Due to the weather, some customers may experience late delivery of The Roanoke Times. We apologize for the delay.
Bolling says gifts scandal hurts the GOP this fall. Both parties will look bad if they fail to fix flimsy laws.
Thursday, August 29, 2013
When Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling dropped his bid for the Republican gubernatorial nomination late last year, he said he would have the freedom to speak with a more independent voice on the issues of the day. Bolling has exercised that freedom with regularity this year, causing some of his GOP friends to gnash their teeth.
Bolling spoke out again in a recent interview with Real Clear Politics, addressing the gifts scandal that dogs Gov. Bob McDonnell and clouds the election to choose his successor. Bolling didn’t miss a chance to point out that Republican gubernatorial nominee Ken Cuccinelli also has ties to Star Scientific CEO Jonnie Williams, the figure at the center of the McDonnell gifts probe.
“It just makes Republicans look bad, and it reminds voters that Mr. Cuccinelli has his own Star Scientific problems,” Bolling said, referring to gifts the attorney general received from Williams and company stock that Cuccinelli purchased and later sold.
The gifts scandal indeed has stained McDonnell’s legacy and may, as Bolling suggests, be a millstone that weighs down Cuccinelli and Republicans this fall. But when the election is over, both parties will share the responsibility of reforming Virginia’s toothless government ethics laws.
The laws have created a presumption of permissiveness that McDonnell clings to even as he acknowledges the embarrassment caused by his dealings with Williams. Lawmakers in both parties have contributed to this culture by doing little to curb the influence of special interests that come bearing gifts and campaign donations. They pride themselves on disclosure, but leave loopholes big enough to drive Jonnie Williams’ Range Rover through.
Bolling is among those who have proposed ethics reforms for the 2014 General Assembly session. Earlier this month, he called for a ban on gifts exceeding $250 to elected officials and dependent family members, enhanced disclosure requirements, a ban on personal use of campaign funds and the creation of a state ethics commission.
Bolling leaves office in January, so he won’t have a say in the debate next year. But his proposals deserve serious discussion by the General Assembly. If lawmakers and Virginia’s next governor fail to pass major ethics reforms after this season of scandal, they would all look bad.
Here’s betting Bolling would remind us of that.
Weather JournalMidday update: More ice likely later