With Gov. Bob McDonnell’s (R) corruption scandal having rocked Virginia politics this election year, it’s hardly surprising that state Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli (R), who hopes to replace McDonnell, would position himself as a champion of ethics reform. Statewide candidates who hope to win obviously need to focus on the issue on the minds of voters throughout the commonwealth.
But in this case, the Republican gubernatorial hopeful has a credibility problem.
Arguing that his “own mistakes when it comes to Virginia’s disclosure requirements” have better prepared him to lead on the issue, Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli (R) on Wednesday published on op-ed reiterating his call for a special session of the Virginia’s General Assembly, to address the state’s ethics laws.
“I will be the first to admit that I’ve made my own mistakes when it comes to Virginia’s disclosure requirements,” Cuccinelli wrote in an op-ed published by The Daily Caller, referring to his recently disclosed financial ties to businessman Jonnie Williams and his company, Star Scientific. “Though I was fully cleared by a Democratic Commonwealth’s Attorney, I’ve learned from my mistakes and believe they make me a more credible messenger in this much-needed debate.”
For now, let’s put aside the dubious assertion that Cuccinelli was “fully cleared,” because that’s not quite what happened, and instead consider the underlying point.
Cuccinelli’s new argument isn’t that he can be effective on ethics reforms despite his own controversies; his new argument is that he can be effective because of of his own controversies.
If this sounds vaguely familiar, it’s because former Rep. Anthony Weiner (D) made a very similar pitch last week, saying he’d be a successful mayor of New York “because of” of his sexting scandal.
That was hard to take seriously, and in many respects, Cuccinelli’s claim is even worse.
The far-right Virginian is clearly caught up in the larger scandal, having accepted undisclosed gifts from Star Scientific CEO Jonnie Williams – gifts Cuccinelli now refuses to return – and making unexplained investments in Star Scientific stock at interesting points in time over the last couple of years.
This, Cuccinelli now says, puts him in a unique position to lead on ethics reform. By the same reasoning, Alex Rodriguez should take the lead on addressing steroid use in baseball and Dick Cheney’s advice on foreign policy should be taken seriously.
If Cuccinelli wants Virginians to believe he’s “learned from” his “mistakes,” shouldn’t he at least start by repaying the gifts and explaining his curious investment strategies?