Bob McDonnell discovers he's past the sell–by date
By Michael R. Shannon
web posted March 3, 2014
If you need additional proof that taking handouts creates dependency, look no further than the sad fate of former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell. McDonnell is currently under federal indictment and accused of trading government favors for money, loans and gifts from former Star Scientific chief executive Jonnie R. Williams Sr.
Williams is one of those ‘good friends' politicians seem to acquire just about the time they win an office where it's possible to dispense favors.
Federal charging papers list quite an inventory of gifts. They include a $17,000 NYC shopping trip for wife, Maureen, where the money was spent at Oscar de la Renta, Louis Vuitton and Bergdorf Goodman to buy various designer dresses and jewellery befitting a former Redskins cheerleader and current 1st lady.
Then there was $15,000 for catering at the daughter's wedding — Maureen likes round numbers — a $10,000 wedding gift to another daughter, $120,000 in no–doc loans to shore up bad vacation home investments, free family vacations at the Williams' getaway and a $6,500 Rolex watch for Bob. They even had Williams' brother, Donnie, mow their lawn and do odd jobs for free around the house. Bringing the grand total in the indictment to $165,000, not counting Donnie's sweat equity.
And all this occurred because it's so tough to make ends meet on only $175,000 a year plus free room and board.
Naturally a politician so broke he essentially functioned as the foster child of his ‘family friend' Williams is in no position to pay for his own legal defense. And Maureen is not about to settle for the tender mercies of the public defender's office, so McDonnell founded the Restoration Fund and began soliciting donations for his defense.
The fund's chairman, Stanley Baldwin, told the Washington Post the ‘Restorers' (not to be confused with Donnie Williams) are "long time admirers of Gov. McDonnell and his outstanding performance as Virginia's chief executive."
Evidently it's a dwindling band. During all of 2013 the fund raised a total of $11,400. Of course if McDonnell mooched off the rest of his friends the way he milked Williams, it's no surprise he's only raising bake sale money for his defense fund.
Another variable at work is the hard and fast reality of the political sell–by date, which causes ‘good family friends' to become scarce just when one needs them the most. During McDonnell's campaign, when he was still fresh and, like milk, passed the smell test, J. Douglas Perry — co–founder Dollar Tree stores — gave $75,000. Perry's contribution to McDonnell's legal defense fund after he left office was only $2,500, which is quite a discount rate.
To put that $11,400 in perspective, the average billing rate for a high–powered DC law firm is $662/hour. Even if Bob grabs the entire treasury, he can only buy 17 hours of legal time and you can't plead guilty for that amount.
And in spite of all the tribulations their attempt to join the ranks of the nouveau riche brought upon the family, Bob and Maureen still have his–and–her lawyers. Although I wonder whose footing the bill for her defense as I hear Jonnie has blocked Maureen's cell number.
Back in the statehouse leftist Democrats see this as a perfect opportunity to expand the nanny state and pass ‘ethics' laws that increase the size of the permanent government bureaucracy. One proposal creates a state ethics advisory council — think of it as a taxpayer–paid conscience for spineless legislators — and limits gifts to a value of $250 each. Forcing future ‘family friends' to purchase their politicians on layaway.
The good news for the easily corrupted is law doesn't put a value on trips, tickets or other intangible influence peddling, so if you already have a watch it's business as usual.
The fact is Virginia's law could use an update, but it doesn't require putting a dollar amount on gifts. All that's required is for elected officials to issue monthly disclosure of any gift valued over $10, with a false filing resulting in a felony perjury charge. Those covered under the new rule should now expand to include anyone in the immediate family that receives a gift: Call it chain disclosure. And any ‘S' corporations a politician is involved in would also disclose gifts and loans.
That way voters could decide for themselves if their politician has been bought and if so, evaluate the bargain he drove. There's no need for additional bureaucracy and pettifogging rules.
This brings us to the real scandal sitting in plain sight: Dime–store political dynasties that think the office belongs to them. Democrat John Dingell is a case in point. He inherited the Congressional seat his father warmed and then served 53 years. During which Dingell was cashing countless federal paychecks, wasting tax dollars, inflicting bad ideas on the nation and enduring what appears to be at least one facelift that left him looking like a Rugby ball with a grin.
You'd think that would be enough for any family of leeches, but you would be wrong. Now wife Debbie wants her turn at the trough. She's already had an influence–peddling job with the American Automotive Policy Council, where I'm sure listing Detroit Cong. John Dingell at the top of her list of references had no impact.
Now Debbie wants the congressional seat — the media is calling this obscene power grab a "Dingell hat trick" — and she'll probably win it. The same contributors who rented John all those years like to stick with a name they can trust and the interest groups he pandered to will recognize the Dingell family brand on the ballot.
Virginia governors have to move fast if they want to cash in, because they only get a single term. The likes of Dingell and the rest of an arrogant political class get their corruption over the decades on the instalment plan and that's the real scandal no one is talking about.
Michael R. Shannon is a public relations and advertising consultant with corporate, government and political experience around the globe. He is a dynamic and entertaining keynote speaker. He can be reached at mandate.mmpr (at) gmail.com. He is also the author of the forthcoming book: "Funny Conservative" Is Not an Oxymoron. (Or any other type of moron).