Corruption allegations have rocked Virginia politics this year, so it stands to reason that statewide candidates would make ethics reforms a top priority. Ken Cuccinelli, however, is arguably the wrong messenger for this message.
Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli II urged Gov. Robert F. McDonnell on Monday to call a special General Assembly session to repair "severe holes" in the state's ethics laws.With McDonnell embroiled in a gifts scandal over luxury items, five-figure monetary gifts and $120,000 in loans from a Virginia businessman, the Republican candidate to succeed him said Virginia cannot wait until the legislature reconvenes in January to tighten the state's lax disclosure requirements."Trust is something that is easy to lose and hard to recover," Cuccinelli said in an interview with The Washington Post. "I think the longer we let this go, the more difficult it is for Virginians to achieve the level of faith in their government that I think they're accustomed to. And I think that's something we can achieve if we move quickly."
In theory, all of this sounds quite sensible. Virginia's ethics laws, by any fair measure, are sorely in need of systemic reforms, and so Cuccinelli is on firm ground pushing for repairs.
Or at least, he would be were it not for his own connection to the very corruption scandal that's brought the need for ethics reforms to the fore. Indeed, it's been a week since Gov. Bob McDonnell (R) announced his intentions to return every gift he received from Star Scientific CEO Jonnie Williams, but it was the next day when Cuccinelli announced he would do the opposite. What's more, the far-right state Attorney General isn't just burdened by questions about the $18,000 in gifts he accepted; Cuccinelli also hasn't explained his investment strategy involving Star Scientific stock.
In effect, Cuccinelli's call for a special session on state ethics reforms is overshadowed by an unstated concession: "We need to repair the ethics laws to prevent people like me from getting away with the dubious conduct I've already engaged in." Or more to the point, "Let's ban the kind of gifts I've already received and won't pay back."
As for what's next, Cuccinelli's request will apparently be ignored.
Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli has asked Governor Bob McDonnell to call the General Assembly back to Richmond to immediately address Virginia's weak campaign finance disclosure rules. A request, the Governor chose not to grant.The Washington Post first broke the story, but NBC12 has independently confirmed the news.... "The Governor was informed of the Attorney General's position on this matter, said spokesman Tucker Martin, "However, he believes the proper time and place for the consideration of such changes would be during the next session of the General Assembly, which begins in January.
In the meantime, Cuccinelli's critics on the left are staying on the offensive, with American Bridge launching GiveTheGiftsBack.com this morning, along with this web video.