Remember the saga of Phillip Puckett? The Virginia state Senator resigned in June, flipping control of the state legislature back to Republicans just when Gov. Terry McAuliffe needed to win a tough vote on an unpopular Medicaid expansion effort. which the lower chamber was going to block anyway. Puckett got a job on the state tobacco commission and his daughter ended up becoming a judge, which led Democrats to claim that Republicans had bought off Puckett.
The Washington Post reports today that Democrats didn’t get shafted — they just got outbid:
Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe’s chief of staff left a voice-mail message for a Democrat who was on the verge of quitting the General Assembly in June, saying that the senator’s daughter might get a top state job if he stayed to support the governor’s push to expand Medicaid, according to descriptions from three people who heard the recording.
Then-Sen. Phillip P. Puckett wound up resigning, flipping control of the chamber to Republicans and thwarting McAuliffe’s signature goal of expanding health coverage under the Affordable Care Act.
Puckett’s abrupt exit came amid accusations that Republicans had enticed him to leave with job offers for himself and his daughter, triggering an ongoing federal investigation and inflaming partisan passions in Richmond.
Now a voice-mail message suggests that Puckett fielded a similar overture from Paul Reagan, McAuliffe’s chief of staff.
The Post asked McAuliffe’s office to respond to the new revelation, and they started out by denying it. Unfortunately, Laura Vozzella had the recording and the transcript of the voice mail. Suddenly, Reagan became an independent contractor rather than the chief of staff:
The governor’s spokesman initially denied Thursday that Reagan had made any potential job offers, but he later acknowledged that the call had been made after he was read a transcript of Reagan’s message given to The Washington Post.
“Mr. Reagan acted on his own to inform the senator that there were other available opportunities for which his daughter might apply,” McAuliffe spokesman Brian Coy said. “No further conversations about this topic ever occurred. No position was ever formally offered.”
Excuse me, but no one’s going to believe that. Chiefs of staff are not known for their independence, although they are usually known for their loyalty. If Reagan was making the call, the offer came from McAuliffe — and one can bet that the job would have materialized if Puckett had changed his mind.
None of this makes the circumstances surrounding Puckett’s departure any less slimy. It does mean, however, that the shrieks of indignation from Democrats over his departure should win them the coveted Captain Louis Renault Award for being shocked, shocked to find gambling in their own casino:
The big question will be what this does to the federal corruption investigation. If the probe is serious, it now reaches into the governor’s office. Reagan might fall on his sword, but nevertheless, there is no way that Reagan could promise that job (or even suggest it would be available) for Puckett’s daughter and not deliver. And the only person in that office who could deliver on that promise was Reagan’s boss, Terry McAuliffe.
Suddenly, Virginia politics look a lot more interesting. At the very least, we’ll get a chance to see the Department of Justice’s commitment to prosecuting corruption when one of the Democratic Party’s biggest movers and shakers is at the center of an alleged scheme.