So I suppose now that the Supreme Court has cleared Bob McDonnell it’s safe to look into the Democrats?
The list of politicians in Virginia who have taken advantage of the state’s rather lax rules regarding gifts that may be accepted by elected officials is growing a bit. Politico reports that the next recipient of some very generous gifts is none other than Tim Kaine, a Democratic Senator, former Governor, Lieutenant Governor and head of the Democratic National Committee. Also worth noting is his current standing as someone at or near the top of the list to be Hillary Clinton’s running mate. Let’s look at the bonanza he brought in.
Virginia Sen. Tim Kaine took advantage of the state’s lax gift laws to receive an $18,000 Caribbean vacation, $5,500 in clothes and a trip to watch George Mason University play in the NCAA basketball Final Four during his years as lieutenant governor and governor, according to disclosures he filed.
Now a leading contender to be Hillary Clinton’s running mate, Kaine reported more than $160,000 in gifts from 2001 to 2009, mostly for travel to and from political events and conferences, according to disclosures compiled by the Virginia Public Access Project. The givers included political supporters, a drug company that soon after bought a facility in Virginia, and Dominion, the state’s biggest provider of electricity.
While legal under Virginia’s unusually permissive ethics rules, the gifts could become attack-ad fodder after similar presents led to corruption charges for Gov. Bob McDonnell, whose conviction the Supreme Court overturned Monday. Republicans could also use the records to portray Kaine as part of the self-dealing establishment in a cycle animated by hostility toward the political class.
That’s a pretty impressive haul, though Democrats are quick to note that there are no allegations of any sort of direct quid pro quo related to these gifts. (Yet, anyway.) Still, now that McDonnell is out of the woods I don’t imagine that the Democrats will be too worried about Kaine. It could, however, take some of the shine off his apple in terms of winning the veepstakes. After all, it’s not as if Hillary Clinton would want anyone with any sort of scandal hanging over their heads associated with her campaign. (*cough*)
Still, count this as one more reason for the Commonwealth to take a fresh look at their ethics laws. When the utility companies can start dropping major gifts on the Governor there are questions to be answered because they always have business in front of the state, even if there’s nothing tying the gift directly to any legislation currently in front of the Governor. Large companies such as the pharmaceutical company in the story raise equally troubling issues, particularly when they wind up moving in shortly thereafter. Just because it’s legal, that doesn’t always make it ethical, and the voters deserve to have elected officials who don’t even raise suspicions of favoritism and corruption.