Saturday, January 25, 2014

The Corruption Charges Against Former Virginia Gov. Robert McDonnell Have Nothing to do With Conservatives

It is Just Sleaze, Plain and Simple

That the federal government has indicted former Virginia Governor Robert McDonnell and his wife was no surprise.  For months the details of the scurrilous behavior of this man and his spouse have been trickling out.  But with the indictment comes the details that would make even the most ardently partisan Republican cringe.

The McDonnell’s apparently do not dispute the facts, that they hit up a wealthy businessman for numerous personal favors and money.  This included Mrs. McDonnell making the businessman pay for a Rolex for her husband, using the private plane of the businessman, having him pay for the catering for their daughter’s wedding, taking Mrs. McDonnell on a shopping trip and a whole bunch of other stomach churning stuff.

And Mr. McDonnell’s defense is not that he and his wife didn’t do these things.  His defense is that gosh, everyone does this and furthermore what they did was not illegal.  The former statement is false in its intensity.  Yes, politicians do what the McDonnell’s did, but they almost always show restraint and tact and limit their exploitation of those who would seek favors from government to at least quasi legitimate actions.

As for the argument that what they did was not illegal, maybe so, that will be for a court to determine.  If the businessman did not get anything in return, no harm no foul except for the stench of sleaze.  But the businessman in question did get plenty of help and support from officials of Virginia at the behest of the Governor.  And that businessman will testify in a trial.  So yes, the chances of conviction of Mr. McDonnell and his wife while not certain are hopefully better than 50-50.

And now the final smell of the rotten behavior of Mr. McDonnell has come to light, his rejection of an incredibly favorable plea bargain.

Maureen McDonnell relayed to federal prosecutors last summer that she felt responsible forthe relationship with a wealthy businessman that had drawn legal scrutiny to Virginia’s first family, and her attorney asked whether the case could be resolved without charges for her husband.

But prosecutors showed no interest, according to people familiar with the conversation. Instead, months later, authorities proposed that then-Gov. Robert F. McDonnell plead guilty to one felony bank fraud charge that had nothing to do with corruption in office and his wife would avoid charges altogether. The governor rejected the offer, the people with knowledge of the conversations said.

Wow, any decent man, any even half decent man would have leapt at the opportunity spare his wife the ignominy of an indictment and trail.  In fact, had such a bargain been accepted Mr. McDonnell would have been praised for sparing his wife the indignity of a trial, and the prosecution lambasted for giving them such an easy out.  But Mr. McDonnell is of course not even half decent so he rejected the opportunity to spare his wife this hardship and possible jail time.  The court of public opinion has already determined that, regardless of what any court of law may say this is a terrible, terrible couple.

It is clear that the defense strategy of the McDonnell's will be that Mrs. McDonnell is not guilty of betraying public office because she was not an elected official (she is brought into the case under conspiracy laws) and that Mr. McDonnell is not guilty because he didn't know anything, or in other words that he was the most clueless, naive, oblivious Governor ever to be elected in the state.  This will mean that Mrs. McDonnell will have to testify and undergo that stress and strain while Mr. McDonnell sits calmly in the court saying nothing.  So the Governor is not only throwing his wife under the bus, he is getting in the driver's seat and backing over her several times.

Finally, one of the great mysteries of the 2012 campaign was the failure of Mitt Romney to pick Gov. McDonnell as his running mate.  In fact one of the many egregious errors this Forum made was predicting just such a thing.  And while no one will ever no for sure what the true story was, it seems almost certain that the Romney campaign knew of the sleaze factor with respect to the Governor, knew that he was a man so lacking in personal integrity that his choice as the VP nominee would have made even Democrats long for the return of Sarah Palin.

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