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Thursday, July 25, 2013
It is difficult for me to imagine former Govs. Gerald Baliles or Linwood Holton taking a $6,000 Rolex watch, or former first lady Katherine Godwin taking an all-expense-paid shopping trip to New York City without any of them questioning the motives of the donors.
I came into Virginia government at the end of Gov. Harry F. Byrd’s dominance in Virginia politics. I admit that if you were black or some other color besides white, you were treated as if you didn’t exist. There never was, however, any question about squeaky clean government, and that includes not accepting huge gifts.
Let’s clear up certain facts. As a legislator, I accepted free meals and an occasional round of golf. For the record then, our present governor’s indiscretions are just questions of degree.
You must consider the culture surrounding the occupation.
For example, as a judge I would never let anyone buy me a meal, and it used to bug me a great deal to have to pay the Mexican border guards a little extra every time to enter their country. I accepted these rules in terms of the culture surrounding what I was doing.
Our present governor, in addition to the above-mentioned indiscretions, rents his house to an employee of Virginia who owes her job directly to him. The culture surrounding the governor’s job, now or 50 years ago, does not permit these actions.
The federal government may or may not be able to prove that there was a quid pro quo. Time will tell.
I can safely say that his actions embarrass the office he holds, and any attempt to say this conduct is and has been acceptable in Virginia for years is just plain not true.
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