Off–Year Election Prospects Grim for Conservatives

Democrat Terry McAuliffe prepares to photograph his favorite person.

Democrat Terry McAuliffe prepares to photograph his favorite person.

In 2009 gubernatorial elections in New Jersey and Virginia provided a morale boost for conservatives still smarting from the Obama victory. Chris Christie won in New Jersey and Bob McDonnell won in Virginia.

The chance for morale boosting repeat this year is very small.

In New Jersey we’ve discovered Christie is now Obama’s newest BFF and is showing all the symptoms of an advanced case of RINO’s disease with egomaniacal complications.

Here in Virginia, there is little optimism regarding Ken Cuccinelli’s campaign for governor. It’s looking more and more like he should have kept his original promise to run for re–election as attorney general. Then there truly would have been a balm in Gilead.

Retiring Lt. Governor Bill Bolling could have run unopposed on the GOP side — while he continued to keep his inner RINO in the closet — Cuccinelli would be AG and E. W. Jackson could have become Lt. Governor. Two conservatives out of three isn’t bad and former GOP consultant — and Bolling inner circle member — Boyd Marcus would not have had to defect to the Democrats in a fit of pique.

It pains me to say this, but ‘moderate’ Bolling actually would have been a stronger candidate than Cuccinelli, because he has no ties whatsoever to FBI investigation target Jonnie Williams — the VA GOP answer to Santa Claus — and his Star Scientific patent medicine company. A Bolling candidacy would have been immune to the fallout from Big Watch Bob McDonnell’s gifts–that–keep–on–giving scandal. Simply because Bolling didn’t run up a tab with Williams. Bolling doesn’t wear a $7,500 gift watch, didn’t take free vacations, his children didn’t receive $25,000 in wedding gifts, his wife didn’t receive a $15,000 shopping spree and the family business didn’t get a $75,000 loan.

(Rumor has it that once Bolling learned Williams’ product wasn’t a weight loss aid, he had no more interest in Star Scientific.)

Instead we have an incumbent governor passing the hat to raise money to pay lawyers working to prevent an indictment. Williams is singing like a canary. And both are damaging Cuccinelli who took what amounted to tip money from Jonnie — particularly when compared to the jackpot McDonnell hit when Williams became a “family friend.”

No wonder Ken is currently polling seven points behind the Democrat nominee Terry ‘Flim Flam Man’ McAuliffe. I suppose we’re lucky the deficit isn’t larger. McDonnell could have helped the situation if he had resigned during the summer, but even Star Scientific doesn’t manufacture an anti–inflammatory powerful enough to lubricate McDonnell’s passage out of the mansion.

So McAuliffe’s refusal to release his tax returns — for a brief moment an important issue — becomes a non–issue in the environment generated by the Williams/McDonnell gifts scandal. Looking at it from a voter’s perspective it’s a wash, McAuliffe is just better about hiding his financial peccadilloes.

In this political climate it’s crucial for the Cuccinelli campaign to avoid any mistakes that call the nominee’s character into question. So what do they do? The campaign airs a negative commercial that calls the campaign’s character into question.

The spot contains testimonials from people who were ruined by the bankruptcy of a company from which McAuliffe made millions. Any effectiveness the commercial had ended when the people giving the testimonials told the Washington Post that no one told them the footage would be in a campaign commercial. On the contrary, they say they were told the interviews were for a documentary. And they say the Cuccinelli campaign lied to them.

I’ve been making campaign commercials for 33 years and I can tell you that any competent media firm has a simple way to settle controversies like this. All the campaign has to do is show the reporter the talent releases signed during the taping.

That way if the interviewees change their mind later or the McAuliffe people pressure them, you have proof the interview subjects knew what they were getting into before the spot aired.

Only the Cuccinelli campaign didn’t show Washington Post reporters any signed releases. During their WaPost interview they did not address “whether the employees in the ad were told how the footage would be used.”

I don’t want to pile on here, but I have some advice for the campaign. If the media consultant and the production company didn’t get signed permission releases from non–professional talent the company is sloppy, incompetent and deserves to be fired.

If the media consultant and the production company have releases but the releases say the footage is to be used in a documentary and not a campaign commercial, they are sleazy, incompetent and deserve to be fired.

Voters are accustomed to a certain amount of hyperbole in positive campaign spots, that’s why no one chokes when Lindsey Graham and the word “fighting” appear in the same spot. But negative commercials must be accurate and the allegations based on verifiable fact. Ken’s campaign has done it’s best to undermine his positive and negative message.

We have a Cuccinelli campaign that says McAuliffe can’t be trusted, plays fast and loose with the truth and won’t release his taxes. Then the same campaign releases a commercial that plays fast and loose with the truth to people already reeling from losing their livelihood. And just to make sure the news stays bad Cuccinelli — after foot dragging for months — decides to donate $18,000 to charity to offset the same amount he received in gifts from Jonnie Williams.

In one fell swoop the campaign helps McAuliffe by generating another week or two of negative coverage regarding the gifts. Waiting this late in the campaign to donate money from gifts Cuccinelli never should have taken is stupidity compounded.

I’m told that the reason Cuccinelli decided to break his promise and not run for re–election as AG is his big money backers told him they would not donate unless he ran for governor. I’m wondering how the plutocrats feel about their investment now?

For more on Cuccinelli and the gifts scandal click here

For more on how McDonnell caused the gifts scandal click here and here

For more on how Bolling discovered his inner RINO click here

For more on how Marcus discovered his inner turncoat click here

Time for Virginia’s GOP Governor to Resign

Big Watch Bob and the timepiece that says it's time to go.

Big Watch Bob and the timepiece that says it’s time to go.

Virginia Gov. Bob ‘I want my Boost for breakfast’ McDonnell’s slide down the slope to complete disgrace continues. When we last wrote about Gov. Boost in mid–June, he was under fire for billing Virginia taxpayers for body wash, sunscreen, dog vitamins, colon blow, breakfast Boost, dry cleaning, shoe repairs and dog food — all because it’s really tough to make ends meet when you are only pulling in $175,000 a year.

The spending problem was joined by a receiving problem when the Washington Post* reported the McDonnell family had also accepted a $15,000 check for catering at daughter Cailin’s wedding and the governor had not bothered to disclose the gift. Possibly because the foie gras disagreed with him.

That was bad enough, but the latest developments in the story leave no room for doubt regarding the governor’s deficient sense of propriety and lack of common sense.

The signer of the $15,000 catering check was Jonnie R. Williams who is head of Star Scientific, the manufacturer of Anatabloc an OTC anti–inflammatory. Evidently Williams also serves as the McDonnell family’s personal ATM. For in addition to the catering, the McDonnell’s have also made withdrawals from Williams for the following:

A $6,500 Rolex watch

A $15,000 Bergdorf Goodman shopping spree for wife Maureen

A $10,000 wedding gift to daughter Jeanine

A $70,000 loan to Bob and another $50,000 to Maureen

Bringing the grand total (based on current accounting) to $166,500.00.

This is why there won’t be any circling of the wagons for Gov. Boost, unless it’s a tumbrel.

It’s obvious why Williams was willing to give all this money to McDonnell, who was a complete stranger until just before the inauguration. Williams is an Old Testament man, specifically Proverbs 18:16 “A gift opens the way and ushers the giver into the presence of the great.”

(Rumor has it that Williams also met Democrat candidate Creigh Deeds at about the same time, but he took one look at the Deeds campaign and simply gave him a case of Anatabloc.)

My question is what was McDonnell thinking? His kids are stealing $2,400 worth of food from the mansion to take back to college. His wife thinks his winning the governor’s race means she’s won the lottery. And he’s borrowing thousands of dollars to shore up vacation properties he bought at the height of the real estate boom.

Is McDonnell’s ego so large that he believes he can take the money from Williams without incurring any obligation or public comment? Or does he feel the fact he drove William’s Ferrari back to Richmond from Smith Mountain Lake — thereby becoming the most expensive valet parker in history — means they’re square?

And while we are on the subject of the family, does Maureen know FOX has cancelled My Big Fat Obnoxious Boss? Judging by the Post coverage, working for The Donald is preferable to working for The Maureen. The former Redskins cheerleader has ordered professional mansion staffers to strip to their BVDs and scrub her bathroom. Other staff members have been reduced to tears after her tirades. The situation finally became so bad a management consulting team from Virginia Commonwealth University had to perform an intervention.

Even her vanity projects are somewhat bizarre. Maureen discovered a pressing need for the Commonwealth to have portraits painted of Virginia’s first ladies. Tom Camden, former curator of the state art collection, acknowledged that Mrs. McDonnell had asked for several changes to her portrait. “I understand how Mrs. McDonnell thought,” he said. “And I think she wanted her best image, whether it was necessarily historically accurate or not.”

Judging from the picture in the Post, Maureen’s portrait has successfully lost about 30 years and 30 lbs. Unfortunately, you won’t be able to see for yourself, since there is currently no place to hang the collection. Maybe Williams will offer some space in his Smith Mountain Lake vacation retreat.

As this is written, the governor has a new legal team and crisis spokesman to deal with the FBI investigation of the gifts and the continuing media inquiries. I certainly don’t begrudge the governor his lawyer, but unfortunately the first question that comes to my mind is who’s paying for this? Is Jonnie finally tapped out?

The new spokesman says “private funds” will be used to pay for the team — this comes as a relief to taxpayers who are still coming to terms with buying the governor’s Axe for Men — and the governor does not have a legal defense fund “at this point.”

I’m sure it’s only a matter of time before Breakfast Boost Bob has a fund of his own, thereby keeping company with George Zimmerman and Edward Snowdon.

One of the early controversies in this year’s Virginia governor’s race (McDonnell is term limited, thank goodness) was Republican nominee Ken Cuccinelli’s refusal to resign as attorney general after he began campaigning. I agree with Cuccinelli’s decision then, but I’m wondering what’s keeping McDonnell in office now?

Shouldn’t he resign to spend more time with the family? It would certainly be novel to have the husband stand silently in support at the news conference while the wife explains how she created the scandal.

When asked about a McDonnell resignation, Cuccinelli tactfully replied, ““That’s a question for the governor,” but he did add the controversy has become “a distraction.”

“Distraction” is putting it mildly. If Cuccinelli is defeated in November, McDonnell will bear a large part of the blame. Should the scandal continue there is a very real possibility independents will vote against Republicans to register their revulsion with McDonnell’s conduct and disgusted conservatives won’t vote at all.

That would mean the flim–flam man, Terry McAuliffe, is the new governor, but with a Clinton crony at least the public knows what it is getting. Obviously, Democrats are already calling for a resignation in an effort to make it an issue later in the campaign. Taking their advice would actually turn the tables and remove a powerful McAuliffe campaign issue.

Republican know–it–alls will respond that it’s still early and the public isn’t following the race yet. And besides, McDonnell isn’t on the ticket. But that’s wrong. The Washington Post is on this like the IRS on the TEA party. Big Watch Bob is a genuine crisis discovered by the Post, not a made up controversy like “macaca” and we know how that turned out.

As the election approaches the Post will pepper Cuccinelli with questions regarding McDonnell’s “culture of corruption” and its impact on his campaign. It will inflate Cuccinelli’s lack of judgment with regard to accepting vacation housing from Star Scientific’s Williams to complete equivalence with McDonnell’s total sellout. Post opinion writers will rehash the entire sordid story in the last week of the campaign. Democrats will gleefully run quotes, thoughtfully provided by Post stories, in their attack commercials.

As long as McDonnell is in office he’s going to be a problem for the Cuccinelli campaign. Lance the boil now and Cuccinelli has time to change the topic and McDonnell has time to spread some Anatabloc over family divisions.

*Rather than clutter up the column with constant “reported by” and other methods of attribution, I’ll state here that all the facts come from excellent reporting by Washington Post reporters Laura Vozzella, Rosalind Helderman and Carol Leonning, as do all the quotes. The analysis is mine.

It’s Always Christmas If You’re a Politician

virginia AG Ken Cuccinelli brandishing one of the forms he forgot to fill out.

Virginia AG Ken Cuccinelli brandishing one of the forms he forgot to fill out.

What is it about an elected official that compels rich people to want to give him gifts? Do they look needy? Hungry? Depressed? Is there a secret gift registry of which I’m unaware? Could it be a mentoring program where plutocrats adopt a middle–class governor or attorney general and show them how capitalism has paid off? Sort of a rescue program except no Labradors are involved?

Any of those reasons are an improvement over the suspicions of my wife. She believes the gifts are given because the recipients hold high public office and it might come in handy for a rich person to have a governor or attorney general in their pocket. So she is disappointed in Ken Cuccinelli. Again. And that goes for me, too.

For those of you who don’t follow Virginia politics, Ken Cuccinelli is the Tea Party–backed Republican attorney general who filed the first court case against Obamacare. He also fought the EPA on job–killing regulations. And the AG filed a Freedom of Information Act request to get the papers “global warming” guru Michael Mann used to get grants while he was at the University of Virginia.

I was first disappointed in Cuccinelli when he broke a promise to serve two terms as AG and not run for governor after his first. Details are here. Now Cuccinelli and Gov. Bob McDonnell are enmeshed within a gift controversy brought on in large part by McDonnell’s failure to use his head and Cuccinelli’s failure to use his ballpoint.

The nexus of the scandal is Jonnie R. Williams, Sr. who runs Star Scientific, a former cigarette company that has progressed from selling cancer to marketing Anatabloc a nutritional supplement made from a substance found in tobacco. Anatabloc is used to fight inflammation and its also contained in facial cream where it may help to remove wrinkles caused by smoking.

Williams is a new BFF that both Cuccinelli and McDonnell have known for about five years. (Hmmm that’s just about the time they’ve been in office, but it must surely be a coincidence.) Williams gave $15,000 to McDonnell’s daughter so she could pay the ‘Let ‘em Eat Cake’ catering bill at her wedding. Williams has also given the family free use of his vacation home at Smith Mountain Lake and let the governor drive his Ferrari back to Richmond from that same vacation spread in Western Virginia. All told William’s publicly disclosed gifts to McDonnell and his political action committee come to over $120,000.

And it’s all perfectly legal. I just hope the wedding catering smelled better than the rest of the gifts. In fact, the catering started the scandal ball rolling, because McDonnell didn’t declare the gift, since it went to his daughter. I mean, what’s out of the ordinary about some BFF you’ve known since 2009 dropping 15 gees on your daughter’s wedding? It sure beats a blender.

Now FBI agents are investigating the relationship between the governor, his wife Maureen (who has promoted Anatabloc) and Williams to see if there was a quid pro quo.

Once the media started following the foie gras the trail led to Cuccinelli. He hasn’t had any weddings recently — although with a brood his size it’s only a matter of time — but he did invest in Star Scientific stock after meeting Williams. I’m sure he thought it was a great opportunity. Lance Armstrong and Barry Bonds had such great success with dietary supplements, what could possibly go wrong?

Cuccinelli also stayed at the Smith Mountain vacation home twice, accepted $6,700 worth of Anatabloc, took a flight to New York, borrowed Williams’ boat, took a trip to Kentucky, stayed at Williams’ house near Richmond, ate a Williams’ provided turkey dinner and was surprised to discover he owned over $10,000 in Star Scientific stock.

Many of these gifts and the stock were not reported promptly on disclosure forms. It’s appears Cuccinelli is a lawyer, but he’s not good with details and paperwork.

The worst part of this mess is that none of it had to happen. Conservatives were convinced Cuccinelli was different. He wouldn’t fall prey to the pitfalls of influence and influencers. But he did. And because he did, Cuccinelli is dealing with a campaign issue that never should have happened and one that sullies his reputation for ethics and honesty.

Delusional Democrats are fantasizing that the controversy may force McDonnell to resign. This is very unlikely, not the least because the events don’t rise to the level of a major scandal. But if McDonnell did resign, it would restore a disenchanted Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling’s faith in Providence. At the stroke of a pen Bolling would get to be governor without running a primary campaign, and even better he would be governor before Ken Cuccinelli!

Meanwhile I have some practical gift receiving advice for Cuccinelli and other conservative politicians who — I hope — don’t want to lose touch with the Americans that elected them:

  1. Don’t take a gift from any ‘friend’ you made after you left high school unless it comes with a receipt, preferably from Wal–Mart.
  2. Don’t buy stock in a ‘friend’s’ hot company if you didn’t know him in high school.
  3. Even if you knew him in high school, don’t take any gifts from a company with ‘science’ in the name that isn’t run by someone in a lab coat.
  4. Don’t take a gift from any ‘friend’ who owns a company that the SEC, FEC, IRS, FDA or the PTA is investigating.
  5. Don’t hitch a ride on an airplane, yacht or submarine owned by a stranger you met after high school, unless you all chip in for gas.
  6. Don’t accept free vacation housing from a ‘friend’ you met after high school, unless it’s a tent.
  7. Don’t offer to valet park a ‘friend’s’ Ferrari if you have to drive it more than 200 yards.