McDonnell vs Warner Fight Brewing on Still Secret Tidewater Toll Deal?

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    by Paul Goldman

    It was one thing for Governor McDonnell to stiff arm Delegate Bob Marshall. But quite another to risk a confrontation with Senator Mark Warner.

    Back in 2003, then Delegate Bob McDonnell voted for the following legislation introduced by Delegate Marshall and described on the General Assembly website this way:

    Release of procurement records under the Public-Private Transportation Act of 1995 and the Public-Private Education Facilities and Infrastructure Act of 2002. Provides that once a comprehensive agreement has been entered into under the Public-Private Transportation Act of 1995 and the Public-Private Education Facilities and Infrastructure Act of 2002, a responsible public entity shall make available, upon request, procurement records in accordance with § 2.2-4342. The bill provides that procurement records shall not be interpreted to include proprietary, commercial or financial information, balance sheets, financial statements, or trade secrets that may be provided by the private entity as evidence of its qualifications.

    The bill was signed by then Governor Mark Warner and is now law.

    Governor Warner amended the bill to make sure that once the deal had been completed, the public would be entitled to know the relevant facts so as to be able to decide whether it was in the public interest or not.

    Attorney General Cuccinelli has made a cause out of full disclosure to the taxpayer in terms of state law. The VA Supreme Court recently said he had gone to far in that regard. But given his convictions on the generic issue, does Governor McDonnell really want to risk the AG believing he has to protect the public interest assuming the Secretary of Transportation refuses to obey the law?

    I would think not, but that’s me. More importantly perhaps, at some point someone is going to ask Governor Warner about the law he signed. Warner is also a very pro ‘let the people have the facts” kind of guy, and why not, it’s the right thing to do, not to mention the right politics.

    The power given to the Governor’s Administration to enter into one of these public/private deals without going through the normal bidding process is significant: Warner rightly wanted to make sure the public would get the necessary information to have confidence in this extraordinary process.

    The Marshall bill passed without a dissenting vote.

    As I have been saying, Pat McSweeney and his clients will get the information during their law suit. So the Governor is getting some bad advice here: it is lose-lose, the longer he is seen as stonewalling, the worse the politics. The facts have to come out eventually. The Marshall/Warner bill makes that inevitable, as does fair play.

    If it is a good deal, then the facts will prove it. If it is a bad deal, then trying to stonewall the Virginian Pilot, Bob Marshall, Pat McSweeney, et al won’t make it a good deal.

    Warner was right to want openness on these matters.

    The latest Pilot poll shows the growing risk to McDonnell, et. al, if they are seen as trying to hide stuff from the public: when the bad news comes out, it will be that much worse for them politically.

    Bob Marshall had a good bill. He is running for the Senate, so it might not be much interest to folks in that context.

    But as a state political matter- in 2013 not a federal election – the issue should have a lot of traction.

    My understanding is that Terry MAC isn’t so sure this secret Toll Deal is as good as the backers are claiming.

    Ideally, this shouldn’t be a partisan issue. But a continued failure to get the public all the facts it should have is solely a GOP problem, DEMS have nothing to do with that.

    So if it continues, then the GOP is forcing the thing into the political realm, and they will have no one to blame but themselves.