In one of the more curious political attacks of the cycle, Politico launched a fairly aggressive piece this week against Barbara Comstock, the Republican state legislator running for Congress in Virginia’s 10th district. In it, they claim that Comstock failed to disclose a business relationship with the Workforce Fairness Institute, who many of you know from their efforts to promote right to work policies in government. Because Comstock was also working on the state level to implement similar, worker friendly policies, Politico walks right up to – but not quite over – the line of accusing her of breaking the law.
They lead in with a list of the horrible laws which Comstock was able to push through on the state level.
One called for union votes by secret ballot, another kept employers from giving employees’ information to unions and a third prohibited awarding contracts for state-funded construction projects exclusively to unionized firms. Each was approved in a largely party-line vote.
But Comstock never officially disclosed that all the while, she was being paid thousands of dollars by the Workforce Fairness Institute, a well-heeled conservative group that listed the issues advanced by the Comstock-sponsored measures among its legislative priorities.
Comstock, now running for a competitive House seat in the Washington, D.C., suburbs, also initially failed to list WFI as a client when she filed papers to run for the seat. Her campaign later disclosed the relationship to The Washington Post, calling the omission unintentional. Congressional candidates with an ownership interest in companies are required to report clients who paid $5,000 or more in fees.
Well, that certainly sounds like a fairly damning accusation, doesn’t it? But the odd part here is that not even Politico is buying the initial premise suggested by the article. As we should have all learned by now, Virginia’s campaign laws are a hot mess, and trying to show that the candidate had violated them was pretty much a non-starter.
Legal experts and watchdog groups stopped short of accusing of Comstock of wrongdoing, saying her actions fall in a legal gray area of Virginia’s murky ethics rules.
Well, then what was the point of this article? The law says that she must “verbally disclose” and “openly disclose” such relationships. She was on television multiple times as a spokesperson for WFI and promoting these same issues she was trying to get passed into law. I’m not sure how much more open or verbal than that it gets.
The campaign issued a response shortly thereafter.
Barbara Comstock disclosed her federal clients under Virginia law as required. The Politico story suggesting otherwise is patently false. It is no secret that Barbara Comstock has worked in a public and open fashion – on TV, radio, and in print — advocating right to work policies. Further, it’s bizarre that Democrats are attacking Barbara for saving Virginia taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars by passing competitive bidding legislation and protecting the right to a secret ballot. In contrast, John Foust, has supported over a trillion dollars in tax increases and opposed these right to work measures at the behest of his union boss friends who are now funding his campaign with over $100k in direct campaign contributions.
While we’re casting about for things that candidates should and shouldn’t do, a better question might be this: who exactly thinks that secret ballots for union participation is a bad idea? Who thinks that distributing personal information about workers without the permission is a good idea? And who wants to see their tax money spent on government contracts awarded to union only shops if there is a less expensive, competitive bid out there from a non-union shop that would save the state money? Yeah… that sounds like really dangerous thinking there, friends.
In any event, if somebody was trying to knock Comstock out of viability for the 10th District race, it doesn’t seem to have worked. The DCCC just pulled all of their advertising funding for the race and pushed it to other contests. Better luck next time, guys.