Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Richmond Times Dispatch Column: Cuccinelli’s Damage Control Too Little, Too Late

I must confess that there is some sweet satisfaction watching Ken Cuccinelli twist on the rope created by his own greed, arrogance and unethical conduct.  As noted yesterday, he has belatedly tried to quell "Gift Gate" issues that may yet force Bob McDonnell from office by donating $18,000 - the supposed value of the gifts Cuccinelli received from McDonnell's benefactor - to a Richmond charity.  However, Cuccinelli has done nothing in respect to the $140,000 he received from Consol Energy and its affiliates in what would seem to be exchange for the Attorney General's office assisting energy companies in private, civil litigation with Virginia landowners.  A coulm in the Richmond Times Dispatch looks at Cuccinelli's lame efforts.  Here are excerpts:

Ken Cuccinelli thinks he’s found a way to unring the bell.

Gambling he can start talking about issues other than himself, the Republican nominee for governor announced Tuesday that he is donating to charity $18,000 — roughly the value of controversial gifts and goodies from Jonnie Williams Sr., the rich political uncle Cuccinelli and Bob McDonnell now wish they never had.

As an exercise in damage control, it could prove too little, too late.

Republicans tried waving off Giftgate as trite and insignificant when it exploded in late March. Nearly six months later, the scandal is wrecking McDonnell’s governorship and threatens to prevent Cuccinelli’s.

Pleading poverty, Cuccinelli said in July that he could not reimburse Williams for his beneficence.
“There are some bells you can’t unring,” Cuccinelli said two months ago.  But having had his bell rung in public-opinion polls that suggest voters view him as untrustworthy and unlikeable, Cuccinelli came up with 18 large for CrossOver Ministry, a health clinic for Richmond’s poor. The money was scrounged, his campaign said, from Cuccinelli’s accounts and those of his wife and their family.
End of discussion?  Not likely.

In the remaining eight weeks of this campaign, Cuccinelli must still explain how and why he allowed himself and his current office — the attorney generalship — to become ensnared in this ethical tangle in the first place. Such questions are kept alive not only by the cash-fueled Democratic noise machine, but also by two investigations into McDonnell and his knotty relationship with Williams.

As if that’s not enough, there is the growing phalanx of private lawyers — paid at growing expense to taxpayers — hired to defend McDonnell, the staff of the governor’s office and other state employees in Giftgate and related matters because Cuccinelli, as attorney general, can’t. That’s because Cuccinelli has a conflict of interest. . . . The bill for all those lawyers, so far, is nearly $250,000.

As if that’s not enough, there are two other private lawyers — one a former attorney general; the other, a former solicitor general, both Republicans and partners in the same firm — representing the state in its continuing fight with Star Scientific over $2.2 million in unpaid taxes and penalties on company warehouses in Mecklenburg County. . . .  they’re handling the case is a consequence of yet another Cuccinelli conflict of interest. He quit the case because of his stake in Star Scientific. Cuccinelli owned shares in the firm at the same time he was pressing it to pay its tax bill. He ultimately sold his shares at a loss.

Cuccinelli might have avoided all of this with one simple step he stubbornly insisted he would not take: resign as attorney general, freeing him from many of the constraints of a lawyer; freeing him to be a candidate.

How Cuccinelli disclosed his attempted game-changer shows that the candidate has largely lost control of his message.   Cuccinelli announced it by attempting to bypass the news media, issuing a video news release . . . 

It's a mess of Cuccinelli's own creation due to greed and arrogance.  And the column doesn't even get into the Consol Energy fiasco.

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