The chief of staff for Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe allegedly told a Democratic lawmaker that his daughter could land a top role with the state if he stayed in office and supported the governor’s effort to expand Medicaid, The Washington Post reported on Thursday night.
In yet another twist in the ongoing Obamacare fight and a corruption controversy that began in June, the governor’s top aide reportedly left a voicemail message for the Democrat, then-State Sen. Phillip Puckett, who was preparing to quit the General Assembly that month. Ultimately, Puckett resigned, thus giving the GOP at least temporary control of the state Senate that McAuliffe was counting on to support the expansion of health coverage in Virginia.
The governor’s office “would be very eager to accommodate” Puckett’s daughter, the chief of staff, Paul Reagan, said in the recording, according to a transcript given to The Post.
“We just need you really, we need you for the rest of your term and beyond, but in the immediate future, we need you to help us get this Medicaid deal through,” Reagan added, according to the document.
Puckett previously didn’t seek a role within the state’s tobacco commission amid bribery allegations that Republicans would trade him a job for himself and a judgeship for his daughter in exchange for his resignation. A federal investigation, which is still ongoing, began earlier this year after news of the alleged quid pro quo came to light.
McAuliffe originally denied to The Post that Reagan had made any potential job offers to Puckett and his daughter. But, after he was read a transcript of Reagan’s message, McAuliffe later admitted that the call had occurred.
McAuliffe spokesman Brian Coy told msnbc in an email on Friday morning that “the governor was not aware of [Reagan’s] actions.”
“In the fight to expand health care to uninsured Virginians, I was overzealous and acted with poor judgment. I certainly regret this and will always try to achieve the high standards demanded by Gov. McAuliffe,” Reagan said in a statement obtained by msnbc.
The Post reported that Coy indicated McAuliffe hadn’t objected to Reagan’s plan, and suggested that the possible role Reagan mentioned was not on the same level with what Republicans are accused of promising Puckett.
Reagan didn’t deny leaving the message.
Puckett had been a senator since 1998, but his district leans heavily Republican. It will be tough for Democrats to keep the seat in the midterm elections next month; the deal will likely permanently alter the make-up of Virginia’s legislature. He was a key swing vote on Medicaid expansion, and ran on a platform involving the policy during his successful campaign last year.
The Medicaid expansion is largely funded by the federal government through Obamacare. Earlier this month, state House Republicans killed the bill to expand the health care program without giving it a formal vote. Had it passed, it would have provided 400,000 low-income Virginians with insurance. Similar to their congressional counterparts, the state’s Republican lawmakers complained that the expansion was too costly.
Jane C. Timm contributed reporting.