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Bill Euille “not bothered by taking money from developers who may do business with the city”

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Back in 2011, in the midst of a heated Democratic primary between Barbara Favola and the person I supported, Jaime Areizaga-Soto, I wrote about two ethically questionable moves by Favola: 1. Barbara Favola Gets $2.5k Donation, Votes 5 Days Later to Give Towing Industry $250k More per Year and Major Developer John Shooshan Is Now Chair of Barbara Favola’s Fundraising Committee?!? At the time, in the midst of a heated primary, I probably went too far in attacking Favola over these ethical issues, for one main reason: sad to day, but what Favola did was no worse, in a state with unlimited corporate giving and basically no ethics laws to speak of, than many others. So why single her out, per se? Also, arguably, what Favola did was minor compared to the breathtakingly unethical behavior we see (or don’t see, thanks to lack of media coverage and “sunshine” generally) on a continual basis here in Virginia. So yeah, I was probably too harsh on Favola, as she didn’t do anything that most Virginia politicians do. If, in other words, Favola was unfit for public office as a result of taking donations from real estate and other interests with business before the Arlington County Board, then juts about every member of the General Assmebly and other local County Boards is similarly unfit for public office.

All of which brings us to today’s excellent Washington Post piece by Patricia Sullivan, one of the few Washington Post Virginia political reporters (along with Jenna Portnoy) who I truly respect. The article focuses on donations to Alexandria Mayoral candidate Bill Euille and Kerry Donley, with a few key lines leaping out at me:

*The worst line, which really should be disqualifying for Bill Euille: “Euille, who has worked most of his life in construction and contracting, said he’s not bothered by taking money from developers who may do business with the city. Among his donors are Douglas Jemal of Douglas Development Corp., which has 10 properties in Old Town; Alexandria North Terminal, which is developing a waterfront property; and various executives from JBG, part of a group of firms redeveloping the Beauregard area.” Sorry, but that’s wildly unethical, possibly even disqualifying, and even if Euille wants to make the argument that “everyone does it,” at the minimum he should acknowledge that it’s wildly wrong from an ethical, good government perspective, even if it happens to be technically “legal” in good ol’ “legalized corruption” Virginia. Still, for anyone thinking of voting Bill Euille on Tuesday, I’d present this as Exhibit A regarding why you should seriously, seriously think about not doing that.

*As for Kerry Donley, he’s not a lot better: “Donley, who is a banker, received contributions from a dozen people in the real estate business, 11 from developers and two from the construction or contracting world. His biggest donors were $5,000 each from Land of Opportunity and Perpetual Realty East, another Hoffman family affiliate.”

By the way, if you check out VPAP, what you’ll find is that Bill Euille has received $63,555 over the years from “Real Estate/Construction” – his top donor category by far, while Kerry Donley has has received $13,900 from “Real Estate/Constrution” – his top donor category as well. As for Allison Silberberg, her top contributions have come from “Public Employees” and “Political” (herself and Don Beyer, basically). Now, this is not to say I’d be voting for Silberberg if I lived in Alexandria, or that I’m endorsing her, simply to point out that she appears to have a LOT fewer conflicts of interest and ethical quandaries than her opponents Euille and Donley. Of course, Euille and Donely might very well be better in other ways than Silberberg, and that’s for the voters of Alexandria to decide. However, when it comes to taking money from wealthy, powerful interests with business before the Alexandria government, Bill Euille clocks in in the top slot, followed by Kerry Donley, with Allison Silberberg left in the dust.

And again, the most disturbing part of the Post article for me was Euille’s blithe comment that he’s “not bothered by taking money from developers who may do business with the city.” Sorry, but even if you feel like you HAVE to take that money, you still should be bothered by it, as it at the minimum create the apparance of possible impropriety, and at the maximum is a lot worse than that. Personally, I’m not sure I could ever vote for someone who doesn’t understand that basic point.

  • campaignman

    I propose that we Democrats craft campaign finance rules for Democratic primaries.  

    While we cannot pass laws, we can pass guidelines that put pressure on our future candidates to voluntarily play by our rules.

    Our goal should be to reduce, if not eliminate, the conflicts of interest between those seeking government action that impacts their financial self-interest and lawmakers.

    In so doing, I hope we will instill a new sense of trust by the people in our lawmakers and inspire more people to vote in the belief that their vote will actually count.

    I am limiting my proposal to primaries because we cannot unilaterally disarm in our campaigns against Republicans.  Of course, if we can get Republicans to agree to our rules, they may be able to be used in general elections.

  • You snooze you loose.

    I’m surprised Lowkell didn’t mention the lack of quotation marks surrounding those words in Sullivan’s WaPo article. This fact objectively leaves open that indeed it was Ms. Sullivan choice of words in her article, not Euille’s. This is noteworthy, given the title emphasis above. With Ms. Sullivan’s experience and reputation for no bias, my interpretation is that Euille did not specifically state he was not “bothered by taking money” as seasoned veteran Sullivan knows to stress a direct quote with quotation marks. So take care before highlighting these words as Euilles. Thank you.

    Nevertheless, I agree that Virginia campaign ethic laws need improvement. Our Virginia assembly did pass the following: “State lawmakers on Friday unanimously approved new limits on gifts from lobbyists and agreed to seek approval for lobbyist-funded trips worth more than $100.

    Under a rewrite to state law, members of the General Assembly voted to limit lobbyists’ gifts to $100. They also established an annual, aggregate cap of $100 per lobbyist, an amendment by Gov. Terry McAuliffe.

    The bill passed 81-0 in the House and 37-0 in the Senate.



    It does not address campaign finance. Virginia is one of just a handful of states with no limits on donations to campaign funds.

    http://hamptonroads.com/2015/0

  • pvogel

    I live in alexandria  va    the last few years  I always voted the first week of  absentww in person.  This primary I didnt, and I am glad.     Today added   another data point  i  will use to make my decision

  • If elected, I will draft and introduce a bill in the General Assembly to make it illegal for any corporation or individual with business before the state to make a political contribution for a period of five years. (If they have continuous business, they could never make a contribution.)

    I think that would shake up Richmond…in a good way.

  • campaignman

    Why have none of the other 45th House District candidates offered any proposed legislation on campaign finance reform?

    It seems to me that Mark Levine is the most dynamic progressive in the field.   That’s what I want and who I want as my legislator.  Fortunately, I’ll have a chance to vote for him on Tuesday.  Hope others will too!