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Blue The Nation | August 30, 2014

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Virginia Republicans Scandal-ing Away Their Power

Virginia Republicans Scandal-ing Away Their Power
Jonathan Nathan

Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell is embroiled in a scandal, but unlike the ones being kicked around Washington, this one seems to actually have some substance to it. The good Governor, a moderate Republican, has apparently been taking hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of undeclared “gifts” and “loans you never pay back” from a dude named Jonnie Williams, who is apparently not the alternate-disco-universe of the guy who wrote the Star Wars music.

It’s an election year in Virginia, but that doesn’t mean McDonnell himself will be damaged by the scandal. That’s because Governors in Virginia can’t run for consecutive terms. As a result, extremist Tea Party Republican and state Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli is the Republican standard-bearer in the election. Cuccinelli is trying to distance himself from McDonnell, and has been for months, because they really don’t agree on much. McDonnell’s one of those guys who’s basically a Republican because he threw a dart at a board and that’s where it landed. Cuccinelli is an insane person.

But now, because of the scandal, Cuccinelli has even more of a reason to put some space between himself and the Governor. Unfortunately for him, it’s the scandal itself which will make doing so more difficult. That’s because Cuccinelli also has close ties to Williams. He’s gotten all-expenses paid vacations and free airplane flights, and has invested over ten grand in Williams’ company.

Now, of course, Cuccinelli is claiming that he’s always been an opponent of Williams, which doesn’t really jibe with the fact that he’s also been forced to recuse himself from any and all state legal matters regarding the man due to a conflict of interest. The Republican is also attacking Terry McAuliffe with decades-old allegations of various shady deals, none of which ever resulted in or amounted to anything.

Conservative activists in the state are panicking. If the Democrats win the gubernatorial race, they’ll control the state Senate, and the coattails from that race could have serious implications for the House of Delegates. McAuliffe, at this point, looks pretty well-positioned for victory, and the Democrats have been winning the public relations narrative in the state ever since the Republicans in the state Senate tried to hijack state elections. It’s looking like a good time to be a Virginia Democrat.