Periodically, the same contentious argument breaks out on Ethics Alarms after I assert my position that voters should support the candidate who is the most honest and trustworthy–the one with the most ethical character—regardless of his or her policy positions. My argument is bolstered when someone like Anthony Weiner—and fortunately there aren’t many candidates like him— runs for office on the extreme opposite concept, that even demonstrably horrible character and dubious trustworthiness are irrelevant as long as a candidate holds the right policy views. He was just clobbered in his quest for NY mayor, getting just 5% of the vote, every one of them cast by a lunatic, porn star, mental defective or ethics dunce. I doubt that his wife voted for him. Client #9. Eliot Spitzer, also lost in his race for Controller…and he is like Weiner.
My position is shaken when faced with a fiasco like Virginia governor’s race, where a proven huckster, Terry McAuliffe, is carrying the Democratic banner and Ken Cuccinelli is the Republican choice. (I live in Virginia.) That McAuliffe is corrupt to the core, like his pals, the Clintons, there is no doubt. He is pure Machiavelli, and worse, he is gleeful about it, like his pal Bill, but without the charisma. I learned all I needed to about McAuliffe’s character when I learned that he tried to bribe Ralph Nader to drop out of the 2000 Presidential race, but that was hardly the only evidence. Virginia Democrats disgraced themselves by nominating him. I wrote about his public dissembling here and here; I didn’t even go into his dubious financial dealings andthe strange way —well, if you think cronyism is strange— he got rich investing in Global Crossing—as I said, the sliminess of his character has never been in doubt.
Cuccinelli, however, is worse: he’s just unethical in different ways. Take, for example, the latest example: today the Washington Post reported that the Virginia Attorney General, Cuccinelli,will be giving a Richmond-based charity more than $18,000 to make up for the value of gifts he received from the same Star Scientific executive whose much larger presents to Gov. Robert F. McDonnell and his family are the focus of two investigations. You can read about Gov. McDonnell’s acceptance of the bribes from Jonnie R. Williams Sr. here; also here. The fact that the same executive also just happened to give $18,000 to the state’s AG while he was plying the governor with goodies should convince even the most naive and brain-shrunken that something corrupt was afoot. Mr. Williams was buying himself a state.
“I made the decision to send the check because it’s the right thing to do, plain and simple,” Cuccinelli told the Post. It’s NOT the right thing to do. It’s a deceptive thing to do, and and a misleading thing to do. You can’t unring the bell, as lawyers say, with a bribe. The mere offer of a bribe is corrupting and creates a conflict unless it is reported immediately, and dealt with in other ways, like recusals. Once a bribe is accepted, even if it slips through loopholes, like those in Virginia’s laughable ethics rules, it is corruption. Giving your bribe to a charity Cuccinelli might have chosen to give his own money to is still enrichment to Cuccinelli. He accepted the money—wrong—he didn’t report it—wrong—he kept it for months—wrong—and now he gives it to an organization that will say “thank-you” to him. WRONG!!! Cuccinelli can’t undo this blatantly unethical conduct. The closest he could come would be to donate the money to environmentalists or a pro-abortion group, or maybe Terry McAuliffe’s campaign, all of which he reviles more or less equally.
The charity dodge is a common and cynical one. One of Bill Clinton’s cabinet members used it when the Clinton gang was influence peddling to foreign lobbyists–this was among the scandals blotted out by Monica. If Cuccinelli doesn’t know that such a gift does nothing to cleanse the conflict of interest created by accepting inappropriate gifts, he’s unqualified to be governor. If he does know, that means he’s a liar.
So who do I vote for? McAuliffe?
A write-in vote for my dog looks really good right now.
Facts: Washington Post