My Side of the Fence

The danger isn't going too far. It's that we don't go far enough.

Mr. Jefferson’s Capitol

It was with some amusment that I watched our former AG, Ken Cuccinelli, comment on the travails of Gov. Christie.  Now, if Mr. Christie knew at all about that crap with the bridge he's gots to go.  However, Mr. Cuccinelli, having thrown in his lot with Gov. Bob by accepting gifts was part and parcel of converting the people's house in Richmond from "The Virginia Way" of this stately barn:





To something a little more urban, hip and interesting:



I really didn't understand that I was missing out on a party the size and scale of what was going on in Richmond.  Free Rolex watches for the asking!  Lady need some dope new threads?  Roll on up to the NYC and hook it up!  We don't need no rules up here in the Commonwealth!  We're all polite and stuff.  Genteel even.  Gov. Bob got himself a couple hunert G's for his trouble.  AG Ken dipped in too!  Both paid back some or all but only after all of this saw the light of day.  Our twin guiding lights when it comes to ethics.  If this seems like an unusual and angry post that's because it is!  I'm tired of ending up on this "Daily Show episode" or maybe this episode.  Last time we were on the Daily Show, the gubbmit decided that if you were going to have an abortion that the state needed an up close and personal look-see in your lady bidness.  This from our "conservative" leadership.

Predictably, there are a raft of bills attempting to address this issue.  These bills seem to fall into two types: disclosure and limits.  The easy path forward for the GA is to simply draft more disclosure rules and be done with it.  If this is what happens it will be unfortunate.  An elected official could still accept a $10,000 Rolex and it would be ok as long as they filled out a form.  Bollocks.  I don't want to burn the whole damn house down to kill a spider here but if Gov. "live within your means" Bob is taking hundreds of thousands and it isn't against our disclosure and ethics rules, then the old-skool genteel self-image possesed by those who inhabit "Mr. Jeffersons Capitol" is wildly out of step with reality.  It's closer to John Gotti than it is John Adams.  You want a frigging Rolex?  Go make the money and buy one like so many others.

No, it's time to take the hard path forward and have the GA vote to regulate themselves.  It's time for hard limits on gifts – $50-$100 would be fine – and strict disclosure that passes the smell test.  Go ahead and make these laws real and solve the problem where it exists: Richmond.  Please, can we stop waiting until things go to hell before taking action?  If we don't pass limits now, we'll do it in a couple of years when some other miscreant figures out a way to line his pockets, further eroding the publics trust in its leaders and government.



  1. Please explain to us why do people feel that an elected should be able to accept gifts up to $100.  I worked for two local goveernment jurisdictions.  The policy regarding gifts and gratuities was that we could accept gifts no greater than a cup of coffee.  If seasonal gifts were delivered such as fruit baskets or flowers, those gifts were to be shared with the public and all employees.  Any gift basket went immediately to the public counters.  Any incidents that could be construed as a violation of that policy were referred to the Commonwealth Attorney or the police for investigation.


    I would propose a similar limit on the GA.

  2. andy

    January 24, 2014 at 6:21 pm

    I think it's a practical modification to an idealistic goal.  What's a gift?  Lunch?  A free golf lesson?  Cash?  What's a "gift"?  That seems ridiculous but it matters if you are to go to no "gifts" at all allowed, ever.

    What does "accepting" mean?  Say you had an elected official who had a physical office for that position.  If someone sends him individually a fruit basket and his staff signs for it has he "accepted" it?  If he does accept it and distributes it to his staff couldn't you argue that he is still benefiting?  If we're to take this to the extreme, wouldn't any gift – even a cup of coffee – need to simply be discarded?

    I think you could get there from here but it would take a lot of careful staff work.  The other thing to remember is that many electeds aren't full-time in that position and, as such, aren't experts in the nuances of gift law.  In Manssas, for instance, we don't have offices or staff for any of the Council members.  I don't know that I care if someone sends my delegate a gift basket but I do think those gifts need limits and need to be disclosed.

  3. Personally, having lived under Ethics Regulations in my Army days since they first handed me NCO stripes in 1978, maybe the folks in Richmond ought to just look at the Dept of Defense Directive.  I lived with them as an NCO, a Resource Manager & Contracting Officer with large budgets, a Supervisor of people who may be impacted, and also as one of the Instructors in the topic from time to time.  Many of your questions, Andy, have answers found there.  Yeah, it gets complicated in sorting out the "what ifs?", but at least the guidelines were simple enough the annual Ethics Update classes could be done in 30 minutes.


    P.S. in the link, it has sections lined out and the update in red ink…the copy at link is the current version.  Just one of the funny ways DoD decided it was easier to do updates.


  4. OMG!!!  How about… thou shalt not accept any gifts or gratuities no matter how small or insignificant ????


    In 37+ years of local government service, I accepted one cup of coffee.  I should not have done that.

  5. I really don't see a problem with someone buying a lunch or types of things for an elected official. What about an invitation to a private party at someones home. Must Andy and his wife turn down a social invitation just because he serves on council and would like to serve his community? Andy, I think your thought of a $100.00 maximum is fine. Council members when they agree to meet someone for lunch should not be expected to buy the lunch as well. They don't get paid enough as it is. 

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