Tag Archives: Gov. Bob McDonnell

There’s No Such Thing as a Slight Sense of Entitlement

BOOST: Breakfast of Virginia's champion.

BOOST: Breakfast of Virginia’s champion.

We’ve all seen photos of Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell. Particularly last year when he was being mentioned as a possible vice presidential pick on the Romney ticket. He would be beaming, with a large, toothy smile, looking well groomed and squeaky clean. And no wonder, this wholesome image was the product of a group effort, since the governor relies on Virginia taxpayers to keep him smelling fresh.

According to Laura Vozzella in the Washington Post, the McDonnell family has used its government–supplied credit card much like the GSA uses its card. Billing the taxpayers for “body wash, sunscreen, dog vitamins and a digestive system detox cleanse.”*

It takes a man with high self–esteem to bill the taxpayer for his weekly dose of Colon Blow, knowing the information is only an FOIA request from the public domain, to say nothing of opposition researchers. But at the same time it’s comforting to know there are no blockages, legislative or otherwise in the governor’s mansion.

And really, who wants a first family with that bloated feeling?

Virginia’s governor is the fifth–best paid in the country, earning $175,000 a year in addition to a “free mansion, food, personal chef, maids and one of nation’s few state-funded butlers,” so it’s somewhat startling to learn our governor is only a taxpayer–funded credit card purchase away from offending.

McDonnell makes almost three times the median income in Virginia ($63,302 a year) yet still expects the rednecks to spring for his body wash. I suppose it would reflect poorly on the state as a whole if none of the other governors wanted to stand next to him in a group photo, but I draw the line at raising his kids, too.

The McDonnells “used state employees to run personal errands for their adult children. In the middle of a workday, for example, a staffer retrieved Rachel McDonnell’s newly hemmed pants at a tailoring shop nine miles from the governor’s mansion. Another time, a state worker was dispatched to a dry cleaner 20 miles away to pick up a storage box for Cailin McDonnell’s wedding dress.”

Maybe it’s just me but I thought it was illegal for someone too young to have her own driver’s license to get married in Virginia, so Cailin ought to be able to get her own wedding dress. On the other hand, taxpayers should feel grateful they only had to cover the gas and employee time for the wedding. Jonnie R. Williams Sr. — who became the governor’s new BFF shortly after the inauguration — had to pony up $15,000.00 to cover the wedding’s catering bill.

The taxpayer’s incidentals tab also included “dry-cleaning the twin sons’ suits and shirts, repairing the first lady’s shoes and putting new shoulder pads into an item of her clothing. The McDonnells billed their energy drinks, body wash, deodorant and breath-freshening strips to the state as well.”

Six months into the governor’s first and only term a state employee not intimidated by the first family’s remarkably fresh breath and bouncy attitude attempted to reign in the credit card spree. She pointed out the McDonnells should use some of their 175,000 simoleons to buy their own deodorant, shoe repairs and children’s dry–cleaning. Taxpayers also should not be on the hook for clothing alterations, dry-cleaning for other family members, deodorant or body wash, pet food or treats, or food for non-family meals or non-state functions.

What the state will pay for is bad enough. The memo is very specific and one wonders why it took an auditor to point this out to the first family. Dry-cleaning for the governor and first lady is covered and “toilet paper, mouthwash, bar soap.” Which seems reasonable, I don’t begrudge tourists the use of toilet paper and soap in our highway rest stops, so stocking those supplies in the governor’s mansion makes sense. The same goes for cleaning supplies to keep the mansion spiffy and food in the kitchen for functions of state and family meals.

But the admonition didn’t take. “The McDonnells have continued to let taxpayers pick up the tab for numerous personal items, including vitamins, nasal spray and sleep-inducing elixirs.” “Sleep–inducing elixirs” sounds a lot like booze to me, but maybe it was Nyquil.

And to prove there is no such thing as a slight sense of entitlement, the governor argued that taxpayers should be paying for his energy drinks. His chief of staff, Martin Kent overruled the auditors and declared with some umbrage that, “While other governors and spouses may have had bacon and eggs, or cereal, or etc for breakfast, Governor McDonnell drinks Boost every morning, and the First Lady has a 5-Hour energy and/or a Boost. That is their breakfast. And that is why those items are covered, just like breakfast is covered for EVERY Governor and First Lady.”

I don’t know about you, but just reading that reminds me of one of those awkward times where I’m an unwilling witness to an argument between a Wal–Mart cashier and a SNAP program participant who’s arguing that Twizzlers and YooHoo should be covered by food stamps.

It’s easy for conservatives to be uncharitable when thinking about welfare recipients and wonder why don’t they have a little pride and get a job? But the same question is applicable here: You’re making $175,000 a year with a free house, maid and transportation yet you quibble about paying for your own energy drink?

In 2011 McDonnell made a good speech at the CPAC conference where he described what an honor it was to work in the same office once occupied by Thomas Jefferson.  Something tells me no future Virginia governor will publically discuss what an honor it is to have breakfast in the same kitchen where Bob McDonnell chugged his morning Boost.

*(Note: any material in quotes, and not otherwise attributed, comes from Ms. Vozella’s excellent reporting.)

Two Wrongs ≠ A Right

GOP becoming extinct

gop-extinct ObamaIt pains me to criticize Republicans acting aggressively on their own behalf, because lately it’s been rare. Sometimes it appears national GOP leadership would be content to emulate the panda and sit contentedly munching bamboo shoots in a special preserve where one is protected from predators and challengers alike.

There is some indignity involved when the media pokes and prods you with questions regarding your sex life. And it is disquieting knowing the Chinese own you body and soul. But in its entirety the situation would not be all that different from that of the debt–ridden USA.

Besides, once a species is practically extinct trend–setters put your face on cool coffee mugs and fashionable people throw parties on your behalf. Unfortunately, we already have the panda so there is little room for Republicans in the National Zoo. Still our “leadership” continues this death–wish behavior.

But consistency and intellectual honesty compel me to take aggressive Virginia Senate Republicans to task for the redistricting ambush they sprang on Democrats last week.

You may recall the Virginia Senate is evenly split: 20 Republican members and 20 Spendacrats, with Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling there to break any ties. A minor GOP House redistricting bill had been languishing in committee for some time. Although not exactly in a persistent vegetative state, the bill wasn’t at the top of anyone’s legislative agenda. But that was before Sen. Majority Leader Thomas K. Norment Jr. (R–The Re–Animator) went to work.

The bill metamorphosed from an innocuous housekeeping bill into a Pearl Harbor equivalent all out attack on Senate Dems.

The bill concentrates minority voters in a new Southside district and alters almost all other Senate district lines. According to Dems interviewed by the WaPost, the new lines would make eight districts distinctly more Republican — and since six of the seats are currently held by Dems — the new lines have the potential to result in significant GOP gains in November’s election.

As an added bonus, the bill puts two incumbents — R. Creigh Deeds (D–Lost My Race for Gov) and Emmett W. Hanger Jr. (R–Who Did I Anger?) in the same district where only one will survive.

Norment knew he could not depend on Bolling to break a tie on the new bill, because the Big Bill has been acting squishy lately. So the majority leader had the legislation waiting in the weeds until Sen. Henry L Marsh III (D–I was 3 before RGIII) left Richmond to attend the Dear Leader’s celebration.

With Marsh absent, the bill passed 20 to 19.

WaPost editorialists set their vituperators on ‘stun’ and described the event thusly, “The Republican move was executed in the style of a putsch, arising from a conspiracy and with no warning, public input or debate. “ Which sounds suspiciously like the regulation writing process at EPA and is reason enough to oppose the effort.

They continued, “Unlike the GOP dominated House of Delegates, the Senate has been in Democratic (sic) hands or closely divided since 2007. The Republican gerrymander, which could deliver several seats to the GOP, would change that at a stroke.”

What the WaPost doesn’t say is the former redistricting bill, authored by Dems, is also grossly gerrymandered and designed to protect Dem incumbents. For example, Prince William County — where I live — in the words of County Executive Corey Stewart, is “carved up like a Christmas Turkey.” The third most populous county in the state doesn’t even have its own senator. Instead it is split between five different Senate districts, which only serves to dilute PWC influence.

Needless to say, Dems are outraged and they have a point. Using a temporary political advantage to ram an extremely controversial bill through a legislative body is bad long–term policy. It was bad when Obama rammed Obamacare through a lame duck Senate before Republican Scott Brown was sworn in. It will be bad policy if US Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D–Prevaricate) violates established Senate rules to change the filibuster procedure and punish Republicans.

And it’s bad policy in Richmond.

What’s more, the repercussions threaten to put a Saslaw–sized Jersey barrier in front of Gov. Bob McDonnell’s transportation plan. After the redistricting bill was passed, Senate Minority Leader Dick Saslaw (D–Hoppin’ Mad) said the governor’s transportation bill was dead and so was any hope of cooperation from Senate Dems.

And here is the trilemma: if McDonnell vetoes the bill it makes Senate Dems happy, while at the same time offending Senate Republican leadership. If the governor could depend on every GOP Senator to vote for his transportation bill, he could hold his nose and sign the redistricting bill. But unanimous GOP support is not a given. On the other hand, vetoing the bill could mean his transportation plan never gets out of committee in the Senate.

There is a third way that doesn’t put the governor on the spot and still gives the redistricting bill a decent Christian burial. Saslaw and Speaker Bill Howell (R–In the Driver’s Seat) could work out a behind–the–scenes deal where the bill is killed in the House in return for Saslaw guaranteeing Senate Dem votes for the transportation plan that Howell is sponsoring in the House. But then again, if the House kills the Senate’s bill, angry GOP senators may take revenge by killing pet projects of House members.

I won’t shed any tears for the demise of the governor’s transportation plan for reasons outlined here, but the Commonwealth is in need of a good transportation program. The Senate’s redistricting bill is an unnecessary complication that may thwart that goal and makes Republicans look unethical.

It’s times like these that the governor should be glad Virginia is still in the liquor business.

VA Gov. McDonnell Suffering from Legacy Fever

VA Gov. Bob McDonnell does not see any reason why a comprehensive transportation package should not include corduroy roads.
VA Gov. Bob McDonnell does not see any reason why a comprehensive transportation package should not include corduroy roads.

VA Gov. Bob McDonnell does not see any reason why a comprehensive transportation package should not include corduroy roads.

Judging from Gov. Bob McDonnell preoccupation with liquids one would almost think he’s a naval man, rather than an Army reservist. First he tried to free demon rum from state control by privatizing Virginia’s liquor stores.

ABC privatization was DOA even with a Republican House of Delegates for reasons outlined here. Now Gov Bob is intent on reinforcing failure with his latest proposal to free gasoline from Virginia’s fuel tax.

Doesn’t the governor realize that as far as legacies go drinking and driving don’t mix?

Initiatives like these are the result of a severe case of legacy fever — a condition characterized by a politician’s feverish attempt to pass a law voters will remember after their term ends. Symptoms include policy delirium, proposal vomiting and head–count headaches.

Legacy fever doesn’t confine its damage to the infected politician. Visible scars include Obamacare, No Child Left Behind and The Great Society.

This is the last session of the legislature for McDonnell. And unless he wants to be smeared as “Gov. Ultrasound” for all time, he must convince the House and Senate to pass a major legislative proposal.

McDonnell wants his legacy to be a major transportation package that will inject $3.2 billion into Virginia’s transportation fund and give the Commonwealth enough money to both build and repair roads — a twofer that’s been missing in recent years.

The governor’s proposal eliminates the tax on gasoline, increases vehicle registration fees by $15, raises the sales tax by 0.8 percent, increases the portion of sales tax revenue dedicated to transportation by 50 percent and slaps a $100 fee on pretentious alternative fuel vehicles that burn French fry oil mixed with taxpayer subsidies.

In addition, Gov Bob is hoping for some kindness from strangers in DC. Part of the money comes from a tax he hopes Congress will authorize on internet sales, meaning those lazy shop–at–homers (who by the way aren’t cluttering up the roads) will be paying sales tax AND shipping on their purchases.

Unless additional money is found the fund for new construction will be completely empty by 2017 as every last penny goes to maintenance on roads already built.

Fortunately there is a simple solution to this problem. First index the state’s gas tax to inflation, since it has not been increased in 27 years. Then the increase from the gas tax should be offset by a decrease in the income tax making the result revenue neutral.

This also has the advantage of being the responsible conservative solution since people who buy gas tend to burn it on highways, in effect making it a user tax paid by those using the roads.

Unfortunately, we have a legislature dominated by irresponsible conservatives that refuse to raise any tax, regardless of need or justification. Grover Norquist speaks for them when he issued a fatwa against raising the gas tax ruling that voting in favor of indexing violates the No Tax Pledge.

Instead, Norquist says plenty of money for roads can be found by cutting spending in other areas of the budget. This is the policy equivalent of saying, “God bless you” after a sneeze. It does nothing to prevent the spread of germs but gives the speaker a benevolent glow without spending any time in theology school.

If it were possible to cut spending elsewhere to fund roads, it would have been done before now. The potholes you dodge and the gridlock you endure proves this is easier said than done.

McDonnell is obviously appreciates the value of a revenue neutral bill, but removing the tax from gasoline is a ham–handed attempt and profoundly unconservative. It means out of state drivers — which constitute 30 percent of the traffic on Virginia roads — pay nothing for the use of Virginia roads. In effect Virginia taxpayers will be subsidizing the beach traffic jamming our highways on summer weekends.

Transportation is a core government function, and if Gov Bob was certain Republicans would be in charge of government from now on, funding roads from the general fund might be marginally acceptable. But there is no guarantee Virginia voters won’t lose their mind and put Democrats back in charge.

Once you mingle transportation money with the rest of the general fund, it means that money is no longer earmarked for roads. Democrats have no problem raiding the transportation trust fund to spend on their social justice priorities, and they have done it in the past. Tinkering with the percentage of the sales tax that goes to roads will be child’s play for them.

On the other hand, when Republicans want to reverse the process and use general fund money on roads, the likes of Majority Leader Dick Saslaw (D–Spending) will accuse you of wanting to boil school children in asphalt.

My suggestion is the GOP leadership put a cold compress on the governor’s forehead and urge him to lie down in a darkened caucus room. Meanwhile, they can put all their efforts behind a transportation solution like mine that has the twin virtues of being both simple and conservative.

The Inverse Political Ratio Between National Prominence and Life.

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When Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell ran in 2009 the Washington Post spent the campaign trying to persuade the FTC to penalize him for false advertising since his campaign was not built around social issues.

Any time a “conservative Republican,” does not make the three A’s (abortion, abstinence & alternative lifestyles) the centerpiece of his campaign; the Posties are convinced he’s misleading voters.

McDonnell didn’t have to discuss social issues because at that time conservative Virginia felt he was solid on those points. Instead, McDonnell focused on jobs and economic development.

(For what happens during a campaign when the base no longer trusts the candidate see Obama 2012.)

Now social conservatives may have to re–evaluate McDonnell. In sharp contrast to Gov. Scott Walker (R–WI) who remained conservative during nationwide controversy, McDonnell appears to be avoiding controversy at the expense of his commitment to social conservatives. Initially in hopes of becoming the Romney VP pick, now for a spot in the administration.

The differing outcomes of June’s three controversies illustrate my point.

The Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority controls construction of Metro’s Silver Line rail route to Dulles Airport. MWAA has an appointed board of directors, but only a minority is appointed by Virginia’s governor. And only one of the Virginia appointees was McDonnell’s, the other three having been appointed by his Democrat predecessor.

The board initially required a Project Labor Agreement (PLA) specifying only union contractors — or contractors paying union wages with union work rules — could bid on Phase II of the Silver Line.

McDonnell and the legislature objected and the board responded by giving construction firms with a “voluntary” PLA a higher rating during bid evaluation.

McDonnell forcefully responded by reiterating no additional Virginia taxpayer dollars would be forthcoming unless the PLA was eliminated. Then he took advantage of a recently passed federal law and made two new appointments to the MWAA board, even though the existing board refused to seat them.

McDonnell did not budge an inch during the controversy even though there was a danger Phase II would never be built. The MWAA board finally decided completing the line was more important than scratching union backs and it eliminated the PLA requirement.

The governor decisively employed financial and public pressure to bend the board to his will and score a victory for Virginia taxpayers.

The second example is the firing of the University of Virginia’s first female president, Teresa Sullivan, on June 10th.

Rector Helen Dragas, a McDonnell appointee, lobbied other members of the Board of Visitors until she had enough votes to fire Sullivan. Then Dragas confronted Sullivan with the tally and demanded her resignation, without doing so at a formal board meeting.

Although legal, the maneuvering ruffled more than one set of university feathers and it lacked the transparency and ritual hand–wringing demanded of most academic decisions.

Uproar ensued. There were board resignations, “superstar” professors threatened to leave and large donors put a clamp on their wallets.

McDonnell had no role in the ouster and was out of the country when it happened, but the bad publicity was on his watch. Twelve days later he delivered an ultimatum: if the board did not make a final decision on Sullivan by Tuesday the 26th, McDonnell would demand the entire board’s resignation on Wednesday the 27th.

The Board reinstated Sullivan. McDonnell again was decisive and swift.

Compare those two instances with the third. In 2011 McDonnell signed a bill regulating abortion clinics the same way out–patient surgical centers are regulated. This resulted in two outcomes: first veterinary clinics no longer had more regulations than abortion clinics. And second, Democrats finally discovered a small business burdened by unnecessary regulation.

Step two was implementation by the Virginia Board of Health — completely dominated by McDonnell appointees. But McDonnell’s board voted to grandfather existing abortion mills, exempting them and effectively gutting the new law. The decision surprised abortion cheerleaders and stunned pro–life advocates.

Representatives from the Attorney General’s office advised the board it was improper to amend a law passed by the General Assembly, but the board refused to change its decision.

So what did the governor do when his board acted willfully, shocked his pro–life base and affronted the General Assembly? He did nothing. His spokesman said, ““The governor will review the final regulations when the board submits them for his review.”

It’s now over two months later and the governor is evidently “reviewing” up a storm. This gains him nothing from abortion promoters, who will never support him, and erodes the trust of the life community. The delay only serves to avoid MSM negative publicity.

I’m sorry to say it’s difficult to avoid the conclusion Gov. McDonnell is proving to be another Republican who “grows in office” but not in stature.

Hell to the Redskins

The Green Bay Packers are renovating Lambeau Field without spending a dime of taxpayer dollars.

The Green Bay Packers are renovating Lambeau Field without spending a dime of taxpayer dollars.

When compared to the $498 million fleecing Minnesota taxpayers just endured, the $6.4 million Virginia taxpayers will be spending — thanks to Republican Governor Bob McDonnell — on improvements to the Redskins’ training facilities looks like small potatoes.

Regardless of size, both the Vikings’ new stadium and the Redskins “deal” feature the same credulous acceptance of imaginary threats, insider dealing and Babbitt boosterism that undermines the democratic process and contributes to voter alienation.

In Minnesota Democrat Gov. Mark Dayton and NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell used the threat of a Vikings move to California to put pressure on legislators. In Virginia you’d have thought Irsay Moving & Storage had trucks idling in the parking lot, ready to whisk the Redskins away if the state didn’t pony up to renovate facilities that supposedly didn’t compare with other NFL franchises.

Why do politicians fall for this horse hockey? I’ve heard better rationalizations from my teenagers. Evidently Minnesota politicians haven’t been keeping up with demographic trends. In LA they do like football, only it’s spelled “Fútbol” and they don’t wear helmets. Besides, LA used to have an NFL team, but it moved and the city survived.

The Redskins organization isn’t moving because it has over 15 years left on the FedEx Field lease. But what about team headquarters and practice facilities? What are the alternatives?

There’s Maryland, where the income tax rate is 55 percent higher than Virginia’s, and Prince Georges County where the last county executive is in prison. A higher tax climate and a lower ethical climate, what’s not to like?

Don’t forget the District. Its income tax rate is also 55 percent higher and two council members have been convicted of crimes in the past year. But DC is also the home of Councilman Mary Cheh (D–I Know What’s Best) the woman who intends to mandate the color of DC taxicabs.

There is also the “Native American” question that’s always on the fringes of Redskin Nation. In Massachusetts we have Democrat Elizabeth Warren who’s running for the US Senate and claiming to be 1/32nd Cherokee because she has high cheekbones. I don’t suppose it has escaped the notice of Redskins brain trust that the first three letters of Commissar Mary’s last name are also the first three letters of “Cherokee,” making her last name three–quarters Indian. How long do they think the team will be based in DC before Ms. Cheh decides the nickname “Redskins” is racist?

There is a better chance the US Park Service move the burial location of Gen. Thomas J. Jackson’s left arm, than there is of the ‘Skins moving in this decade.

Then there’s the backroom element of these travesties. In Minnesota the legislature essentially overturned a 1997 Minneapolis ordinance requiring a referendum if the city agreed to spend more than $10 million on a professional sports facility. They rightfully assumed city voters would take a dim view of throwing money at out–of–state sports plutocrats. Republican members in the House of Delegates also felt Virginia taxpayers would take a dim view of giving tax dollars to out–of–state sports plutocrats. They twice told Gov. McDonnell the House would not approve spending the money.

This put the governor in a box. Dwight Schar is a minority owner of the Redskins and since 2009 has contributed $165,000 to McDonnell and his political organization. This kind of money gets your phone calls returned. One has to assume Schar was interested in enlisting the governor’s help. McDonnell could have told Dwight that he tried twice with the legislature and was rebuffed, but he would continue to help with Richmond and Loudoun County.

But no, the governor decided to channel his inner Obama and do it by executive order (eliminating McDonnell as a surrogate Romney speaker when it comes to attacking Obama for his Imperial Presidency). The administration justified the use of “economic development” funds by claiming it means “more jobs and increased revenue for Virginia.”

Statistics bandied about by ‘Skins boosters claim the team supports 1,832 jobs “directly and indirectly” and generates “nearly $200 million in economic activity.” These numbers sound suspiciously like the Keynesian multiplier figures used for Obama’s government spending that has brought so much prosperity to us all.

An “investment” generates a return; this money is a subsidy that will not result in anything the state does not already have. Virginia’s low taxes and business climate should have been all the incentive the team needed, unless it suffers from Buffett’s disease.

Thanks to Gov. McDonnell’s leadership, an business that wasn’t going anywhere in the first place has decided to stay. A team that is named after Washington, D.C. and plays its games in Maryland will continue to wash its jocks in Old Virginny.