Home Virginia Politics Wherein I Rebut Bob Gibson on the “Virginia Way,” Ethics (or Lack...

Wherein I Rebut Bob Gibson on the “Virginia Way,” Ethics (or Lack Thereof), etc.


Bob Gibson – a former Virginia political reporter, radio host, head of the Sorensen Institute and now Senior Researcher at the Academy for Civic Renewal at UVA – is an often-quoted and well-respected commentator on Virginia politics. That’s why I was so surprised listening to him talk earlier today (on the Kojo Nnamdi Show) about the “Virginia Way,” the aftermath of the Bob McDonnell case, and Virginia governmental ethics (or lack thereof) more generally. With that, here’s what Gibson had to say, followed by my thoughts in bold.

  • “There were people in both parties in Virginia who thought that the federal prosecution [of Bob McDonnell] was sort of an unfair add-on to state laws that were so lax that he clearly hadn’t violated any state law, and his violation of the federal statute seemed to be putting other politicians in jeopardy, because many politicians take gifts and many do routine favors for the people who give them gifts.” (This is, to put it mildly, an odd way of putting things — an “unfair add-on to state laws that were so lax?” Well yeah, that’s kind of the whole point; Virginia’s campaign finance and “ethics laws” are a complete joke, anything goes basically – with lobbyists crawling all over the General Assembly and corporations literally writing their own legislation, while giving reams of $$$ to legislators who are busy passing laws that directly impact those lobbyists and corporations. So, clearly, the federal case wasn’t an “add on” to state laws, nor was it unfair; this was the whole ballgame in terms of the McDonnells’ getting tens of thousands of dollars worth of gifts from a businessman who wanted them to take and/or encourage governmental actions that would help his company!)
  • “Well, I think the public’s reaction and the legislator’s reaction has been fairly similar; there’s been a great deal of sympathy for McDonnell, who was a likable 14-year delegate, Attorney General and Governor. People on both sides of the aisle liked him. They didn’t see him as an outlier, they saw him as somebody who accept[ed] too many gifts and they were too lavish and it was tawdry looking as the Supreme Court acknowledged, but they need to draw new lines to make it clearer what is in bounds and what is out of bounds.” (Actually, according to recent polling: ” two-thirds of Virginia adults surveyed said [McDonnell] should not seek elected office again. Even 60 percent of Republicans said they would like to see him remain in private life. A plurality of Virginians said they thought that the Supreme Court was wrong to overturn the verdict.” So…no, the public was most certainly did NOT have a “fairly similar” reaction as legislators regarding Bob McDonnell, nor was there a “great deal of sympathy” for McDonnell among the Virginia public from what I can tell. As for “people on both sides of the aisle” not seeing McDonnell as an “outlier,” I’m sure there were some – Tommy Norment, Bill Howell, Dick Saslaw, and others who’d love to see the corrupt system we’ve got stay that way forever – who didn’t see the McDonnell case as an “outlier.” However, others certainly condemned McDonnell and called for stronger ethics laws in response to this scandal. So…not sure what Gibson’s saying here exactly.)
  • “[The Virginia Way] is a funny name…assumes that the state politics are cleaner than most other states, that public officials are more civic minded, and that doesn’t work in as well in an era when the public doesn’t trust politicians…It’s meant few if any limits on gifts. It’s meant few if any limits on the size of political contributions. And that is changing now, especially as our politics in Virginia is becoming more nationalized, we’re becoming more like the rest of the nation…So it’s clear that new lines have to be drawn, and the legislature is a little slow in drawing those lines, they’re very cautious about it and timid about it, really, but they are drawing lines and the ‘Virginia Way’ is changing, we’re becoming more like other states.” (OK, now this is just ridiculous – the supposed “Virginia Way” isn’t working these days because “the public doesn’t trust politicians,” as if THAT’s the problem – the public not trusting these crooks??? In fact, the public doesn’t trust Virginia politicians because the public knows very well that said politicians are bought-and-paid-for by wealthy, powerful interests like Dominion Power, and that the politicians care about those wealthy, powerful interests far more than they care about the public. As for the situation supposedly changing, in fact there HAVE been a few tweaks to Virginia’s ethics laws, but overall the system of “legalized corruption,” as Del. Mark Levine and others have correctly called it, remains firmly in place. If legislators were serious, they’d put in place strong ethics laws with serious penalties, a strong ethics council with teeth, a ban on contributions by entities with business before the General Assembly, a ban on lobbying or contributions by state-protected monopolies like Dominion Power, etc.  But they have no intention of doing any of that. So..no, the General Assembly isn’t  “a little slow” in drafting tougher ethics laws, they are outright resistant to doing so, with people like Tommy Norment, Bill Howell and Dick Saslaw utterly contemptuous of the very IDEA that we even NEED ethics laws!)
  • “Well, Virginia is not New Jersey and we’re not Maryland and we’re not Illinois, and we don’t have the record of corruption that some other states have, which is perhaps why our laws are so lax – there hasn’t been the emergency to respond to until this McDonnell case. I can recall only two instances in my 20-some years of covering the General Assembly in Richmond where state legislators were convicted of ethics violations…The McDonnell thing was a surprise because it was a federal conviction; there hadn’t been any state law violation that anybody had pointed to. So, the Virginia Way is changing because we’re no longer the cleanest and seen as the cleanest.” (Actually, Virginia is at least as corrupt – “legally corrupt” perhaps, but still corrupt as s*** – as any other state; I have no idea where Gibson gets the idea that we’re not as bad as Maryland or whatever, other than some antiquated, romantic vision of ol’ Virginny. And yes, we do have a VERY long record of corruption, if you consider – as I do – allowing wealthy powerful interests to “capture” our legislature, regulatory agencies, etc. So, sure, Gibson can only recall two instances in 20+ years where any of these guys have been caught, prosecuted and actually convicted of ethics violations. But not only does that NOT prove the system’s been working, it proves the exact opposite! And no, the Virginia Way isn’t changing – if it even IS changing, which is debatable – “because we’re not longer the cleanest,” because we never WERE the cleanest, that’s just completely absurd.)

Other than all that, a fine analysis of Virginia’s ethics and the so-called “Virginia Way.” LOL


  • Anonymous Is A Woman

    That whole interview made my head spin. It is all circular logic. We don’t need stronger ethical laws because people trust the politicians, and the politicians are trustworthy so they don’t have to tighten the laws. Well, no. I don’t think people trust them all that much and our ethics laws are way too weak. And judging by the comments I’ve seen in any story in any Virginia publication, the comments run overwhelmingly negative about the McDonnells. That is consistent too. So, only his fellow pols are sympathetic., not the voters in either party. Just smh at the whole thing.

    • Right, so what on earth is the deal with Bob Gibson? Does he simply have no idea what he’s talking about or what? And yet again, note that the Kojo folks fail to challenge guests when they spew nonsense. More media #FAIL, sad to say…

  • Patton

    The Virginia Way? So try this on to the situation’s size:
    The state of government official ethics in VA and the USA is literally God-damnably far worse & far more pervasive than you may imagine in your worst estimations.

    Should Bob McDonnell choose to leave this behind – yet – even if he really could?
    This whole trial process has been shockingly anomalous.
    For that reason I don’t think God’s hand is off of this yet – or off of Virginia .
    It seems the best is yet to be shown.

    Apparently there is MUCH more to this issue IN WHOLE than any authority has been willing to publicly admit so far.
    That appears ripe for change in a way that is shockingly good for Virginia and the USA.

    We don’t have to start at the beginning to understand this.
    We can start with the McDonnell appeal.
    Bob McDonnell appealed against a conviction (18USC201 BRIBERY) that he was never convicted of. AND NEVER COULD HAVE because McDonnell does not meet that laws’ scope of US public official.
    Also the 18USC201’s definition of official act
    (for the consideration admitted received)
    was subject to very reasonable doubt.

    Bob was convicted of
    18USC1951 EXTORTION’s “Obtaining property (personally) under the (mere) color of official right”
    which overlaps with
    VA18.2-111 EMBEZZLEMENT’s “Wrongfully and fraudulently” ..”dispose of” (in personal capacity). . . .”Any” “personal property” ” tangible or intangible” . . . “Had by virtue of office” (the property belonging to the office not the officer)

    See: http://law.lis.virginia.gov/vacode/title18.2/chapter5/section18.2-111/

    Bob McDonnell was largely convicted by the jury on his own testimony.

    Yet every officer of the court and the media have all winked at the misdirection of the appeal argument.

    All dissemblers or equivocators have done so for compelling reason. Every officer of the Virginia Legislature and Court has conclusively evidenced that they are guilty of VA18.2-111 felony much as Bob McDonnell is. This is true at least to the level of complicity in the VA felonies of VA16.2-111, VA18.2-481(5) and VA18.2-482. These crimes have become customary with the shared guilt of complicity and more binding EVERY officer of the VA government into their law defined RICO gang.

    With the SCOTUS’ “vacating” of McDonnell’s Jury conviction the time is ripe for Bob McDonnell and Terry McAuliffe to act together to shake off that customary corruption in all branches of Virginia’s government by means Gov. McAuliffe’s very broad grant of PARDON UPON PENITENT PAROLE OATH to Bob McDonnell and every living officer of Virginia’s government. The Parole Oath is much like the Constitutional Oath of Office but with implicit meanings made explicit in regards to duty lawfully established by VA18.2-111, VA18.2-481(5) and VA18.2-482.

    This Pardon upon Parole Oath effects a “Constitutional Reset” of great value, economy and ADVANTAGE to Virginia.
    Taa -Daaa ! Bob is back and MUCH better than he was before!

  • Patton

    By paupering our legislators we have just asked for trouble.
    When the legislators must be criminal to survive there is no real check on the conclusively evident rampant and customary VA18/2-111 “Embezzlement” of the law of the law by wrongful and adulterated use of the laws by the officers entrusted with the laws faithful administration.
    In this EVERY officer of the courts in Virginia is a member of a RICO gang also bound to each other by thier legion of mutual felonies of the VA16.2-482 “Misprision of Treason” and VA18.2-481(5) “Resisting the executions of the (duly authorized) laws under the (mere) color of its (the duly authorized laws) authority.
    This daily perpetration of felonies is conclusively evidenced in more than enough case to ensnare every member of the Virginia Bar as principal by being accessory before the fact by thier VA18.2-482 felonies.
    A VERY broad grant of our Governor’s PARDON under the VIRTUE of PAROLE OATH is the only way Virginia can find a FEASIBLE way back to right.
    PAROLE OATH is required because “The Governor shall take care that the laws be faithfully executed.” and our Governor cannot be given the authority to change the past even by ignoring it.
    Our Governor only has limited but great authority over our future well-being.

    This broad grant and acceptance of pardon on parole oath is of shockingly great advantage and economy to Virginia.