There is something rotten in the city of Richmond- the recent indictment of former Governor Bob McDonnell has left a nasty stain on our state government. I know that many Virginia residents, including myself, are outraged at McDonnell’s egregious violation of the public trust. Yet for some reason, some of our most senior elected officials have been uncharacteristically silent on the matter. Congressman Frank Wolf has never been shy about criticizing public agencies like the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority (MWAA.) Yet on the issue of ethics in the Commonwealth of Virginia, he is silent. Why was Congressman Wolf so outspoken about a quasi-governmental agency and unpaid board members, but not about paid public servants that are using our tax dollars and receiving lavish gifts and luxuries while holding public office? Why hasn’t he said anything about our current “anything goes” political culture that allows elected officials and their families to accept $165,000 worth of clothes, watches, shoes and luxury weekend getaways? In addition, why hasn’t Wolf’s protégé, Barbara Comstock, had anything to say about the swamp that has become the Virginia legislature? Why hasn’t Ms. Comstock said anything about the fact that Gov. McDonnell and Attorney General Cuccinelli billed Virginia taxpayers over $500,000 in attorney’s fees defending their corrupt activities? This silence on the part of prominent elected officials in Virginia is totally unacceptable.
The voters of Virginia are disgusted with the current culture of corruption in Richmond. The Virginia legislature needs to pass comprehensive ethics reform in this legislative session. Delegate Scott Surovell has recently announced that he will be introducing legislation for consideration by the General Assembly designed to close loopholes in Virginia’s current ethics laws. Surovell’s legislation prevents the Governor from having special contracts with agency heads while they are serving in office. In addition, the legislation prohibits acceptance by the Governor or Attorney General of campaign contributions or gifts worth more than $50 from parties who are in ongoing litigation with the Commonwealth and also prohibits litigants from making such contributions and gifts. The legislation places a cap of $1,235 on outside attorney fees, and limits the use of public assets for private or personal purposes unrelated to official duties or any other legitimate government interest.
Virginia must begin to move forward with meaningful ethics reform and provide the transparency necessary to ensure accountability from our elected officials. If the legislators in Richmond refuse to pass comprehensive ethic reform, then we the people of Virginia must hold them accountable at the ballot box.