been vacant for over a year, because the feeling was that appointing someone to this court would have looked too political.

10. People who were absolutely sure the McDonnells were going to be acquitted: I won’t name any names here, but one of these folks also speculated about how if/when the McDonnells were acquitted (uh huh), it would be the last nail in the coffin for U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder (hahahaha), etc, etc. So many wrong predictions, so little time to list them all.

11. Regent, Pat Robertson, the infamous “thesis”: So much for teaching any form of “morality” that most people would recognize at that joke of a “law school.” Also, how much more hypocritical can you get than Bob McDonnell, who loved preaching to everyone else about how they should live their lives, what they shouldn’t do in their own bedrooms, how to have a perfect marriage (man in charge, woman subservient, etc.), then demonstrated in his own life that he followed NONE of his own fine advice. #FAIL

12. Virginia’s reputation: When your state is constantly appearing on late-night comedy shows, you know it can’t be good. We need some huge changes in this state, but sadly we probably won’t get them with Bill “ALEC” Howell, Tommy Norment, etc. in charge.

  • pvogel

    The Jury.  having been on a jury, I can say it was  a very powerful experience.

  • InkedProfessor

    1. Citizens of the Commonwealth of Virginia–this was a gross violation of the government’s commitment to representing the public’s collective interests, the “common good” (a concept of Catholic social teaching that pious Guv Bob McD would have learned at Notre Dame), in order to benefit one citizen, an already-rich guy.

    2. The Rule of Law–protecting respect for legal conduct by any and all, no one is above the law.

    3. Honest public officials, such as Secretary of Health Dr. Bill Hazel, who rejected pressure from the Governor’s office to promote the study of Anatabloc by public universities of Virginia.

  • InkedProfessor

    1. The VA GOP and national GOP. I don’t think that the GOP corners the market on corruption. Given human temptation and propensity toward greed, if unchecked by better ethics laws, any politician of whatever party is susceptible to corruption (e.g., the Walking Disgrace that is Phil Puckett). Still, this is a big punch in the gut to the GOP.

  • blue bronc

    During the lead-up to the trial, during the trial, and post trial, there were many attempting to place blame on the political parties for the McDonnell’s actions.  These people obviously are beyond hope of understanding what happened and the seriousness of the convictions.  Members of all parties have been caught with their hands in the cookie jar.  Being a fool and a crook knows no party.

  • kindler

    And all the advocates for ethics reform are right again — of course.