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.