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Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell

Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell

Lately, Virginia politics has shifted to an ethics probe surrounding Governor Bob McDonnell.  Yesterday, Bearing Drift, the largest conservative blog in the state, reported that the governor would resign, a rumor denied by the governor’s staff.

To recap for those who haven’t been following this story, Bob McDonnell has recently come under fire as a result of an FBI investigation which discovered that one of his donors has given the governor and his family thousands of dollars in unreported gifts including paying a substantial sum for the wedding of the governor’s daughter and giving the executive a multi-thousand dollar Rolex watch.  State Senator Chap Peterson is the first (and so far only) legislator calling upon the governor to resign.

But what does Governor McDonnell think about possible ethics violations?  Well, if we rewind the clock four years, we come across the case of Phil Hamilton, a former member of the House of Delegates who lost his seat in a scandal involving Old Dominion University.  Almost as soon as the allegations were made, before any charges were filed, McDonnell, along with Virginia Lieutenant Governor Bill Bolling and Virginia Republican Party Chairman Pat Mullins, called for Hamilton to resign.  He stated, “From what I have seen of published news accounts containing emails and admissions, it appears that Delegate Hamilton has violated the public trust. Based on this public information it would be in the best interests of his constituents for him to step down…” McDonnell went on to add “…but if he believes that the due process of a full inquiry by the House Ethics Advisory Panel will clear his name, he should have a full opportunity to present his case.”  McDonnell, like his cohorts, were quick to condemn Hamilton without either a trial or full ethics inquiry, choosing instead a course which he thought would best help the party and his own chances during his 2009 run for governor.  Then State Senator Ken Cuccinelli stood alone in his conviction that Hamilton, like anyone accused of a crime, ought to have his day in court before being thrown under the bus by his party and his running mates.

So, will Bob McDonnell resign based upon these charges?  Well, if he wished to remain morally consistent he would do so.  After all, if the mere charges of bribery and corruption were enough to bring down a delegate in 2009, surely this line of thinking would be constant for a governor in 2013 as well.  Unfortunately, especially in politics, far too many politicians live in a world where they insist on a certain moral code…as long as it applies to everyone but the person advocating the code.

Yes, the charges levied against Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell are deeply troubling and, if proven true, he ought to resign his office. Whether the governor survives this scandal or whether he ends up sharing a cell alongside Delegate Hamilton, it is all but certain that this once rumored 2016 presidential contender’s political career has reached its zenith.  However, the hypocrisy of the whole situation is not lost on this blogger.  Remember, as Bob McDonnell said in 2009, “Elected officials must keep the highest ethical standards in order to maintain the public trust.”

Is Bearing Drift’s prediction of a resignation in the works?  I suppose the answer to this question hinges upon the severity of the charges and the evidence against McDonnell.  Either way, I expect we will find out in the coming days.

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Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell

Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell

With the blessing of Governor Bob McDonnell, Virginia’s General Assembly recently passed a transportation bill has upset huge numbers of conservatives across the state.  Labeled as the largest (or second largest) tax increase in Virginia history, many activists see the move as an outright betrayal of McDonnell’s election pledge to find other ways to fund transportation without a tax hike.

Rumors circulate that after leaving office in November, the governor will set his sights on either the 2014 U.S. Virginia Senate seat or even the 2016 presidency.  In order to thwart McDonnell’s higher political ambitions, a group called the Patriot SuperPAC recently ran an ad in Iowa warning voters in that state that McDonnell is not the fiscal conservative he pretends to be.  Today, the PAC released another ad targeting the people of New Hampshire.

Although the 2016 presidential race will not begin in earnest for at least another year, these sorts of messages clearly illustrate an important reality.  Bob McDonnell has upset a whole lot of Virginia conservatives and his effort to cement a legacy for himself through transportation tax hikes likely makes it almost impossible for him to ever win back the support of this key constituency.

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Susan Stimpson at the Middletown Forum

Susan Stimpson

Earlier today, Susan Stimpson, Chairman of the Stafford County Board of Supervisors and Republican candidate for lieutenant governor, offered the following strongly worded statement regarding the passage of the enormous new transportation taxes.

Governor McDonnell & Speaker Howell are dead wrong promoting & passing a $6 billion tax increase last week…

I just received an email from the Governor that leaves me flabbergasted. It brags about billions in new taxes. It even directs people to look at the spending projects in their area! It sounds like a White House press release. I was half expecting it to conclude with an offer for a free cell phone!

Republicans are supposed to be about cutting taxes, cutting spending and reducing the size of government—like our current leadership in Richmond promised us they would do when we were working hard to elect them.

Instead they abandoned our party’s principles by raising taxes and paving the way for Obamacare.

Do we or do we not believe that a restrained and limited government is what allows the most freedom and prosperity?

Speaker Bill Howell and Governor McDonnell are friends. But they could not be more wrong. And they could not have failed us at a more critical time.

There has been a long, unsettled battle within the Republican Party in Virginia on whether or not government has enough money. It has played out in 2004, 2007 and now. Each time, Republican leadership has taken the side of “not enough taxes” instead of providing the vision and leadership toward a restrained government. How much more can we bear?

It’s time to end this battle decisively with New Leadership committed to the principle that Virginians are over-taxed.

As Lieutenant Governor, I will not only work tirelessly to advance a conservative agenda in the General Assembly, but I will work relentlessly for authentic conservative majorities in the House and Senate.

I have talked to Republicans today who are absolutely disgusted with our Party. They are sick and tired of being sold out. The Republican Party itself is at stake in Virginia, and if we don’t act and restore our Party to that of lower taxes and smaller government, we risk losing faithful Republicans and independent voters. While Democrats are proudly stating they stayed committed to their values and achieved higher taxes and Medicaid expansion, Republicans failed to lead and they rolled. And we control both Houses and the Governor’s office!

The time to act is now. As Lieutenant Governor, I will fight for tax cuts, spending cuts and smaller government as I have done in Stafford County, and I will lead an effort to elect principled, tax cutting conservatives to the House of Delegates and State Senate.

VC thoughts:  Most conservative activists across the state are severely upset with both Governor Bob McDonnell and the Republican-controlled General Assembly for what amounts to one of the largest tax increases in state history.  I applaud Susan Stimpson for taking a firm and unapologetic stand on this important issue.

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Pete Snyder

Pete Snyder

On Saturday, after the meeting of the College Republican Federation of Virginia here in Harrisonburg, I had the opportunity to speak with Pete Snyder, one of the seven candidates seeking Republican nomination for lieutenant governor.  Mr. Snyder is an entrepreneur from northern Virginia who recently served as chairman for the 2012 Virginia Victory campaign.

Although we planned to get together at the local Starbucks, due to overcrowding, we had to relocate to the Jimmy Johns located several doors down.  This particular discussion was pretty open-ended, in which I was able to ask a number of questions about Mr. Snyder’s political principles and his campaign.  Armed with a trusty, new recorder, we began.

What I thought was the most important issue of the day concerned the matter of liberty and how Pete Snyder would reach out and connect to the tea party and Ron Paul activists, a growing segment within the Republican Party in Virginia.  His answer was fairly simple and straightforward stating that he is a solid constitutionalist, who offers a consistent message to every group, emphasizing, “I think anyone who is liberty-minded would hopefully want someone in office who…thinks about how we protect our civil liberties.”  When it comes to our government in Richmond, he added he that he would like to “have the entire state government dust off the Virginia State Constitution…and figure out what business we were supposed to be in and what business we are in now, what mission creep went on there and reign it back in.”  If elected, he declared that he would base his decisions upon three criteria: First, “Is it moral?” Second, “Does it add to or chip away our civil liberties?” Lastly, “Does it strengthen or weaken the free market?”

I did ask Pete Snyder about a potentially sore subject, his time as Virginia Victory Chairman.  As you may recall, in the past election neither Mitt Romney nor George Allen, the GOP Senate candidate, were able to win the state.  Mr. Snyder mentioned that he was honored to be asked to volunteer as the chairman and stated that he was quite successful at his primary task, raising money for these Republican candidates.  Regarding this matter, one lingering question that was sent to me recently is, if Pete Snyder spent so much time promoting Romney and Allen last year, how do we know that, if elected, he will not emulate the big government policies either advocated by these two, or Governor McDonnell who appointed him to this position?  It is an important consideration, especially coming on the back of Virginia’s transportation tax increase, which is viewed by many conservatives as a massive betrayal perpetrated by Republican Governor Bob McDonnell and the Republican-controlled General Assembly.  The Snyder campaign has answered this question over the weekend, in part, by issuing statements on Facebook praising the legislators who opposed these measures. Today, they stepped up the rhetoric releasing a statement adding, “The career politicians and big government crowd in our party have to go.”

Over the last several weeks, I have spoken to Pete Snyder more than any of the other candidates running statewide.  Personally, he does seem to be a friendly and likeable guy and I appreciate the fact that he has made it a point to talk with me after several recent events.  We share a somewhat unusual commonality, as we are both graduates of the College of William & Mary with a degree in government.  I should add, in all fairness, after I heard his story about how be met his future wife while she was on a date with another guy, I asked him about his experience, hoping for some wisdom, given that I found myself in a similar situation.

Regardless of your opinion of Pete Snyder, one must admit that he is persistent and not one to give up easily.  For example, each time we conclude one of our conversations he always ends by asking for my support.  As I’ve mentioned previously, I am still in the process of learning about all of our choices for lieutenant governor before reaching any premature conclusions.  Nevertheless, on Saturday he gave me one of his bumper stickers should the time come that I would be in need of it.

As with my previous piece on the lieutenant governor’s race, I’d like to thank Pete Snyder and his staff for the opportunity to meet with him one-on-one.  Although a conflicting event will prevent him from speaking at the Harrisonburg Tea Party this coming Thursday, a member of his campaign team should be on hand.

Lastly, let me encourage the readers of the Virginia Conservative to learn more about Pete Snyder and the six other individuals running to be our next lieutenant governor.  We have an important decision to make in May; properly informed delegates are indispensable if liberty-minded conservatives hope to reclaim the government of the Commonwealth.

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On Tuesday, Lieutenant Governor Bill Bolling invited bloggers from across the state to join him for his annual Bloggers’ Day.  Beginning at 10:15, the all day event gave us an in-depth opportunity to explore the recent activities of the state government as well discuss the upcoming 2012 and 2013 elections.  Carpooling with fellow blogger Rick Sincere, I enjoyed a lot of insightful commentary on the path to and from Richmond.

Lt. Gov. Bolling flanked by Randy Marcus and Tucker Martin

First on the docket, as had been in years past, was a roundtable meeting with Lt. Gov. Bolling as he outlined the state of the Virginia economy in terms of the increase in jobs, capital investment, and the like.  Although Virginia continues to pull out of this recession, it was disappointing to see that the Shenandoah Valley is progressing slower than the rest of the state.  Nevertheless, I do believe that our leaders are making important strides to encourage businesses to come to the commonwealth.

Afterward, I walked over to the capitol to see the Senate and House in session.  However, due to a massive influx of students, supporters of Americans for Prosperity, and other political groups, a policeman blocked the entrance until the crowds has dissipated.  I grabbed a sandwich and ate alongside fellow bloggers Charles Young of Newport News and Brian Bridgeforth of Waynesboro.

Virginia's House of Delegates

Once the way was clear, we headed to the House of Delegates chamber.  The issue under discussion was the so-called “Tebow bill” which would allow homeschooled students to participate in public school sporting events.  Delegate Rob Bell of Albemarle County, the patron of the bill, and Delegate Brenda of James City County encouraged the members to allow the bill to come up for a final vote while Virginia Beach Republican Bob Tata moved to have the delegates “forget” the bill.  Nevertheless, by a voice vote, the members chose to engross the measure.

Unfortunately, by the time I got to the Senate doors, that body had already gone into recess.

Starting at 2:30, a panel of various folks in the know spoke more about Virginia politics.  First up was Bob Holsworth, followed by Boyd Marcus.  Both spoke on the state of the 2012 and 2013 elections.  Each seemed to think that Mitt Romney would be the Republican nominee for president although they admit that he faces considerable hurdles to win the election in November.

Senator Obenshain and Randy Marcus

Next up was Senator Mark Obenshain.  His primary focus centered on his various legislative proposals including the imminent domain amendment.  Personally, I would have liked to hear him speak a little on his race for Attorney General in 2013, but I suppose that there is still a considerable amount of time before that issue comes to the forefront.

After waiting several minutes for Delegate Rob Bell to arrive and speak with the group, I ducked out to find a fellow Ron Paul supporter who worked in one of the legislative offices on the same floor.  Not surprisingly, we both were very disappointed that the Ron Paul campaign seems to be more or less ignoring the state.  It seems odd given that he has a very real opportunity to win Virginia as only he and Romney are on the ballot and coupled with the fact that many Gingrich and Santorum supporters here are encouraging their likeminded brethren to support Paul.  Given Paul’s fairly lackluster performance in the primaries and caucuses so far, one does have to start to wonder if his national campaign is going to pull out a first place finish anywhere.

When I returned to the conference room, I discovered that Del. Bell had already come and gone.  The next speakers were Mike Thomas and Dan Allen, campaign advisors for George Allen.  All day, I had been looking forward to asking them about the Allen campaign; specifically how George Allen would answer his critics on the right and prove that he will be the conservative senator that Virginia needs.  Unfortunately, this presentation did very little to answer my concerns.

First of all, as one blogger and I agreed, it was a particularly dull presentation.  Just about all of the points that the two speakers made, I already knew.  Second, and far worse in my mind, was the news that they plan to more or less ignore the Republican primary.  George Allen, they said, did not have either the money or time to waste with his lesser Republican challengers.

They spent a good portion of time highlighting Allen’s accomplishments as Governor.  Only when questioned by another of my fellow bloggers did they made the briefest of mentions of his potentially troubling votes while he was in the Senate.  Defeating Barack Obama and Tim Kaine is key, and, although they did not say this point specifically, despite any objections, reasonable or otherwise, Republicans and conservatives should just get in line and support George Allen.  This kind of thinking doesn’t sit well with me nor do I think it will do so with the majority of the Tea Party crowd.  Who likes having either themselves or their principles taken for granted?  And no, just in case you are wondering, I was not called upon to ask my question.

The Governor's Mansion

At the end of the day, we attended a reception at the Governor’s Mansion.  I first spoke with fellow blogger Jason Kenney who is advising the Allen campaign.  Unlike the two previous speakers, I was able to engage in a dialogue and thus addressed some of my specific issues.

Although I was unable to capture much of the Governor’s time, I did enjoy a good conservation with Lt. Governor Bolling regarding Virginia’s presidential primary.  While he is an ardent supporter of Romney, as I am with Paul, we both agreed that neither of our respective campaigns should overlook the Commonwealth.

Governor McDonnell and the First Lady

In closing, I want to shout out a big thanks to the Governor and especially the Lt. Governor and his staff for hosting this event.  I wish more leaders would take a cue from Bill Bolling and reach out to the blogosphere.  Whether a big site or small, every day citizens from Virginia and across the whole nation read our material and pass it on to others.  Therefore, if you either hold a position in government or planning to run for public office, don’t you think it is important to know what is being written and who is saying it?

If you wish to join the conversation, wait no longer.  Start your blog today!

I’m already looking forward to Bloggers’ Day 2013.

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Buried within my email inbox, I discovered a message that is important for many Virginians as we prepare to file our income taxes.  Governor Bob McDonnell wants Virginia residents to know “that the VA Free File program gives more than 2 million low- and moderate-income Virginia taxpayers the opportunity to prepare and electronically file their 2011 federal and state income tax returns for free this tax season.”

But who is eligible to file their taxes for free?  Well, as the Governor goes on to say, “This year I urge all Virginia taxpayers who earned $57,000 or less in adjusted gross income last year to go to the Tax Department’s website to see if they qualify to use VA Free File.”

If you are like me, you’ve been filing online for years now.  It’s easy, it’s fast, and it’s relatively inexpensive.  But now, it can be free too!  Sign me up!

So can you file your taxes for free?  You should head on over to http://www.tax.virginia.gov/ and find out today.  Thanks to the Governor’s note, I saved about $50.  I know that I want to keep more of my money in my own pocket, especially in these tough economic times.  Can’t you say the same?

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VC Note:  Earlier this morning, I wrote that Lt. Governor released a statement against the loyalty oath for Virginia’s March 6th 2012 Presidential Primary.  For the record, the oath states that by voting in Virginia’s Republican primary, you are pledging to vote for the party’s nominee in the November general election, regardless of which person emerges victorious and irrespective of what principles he or she happens to hold.  Shortly after posting this piece, Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell offered his take on the oath, which I present, to you below along with some additional commentary:

 Statement of Governor Bob McDonnell on Proposed  Loyalty Oath for March GOP Presidential Primary in Commonwealth

RICHMOND– Governor Bob McDonnell issued the following statement this morning regarding the proposed “loyalty oath” that all voters seeking to participate in the March GOP Presidential Primary in Virginia would be required to sign in order to cast a vote.

“Over the past few days I have reviewed the issue of the proposal that voters sign a loyalty oath as a requirement for participation in our upcoming GOP Presidential Primary in March. While I fully understand the reasoning that led to the establishment of this requirement, such an oath is unenforceable and I do not believe it is in the best interests of our Party, or the Commonwealth. The effect of the oath could be one of diminishing participation in the primary, at a time when our Party must be expanding its base and membership as we head into the pivotal 2012 general elections this fall. For these reasons, I urge the State Central Committee to rescind the loyalty oath requirement at its upcoming meeting on the 21st.

It is true that for political parties to remain viable they must have some means by which to control their own nomination processes. I know the loyalty oath was proposed as a possible good faith solution to this issue in this primary election, but there are other ways. I would support legislation to establish voluntary party registration in Virginia. Such a reform to our electoral system would eliminate the need for any oaths or pledges and greatly simplify the nomination process in the Commonwealth.”

VC Note: I always welcome another nail in the coffin of the hated loyalty oath.  Even though odds are pretty good that I will support the Republican nominee against President Obama, I believe the oath attempts to strip away our right to vote our conscious as well as the idea of a secret ballot.  Sure, it is unenforceable, but it creates a situation whereby otherwise honorable people will refuse to sign the oath and therefore be denied the right to vote.  After all, if it is dishonorable to break the oath, then only 100% party loyalists and dishonorable people will show up to vote.  Should either of these two groups have complete control over the primary?  I think doing so is bad for the candidates, bad for the party, bad for the state, and bad for the nation. 

Then again, I believe the process is best handled through conventions rather than primaries.  If states held conventions and caucuses in 2008 as opposed to primaries, I’m pretty sure that the Republican nominee wouldn’t have been John McCain.  Were you happy with that choice?  I know that even though I am a Republican I was not, but then again, neither were a majority of the American voting population.  So how is that hope and change working out for you?

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