On Friday, Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli shilled for George Allen in a bizarre episode of “gotcha” and truth-stretching that was so clumsy it left just about everybody rolling their eyes and asking “what was Cuccinelli thinking?”
On Monday, the irony reached new heights, when our sue-happy AG tried to help Mitt Romney squeeze away from the Bain Capital/tax return jam the putative GOP presidential nominee seems caught in.
Acting as a Romney surrogate, ‘The Cooch’ tried to change the conversation. He attacked the Obama Administration’s so-called pattern of “crony capitalism” and actually preached ethics. Ho, ho.
In doing that, The Cooch stepped into an even bigger pile. For anyone who’s been watching his act closely, it was time to hold your sides tightly and roll on the floor with laughter.
The attorney general seemed to suggest that, like Romney, Congress should also take a voluntary “I’ll-know-corruption-when-I-see-it” approach to ethics. He said that Romney might veto bills he felt had been swayed by special interests.
That’s simply priceless, coming from Cuccinelli. Because in 2009 and 2010 he was at the center of the two most obvious “pay-for-play” issues to hit the Virginia General Assembly.
Let’s do a little recapping:
In December 2008, then-Sen. Cuccinelli accepted a $1,000 campaign donation from Robert Marcus, a guy who owns The Concealed Carry Institute, a $39.95, one-hour online video handgun course.
In January 2009, Cuccinelli introduced a bill that required local courts to accept online gun “training” like the Concealed Carry Institute as proof of “handgun competence” for people seeking concealed-carry permits.
That meant you could get a concealed carry permit in Virginia even if you had never touched a handgun in your life.
It became law, and it was the most obvious “pay for play” legislation of the entire General Assembly session. It didn’t rise to the level of scandal, however. That was more like, business as usual in the Virginia General Assembly.
But Cuccinelli did not stop there. He was also at the center of the biggest General Assembly “pay-for-play” scandal of 2010. And that one was huge.
Later in 2009, while running for Attorney General, Cuccinelli accepted $55,500 in three campaign donations from a Florida con man who goes by the phony name “Bobby Thompson.”
Thompson, who is now in jail in Ohio, wanted to get a bill through the 2010 legislature that would allow his fake charity, the U.S. Navy Veterans Association, to resume scamming Virginians for millions of dollars. He was the second largest individual contributor to the attorney general’s successful 2009 campaign.
Cuccinelli later admitted personally soliciting the largest of those three donations — $50,000 — in a phone call he made to Thompson.
The flim-flam man also gave money to a handful of other Virginia lawmakers, but The Cooch raked in more than 10 times what any other Virginia pol did. In the 2010 session (by then Cuccinelli was attorney general). Thompson got his bill through, and Gov. Bob McDonnell signed it that April.
Although Cuccinelli didn’t touch that particular piece of legislation, his fingerprints were all over two other parallel bills in the 2010 session that could have helped Thompson achieve his corrupt goals.
Thompson’s sleazy ruse was exposed in The Roanoke Times in May 2010. All of the other politicians who got “Bobby Thompson” money, including McDonnell, House Speaker Bill Howell, Del. Chris Jones, and Sen. Patsy Ticer, immediately divested their campaigns of Thompson’s dirty money.
That was because, with the benefit of just a little hindsight, the game Thompson ran was as obvious as an elephant in church.
It was Cuccinelli, however who held onto his donation for Thompson far longer than any of the others. Thompson was his second-largest individual contributor after all.
Cuccinelli and his campaign spokesman defended the con man while just about everyone else was pinching their nose. They said they would give away the Thompson donations only if he was convicted of a crime.
It took him more than two months to decide to give the dirty Navy Vets money away. By then, Thompson had disappeared (he was caught this year in Oregon) and even Thompson’s own lawyer was calling her client a crook.
That’s what makes Monday’s sermon by Cuccinelli so rich with irony.
The guy who’s now counseling an “I’ll-know-corruption-when-I-see it” approach to politics was the same pol who in 2010 said of Bobby Thompson: “There was nothing that raised a red flag.”
And he’s the leading GOP candidate for governor in 2013.
Only in Virginia!