Who can you trust, Virginia?

Paul Jacob

10/26/2013 11:23:05 PM - Paul Jacob

Virginians are poised to elect Democratic Party gubernatorial nominee Terry McAuliffe to the highest office in the Commonwealth. McAuliffe holds a significant lead in the governor’s race in every published poll, even while more Old Dominion residents get a decidedly negative rather than positive vibe from the notorious loudmouth huckster.

A recent Hampton University poll showed only 31 percent of Virginians with a positive view of McAuliffe against 37 percent with a clearly negative assessment.

There are the old scandals from the 1990s, like the Florida real estate deal wherein McAuliffe invested $100 and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers pension fund put in $39 million, somehow giving McAuliffe a 50 percent stake, from which he profited $2.45 million, even while the Department of Labor investigated the deal before forcing the IBEW to reimburse their pension fund to the tune of $5 million.

And there are always new scandals popping up. Yesterday, the liberal Talking Points Memo reported that, “A company linked to questionable arms deals in West Africa has given $120,000 in campaign contributions to Democratic Virginia gubernatorial candidate Terry McAuliffe.” The McAuliffe campaign offered no direct statement on the donations, but TPM explained, “Though it is based in Virginia, LISCR serves as a regulator of the shipping industry in the African nation of Liberia through a contract given to the company by former Liberian president and convicted war criminal Charles Taylor.”

Just more grassroots, community-centered politics to protect the middle class, eh?

At the beginning of this campaign, McAuliffe touted his entrepreneurial acumen by boasting that his electric car company, GreenTech, would bring jobs to Virginia. Turned out, not so much, as those jobs, or only a small slice of them, were created in Mississippi, not Virginia. McAuliffe’s role in the company, with which he has now severed ties, only reinforces his image as political wheeler-dealer rather than a businessman. As a Washington Post reporter put it, “GreenTech fits into a pattern of investments in which McAuliffe has used government programs, political connections and access to wealthy investors of both parties in pursuit of big profits for himself.”

The Republican Party’s nominee for governor, Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli has been filling the airwaves with commercials calling McAuliffe a “corrupt insider” and one ad recently charged that Terry McAuliffe “invested in an insurance scam that . . . profited off the terminally ill.”

In fact, longtime Democratic political consultant David Sanders, who worked for U.S. Senator Mark Warner and former U.S. Senator Jim Webb, has gone so far as to endorse Republican Cuccinelli, calling former Democratic National Committee chairman Terry McAuliffe a “corporatist” — and a particularly ethically challenged one at that. “I see a guy who’s got rich because of his political contacts, and I think that’s wrong,” Sanders told the Washington Post.

One wonders how Terry McAuliffe could possibly get elected?

Which brings us back to Mr. Cuccinelli.

That same Hampton University survey found that voters see “Cooch” (Cuccinelli’s nickname) even more negatively than they see Mr. McAuliffe, with 33 percent giving Cuccinelli a favorable rating, and 47 percent holding an unfavorable view.

Part of Cooch’s problem is that the Democrats defined him as an enemy of the female half of the population many months ago and the GOP campaign has still only feebly responded.

But there is much more to the Cuccinelli collapse in Virginia. In response to the ad slamming McAuliffe for profiting off the dying, McAuliffe approved a TV spot charging, “It’s Ken Cuccinelli who should worry us. His office is being investigated by the Inspector General for helping rip-off Virginia landowners and now Cuccinelli has been interviewed by the FBI in the Star Scientific scandal.”

The Star Scientific scandal involves Jonnie R. Williams, Sr., the CEO of Star Scientific, which has business before state government. Williams has in recent years lavished gifts and loans of more than $100,000 on current Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell and his family, bestowing another $18,000 in gifts to Cuccinelli, including “a $1,500 catered Thanksgiving dinner, private jet trips and vacation lodgings.”

Originally, Cuccinelli said he would not repay the gifts, and then, finally, paid $18,000 to a charity. Cooch is simply not operating from the moral high ground.

It’s sad that the two choices on the Virginia ballot are unacceptable.

It is even sadder that our election process is designed to trick us into thinking we only have two choices.

There is a third alternative on the Commonwealth’s Nov. 5th ballot: Robert Sarvis, the Libertarian Party candidate.

In a never ending loop of 30-second knife-slashings of his two opponents by his two opponents, the underfunded Sarvis joked, “I like to say I have a $20 million budget, but I outsourced the attack ads to the other candidates.”

The 37-year-old Sarvis is sharp, well educated — with an undergraduate degree from Harvard and advanced degrees from New York University (law) and George Mason University (economics) — and can boast of real-world experience in business to boot.

With less than $100,000 to spend, the Sarvis campaign has only run one television advertisement, and that aired during a gubernatorial debate from which he was excluded. And yet, Sarvis is still polling around 10 percent.

The Sarvis appeal is the combination of his libertarian view of government and a helping of common sense. Sarvis’s slogan is “Virginia is open-minded and open for business”; he’s also talked up universally popular reforms like term limits and voter initiative and referendum — ideas about which the other two candidates take care never to breathe a word.

Citizens in Charge recently sent the three candidates an Initiative & Referendum Pledge, which reads: “If elected as Governor of the Commonwealth of Virginia, I solemnly pledge to do my utmost in supporting an amendment to Virginia’s constitution to give voters a statewide process of Initiative and Referendum. I will actively campaign urging legislators to propose such an amendment and asking voters to pass it at the ballot box.”

Neither Terry McAuliffe nor Ken Cuccinelli responded to Citizens in Charge’s request that the august candidates sign the pledge, nor did they accept the invitation to make a statement concerning the right of Virginians to vote on issues when large numbers of citizens care enough to sign a petition. Both, in essence, have their gang of folks who will run Virginia; by their lights, we voters need not butt our noses in.

Robert Sarvis signed the Initiative & Referendum Pledge and, in doing so, offered the comment, “I have a lot more faith in the people of Virginia than in politicians. Initiative and referendum would enable voters to decide on many needed reforms to our government.”

Virginia politics is sick, so sick that the next governor is going to be a loudmouth huckster, a fellow who put the crony in crony-capitalist.

But Virginians can take some comfort: at the very least, they can send a message with a vote for Sarvis. May it not be utterly in vain that he put 17,000 miles on his van in the cause of putting an end to crony politics and crony economics, and for the right of the people to have a say.     [references]