Arlington, VA

Morning Notes

Bluemont bell

The Daily Show Takes on VA Election — Last night Jon Stewart and the folks at The Daily Show aired a segment mocking what they portrayed as slim pickings for gubernatorial choices on Virginia’s ballot. The reporter said of Republican Ken Cuccinelli and Democrat Terry McAuliffe, “apparently neither candidate is fit to lead.”  [The Daily Show]

County Launches Urban Design Speaker Series — Arlington County will kick off its RoundAbouts speaker series on Wednesday, November 13. The series is hosted by the county’s Department of Community Planning, Housing and Development and is designed to facilitate discussion about thoughtful design and how to shape Arlington’s future. The first speaker will be Christopher B. Leinberger, a Brookings fellow, developer, researcher and author, who will speak on the topic “The Urbanization of the Suburbs: Why Arlington is the National Model and Where Do We Go Next.”  [Arlington County]

MST3K Night at the Planetarium — A special Mystery Science Theater 3000 presentation will take place at the David M. Brown Planeterium (1426 N. Quincy Street) on Saturday, November 16. Attendees will get to poke fun at a comet-themed “B movie” from the 1970s. The show begins at 6:30 p.m. and tickets cost $3 for children, $5 for seniors and planetarium members, and $7 for adults. [Friends of the Planetarium]

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The Right Note is a weekly opinion column published on Thursdays. The views and opinions expressed in the column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ARLnow.com.

Mark KellyLate last week, Terry McAuliffe lost the endorsement of a pro-business technology PAC here in Northern Virginia. After state Sen. Janet Howell (D-32) and others tried unsuccessfully to intervene on his behalf, with what amounted to threats of retaliation, the truth came about about the rationale behind the endorsement.

According to a Washington Post report, “. . . Cuccinelli had detailed responses to questions in candidate interviews, three board members said, while McAuliffe was uninformed and superficial . . .”

The Post story continued,

“He (McAuliffe) didn’t want to get pinned down to any details. He didn’t give any details.”

And.

Two people present said that in response to a question about how he’d accomplish his goals as governor, McAuliffe told the PAC board that as an Irish Catholic he’d be adept at taking people out for drinks and doing whatever it takes to get things done.“

And.

Cuccinelli, by contrast, the person said, “was precise. He was thoughtful. He thought through all the issues. He had a clear position on all those issues, and he didn’t agree with the council on all the issues.”

To top it off, McAuliffe said, “I am not going to read every bill when I’m governor. I’m going to hire people to read them for me.”

So, to be clear, McAuliffe walked into an important interview with only vague ideas for what he wanted to do as governor. He had no clearly thought out positions on the issues that mattered to the people he was meeting with. He had no desire to read or understand legislation that would be up for his consideration. And, his fall back position was to invite people over for drinks.

Yet, his campaign was apparently shocked that he would not receive the endorsement. So much so in fact, that they made a desperate attempt to strong arm the organization to change its mind by saying they would be unwelcome in Democrat offices in Richmond.

It is fairly well established that McAuliffe’s claims about his business success with Franklin Pellets and GreenTech Automotive have little basis in reality. GreenTech is particularly egregious since McAuliffe claimed to have done so much, but when asked about why they were under SEC investigation seemed to know so little.

The bottom line is that McAuliffe’s qualifications as a “pro-business Democrat” were threatened by losing this endorsement. While one endorsement may not matter in the ultimate outcome on election day, it shows Terry McAuliffe’s “I’m not Ken Cuccinelli” campaign is starting to wear thin.

Mark Kelly is a former Arlington GOP Chairman and two-time Republican candidate for Arlington County Board.

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Peter’s Take is a weekly opinion column. The views and opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ARLnow.com.

Peter RousselotAs also has been true in this year’s election for Lieutenant Governor, the race for Virginia Attorney General has been overshadowed by the scandals engulfing current Governor Bob McDonnell and current Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli.

In the AG race, the contrasts also are stark. The Democratic candidate, Mark Herring, is a moderate Democrat.

Herring lives in Loudoun County where he has a private law practice, working in several legal specialties, including land use and zoning, civil litigation, and municipal law. In 1999, he was elected to the Loudoun County Board of Supervisors. He served as Chairman of the Land Use Committee, and was a strong advocate for economic development and transportation improvements.

First elected to the Virginia State Senate in 2006, Herring has worked to bring technology-based economic development to the Northern Virginia region, and has been a leader in making both state and local governments more accountable.  He has led efforts to keep dangerous new synthetic drugs out of circulation.  He has advocated for legislation to target those who attempt to commit financial scams against seniors. He has sponsored and passed legislation to strengthen penalties for acts of domestic violence.

Herring’s sensible platform as our next Attorney General includes initiatives to keep Virginia’s families safe, defend civil rights, protect consumers, and safeguard our natural resources.

By contrast to Herring’s mainstream record and goals for the Attorney General’s office, his opponent, Mark Obenshain, has a far-right-wing, extreme record:

Obenshain sponsored a bill in 2009 that would have made it a crime to fail to report a miscarriage to the police. [SB962]

Along with Cuccinelli, Obenshain co-sponsored so-called personhood legislation. The Associated Press explained that under this legislation, “by giving embryos the constitutional protection of personhood from the instant of fertilization, abortions of all types would become illegal.” [Associated Press, 2/6/2007] The legislation Obenshain and Cuccinelli co-sponsored also would have banned some forms of birth control.

Obenshain voted against workplace protections against discrimination for gay and lesbian Virginians in 2013, 2011, and 2010. [SB701, SB747, SB66]

Electing Mark Obenshain as Attorney General is equivalent to giving Ken Cuccinelli a second term in that office.

The choice is clear: Mark Herring for Attorney General.

Peter Rousselot is a former member of the Central Committee of the Democratic Party of Virginia and former chair of the Arlington County Democratic Committee.

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Terry McAuliffe and Ken CuccinelliVirginia gubernatorial candidates Terry McAuliffe and Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli will appear at George Mason University’s Arlington campus next week to discuss the future of energy policy in the Commonwealth.

The event, called the Virginia Energy and Opportunity Forum, will be held Thursday, Aug. 29 from 9:00 to 11:00 a.m. at Founders Hall (3351 N. Fairfax Drive) and is free and open to the public, as long as audience members reserve a seat. From a press release:

From the debate over offshore drilling, to the future of coal and the opportunities presented by renewable energy, Virginia’s next Governor will have a lot of important decisions to make when it comes to energy policy.

The public is invited to attend Virginia Energy & Opportunity Forum... for the chance to to hear directly from both of their gubernatorial candidates — Ken Cuccinelli (R) and Terry McAuliffe (D) — as they lay out their respective visions for Virginia’s energy future.

This forum is sponsored by Consumer Energy Alliance. Welcome and candidate introduction by David Hart, George Mason University Acting Senior Associate Dean, School of Public Policy.

According to GMU spokeswoman Toni Andrews, the candidates will be taking questions from two different panels and will appear separately.

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The Right Note is a weekly opinion column published on Thursdays. The views and opinions expressed in the column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ARLnow.com.

Mark Kelly

Last week, my counterpart on the left wrote at length about Ken Cuccinelli (R) un-ringing a bell.

As Peter should know, the gifts Cuccinelli received were legal under Virginia law — even if ill-advised. He also should know that Cuccinelli called for an immediate special session of the General Assembly to debate and pass new ethics rules on gifts. Cuccinelli’s position is we should address this issue now.

What is Democratic nominee Terry McAuliffe’s (D) position on ethics reform? McAuliffe has said he supports a $100 gift cap, but he opposes a special session on ethics — calling it a “gimmick.”

It has been widely reported that McAuliffe’s former company, GreenTech Automotive, is under SEC investigation. One question mark is what happened to $45.5 million invested in what Virginia economic development officials under Gov. Kaine were concerned was a cash-for-visas scheme? If McAuliffe did not unduly benefit, why is he refusing to match Cuccinelli’s tax return disclosures?

And, what if we take a look at the gift disclosures of our other elected officials who served in Richmond and evaluate the gifts under the “Peter’s Take” lens?

For example, Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) did not cut a refund check to the wealthy donor who gave him the use of a Caribbean vacation home for $15,000 in 2005 when he was running for governor. It is similar to the gifts Cuccinelli received. And, Kaine can afford it, right? Will Peter take on this gift in next week’s column?

One source of gift-giving to our local delegation also sticks out like a sore thumb. You may recall that the Signature Theater recently received a taxpayer-funded, $250,000 bailout for its unpaid taxes. All the while, Signature has been handing out free tickets to our local delegation in Richmond.

From 2008 to 2012, free theater tickets for the amounts indicated were given to the following local lawmakers:

  • Adam Ebbin (D): $1,523
  • Patrick Hope (D): $860 (3 years)
  • Bob Brink (D): $795
  • Barbara Favola (D): $367 (2 years)

Under the Peter’s Take standard, should these elected officials who received free theater tickets from Signature cut a refund check to the Treasurer’s Office in Arlington? It would certainly help offset the cost of the bailout by $3,545.

And, any member of the all-Democrat County Board should probably reimburse the treasury for any free tickets they received from Signature as well, right? They can afford it, right?

Hopefully Peter will take on Democrats on gifts and ethics as well.

Mark Kelly is a former Arlington GOP Chairman and two-time Republican candidate for Arlington County Board.

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Peter’s Take is a weekly opinion column. The views and opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ARLnow.com.

Peter RousselotVirginia Governor Bob McDonnell belatedly has promised to return gifts he received from a wealthy Virginia businessman — while arguing he did nothing illegal in accepting them.

By contrast, Governor wannabe Ken Cuccinelli insists he has no intention of returning any of the more than $18,000 in gifts he received from the same businessman. Cuccinelli’s “explanation”: the gifts he received (e.g., a catered Thanksgiving dinner, private jet trips, luxury vacation lodging) are the kinds of gifts that literally cannot be returned (unlike McDonnell’s Rolex watch). To quote Cuccinelli, “There are some bells you can’t un-ring”.

Mr. Cuccinelli, don’t insult our intelligence.

You can place a dollar value on every gift you received from businessman Jonnie Williams. You are perfectly capable of writing him a check for the total amount of all those gifts. Your refusal to do so is sending a message to the voters of Virginia about your personal ethical standards. As I have previously written, it’s a disappointing message — a message that says a lot of bad things about you.

Since it is so obvious that your refusal to return your gifts would be contrasted unfavorably with McDonnell’s agreement to return his, why have you taken this stand? Is it because you think you are tougher or smarter than our current Governor? If that’s not the explanation, what is?

Don’t expect us to accept your excuse that “there are some bells you can’t un-ring”. You are trying to sell yourself to Virginia’s voters as a savvy lawyer who knows his way around a courtroom, noting that this experience helps qualify you to be our Governor. For this reason, your striking misuse of the phrase, “there are some bells you can’t un-ring,” is an embarrassment to your candidacy.

That phrase is most appropriately used in a courtroom when information has been given to jurors that they are not supposed to have. After that happens, the judge frequently offers to instruct the jury to disregard the information, but the lawyer for the party that might be harmed if the jury relies on the information often moves for a mistrial on the grounds that “there are some bells you can’t un-ring”.

Mr. Cuccinelli, you don’t seem to be able to use your legal training very well.

Mr. Cuccinelli, get out your checkbook and un-ring that bell.

Peter Rousselot is a former member of the Central Committee of the Democratic Party of Virginia and former chair of the Arlington County Democratic Committee.

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The Right Note is a weekly opinion column published on Thursdays. The views and opinions expressed in the column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ARLnow.com.

Mark KellyIt seems pretty clear after the first clash between Ken Cuccinelli and Terry McAuliffe that the election for governor in Virginia will be decided by one simple question – who do you trust?

Cuccinelli says that McAuliffe cannot be trusted because his record as a partisan hack means he believes politics is nothing more than playing “let’s make a deal.” Cuccinelli argues McAuliffe’s theory of government puts special interests ahead of the interests of all Virginians.

McAuliffe says that Cuccinelli is a “trojan horse” who cannot be trusted to focus on jobs and the economy because he is too socially conservative. According to T-Mac, Cuccinelli would drive away potential investors in the Virginia economy with his backwards views.

So, it naturally follows to ask why McAuliffe made the decision to locate his car company in Mississippi instead of Virginia? Surely Mississippi is more progressive on social issues?

Mississippi has a constitutional ban on same-sex marriage just like Virginia. Mississippi has implemented stronger health care regulations on its abortion clinics just like Virginia. In fact, one could argue that Mississippi is equal to or more “socially conservative” than Virginia on each and every issue.

During the debate, McAuliffe was indeed asked why he decided to put GreenTech Automotive in Mississippi. His answer – it was an economic decision. Successful business leaders, he claims, must make business decisions that make sense for their bottom lines. Not only is it true, but McAuliffe has no choice but to say it. It is his only viable, if feeble for someone who wants to be governor of Virginia, line of defense for his decision.

It is always nice when candidates debunk their own lines of attack. McAuliffe succinctly explained it – businesses make business decisions. It is not a state’s stance on social issues which determines where a business will locate its jobs. If it were, Texas would be losing out to California instead of the other way around. And, McAuliffe almost certainly would have taken his business to Massachusetts or Maryland.

Unfortunately, just because McAuliffe contradicted himself, does not mean his campaign will stop using this line of attack. The same goes for the less-than-accurate claims McAuliffe made about his own involvement in the transportation plan and about the contents of the independent report on Cuccinelli’s gift disclosures. He firmly believes that if you repeat something long enough, people might just accept it as fact. It comes from years of cooking up political spin to get Democrats elected in Washington, DC.

The bottom line: if McAuliffe was trying to get away from the “fast-talking, deal making, political huckster who will say anything to get elected” tag in the first debate, he failed.

Mark Kelly is a former Arlington GOP Chairman and two-time Republican candidate for Arlington County Board.

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Peter’s Take is a weekly opinion column. The views and opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ARLnow.com.

Peter RousselotIn his first formal debate with Terry McAuliffe on July 20, Virginia GOP gubernatorial candidate Ken Cuccinelli re-affirmed his unremitting hostility to gay Virginians.

In last week’s debate, Cuccinelli was reminded by moderator Judy Woodruff of his remarks several years ago that “same sex acts are against nature and are harmful to society.” Given the opportunity to say that he has since moderated his views, Cuccinelli instead doubled down, confirming that his views “about the personal challenge of homosexuality haven’t changed.”

It would be hard to imagine a more offensive set of values for a person who is asking Virginia voters to give him the opportunity to lead a state of 8.5 million people in the 21st century.

Just what are the views Cuccinelli hasn’t changed?

Cuccinelli has:

  • Offered a bill that urged the U.S. Congress to propose a federal constitutional amendment to provide that (i) marriage shall consist only of the legal union between a man and a woman; and (ii) the uniting of persons of the same or opposite sex in a civil union, domestic partnership or other analogous relationship shall not be recognized in the United States.
  • Opposed a bill that would offer health benefits to same-sex partners because of his “desire not to encourage this type of behavior into law.”
  • Stated “when you look at the homosexual agenda, I cannot support something that I believe brings nothing but self-destruction, not only physically but of their soul.”
  • Urged Virginia colleges and universities to revoke their policies banning discrimination based on sexual orientation.
  • And as recently as February 15, 2013, reiterated his opposition to same-sex marriage in Virginia.

In earlier columns, I reviewed the two strikes against Cuccinelli based on his war on science and his war on women. Here, we have the third strike: his war on gays.

In politics, as in baseball, three strikes and you’re out.

Peter Rousselot is a former member of the Central Committee of the Democratic Party of Virginia and former chair of the Arlington County Democratic Committee.

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Del. Adam Ebbin (D) speaks at GMU Law anti-discrimination rallyState Sen. Adam Ebbin (D) is blasting Virginia Attorney General and gubernatorial candidate Ken Cuccinelli (R) for his anti-gay views.

Ebbin, the first openly-gay member of the Virginia General Assembly, responded to remarks Cuccinelli made at a debate over the weekend. Cuccinelli defended his previously-stated “sincerely held beliefs” about homosexuality — that, in the paraphrased words of moderator Judy Woodruff, “same-sex acts are against nature and harmful to society.”

“My personal beliefs about the personal challenge of homosexuality haven’t changed,” he said. “The notion that because I believe marriage ought to be protected, because I believe life begins at conception — just like hundreds of thousands of independents and Democrats — this isn’t just me, it isn’t just Republicans.”

In response, Ebbin issued the following statement today.

Ken Cuccinelli’s unapologetic and bizarre views on gay people perpetuate the worst stereotypes and make Virginia look like a hostile backwater. Labeling gay people “harmful to society” and calling homosexuality a “personal challenge” puts him out of the mainstream of Virginia thinking. It’s one thing to be prejudiced in your private life, but it’s another to use a position of public trust to promote intolerance and bigotry. As a gay person, I know how this type of rhetoric can hurt people, and I don’t think that Ken Cuccinelli understands that at all.

This debate in Virginia is especially timely since our neighbors in Maryland and DC now have marriage equality. Terry McAuliffe understands perfectly, as I do, that this places us at a competitive and economic disadvantage. That’s what this governor’s race is all about.

Cuccinelli has also been trying to overturn a federal court ruling that found Virginia’s anti-sodomy law, which outlawed oral and anal sex, unconstitutional. He says the law wasn’t intended to prosecute consenting adults, but instead served as a tool prosecutors could use in cases involving child sex predators.

Cuccinelli is facing Democrat Terry McAuliffe and Libertarian Robert Sarvis in the race for governor. The election will be held Tuesday, Nov. 5.

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Peter’s Take is a weekly opinion column. The views and opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ARLnow.com.

Peter RousselotLast Saturday, the Republican Party of Virginia (RPVA) nominated a statewide ticket that will be a real turn-off for a large segment of Republicans in Arlington.

Ken Cuccinelli for Governor

As I have previously written, Ken Cuccinelli has an extreme anti-women agenda, including support for a “personhood” law that would end or cripple a series of personal rights that women in Arlington and the rest of Virginia have enjoyed for decades, such as:

  • Birth control
  • Fertility treatment
  • Management of a miscarriage
  • Access to safe and legal abortions

Cuccinelli holds many other extreme positions that are unappealing to large numbers of Arlington Republicans, including his attacks on academic freedom and his war on science. Rather than balancing Cuccinelli with two other more moderate candidates, the RPVA instead chose two candidates with even more extreme views.

E.W. Jackson for Lieutenant Governor

This is Mr. Jackson’s message for the gay and lesbian community: “Gays and lesbians have ‘perverted’ minds and are ‘very sick people psychologically, mentally and emotionally,’ … [they] seek societal approval because ‘they’ll never feel satisfied because in their heart of hearts’ they know ‘it is immoral, it is perverse, it is degenerate.’”

Mr. Jackson believes that gay marriage is like “spitting in the face of every bible-believing Christian in America.” Mr. Jackson thinks that Planned Parenthood has been “far more lethal to Black lives than the KKK ever was.”

RPVA is sponsoring Mr. Jackson as someone who deserves to be a heartbeat away from the Virginia governorship.

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Peter’s Take is a weekly opinion column. The views and opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ARLnow.com.

Peter RousselotStar Scientific, a Virginia company trying to rescue its sagging economic prospects, has damaged the hopes for higher office of Governor Bob McDonnell and Governor wannabe Ken Cuccinelli.

Both cases illustrate the toxic mix of Virginia’s notoriously weak conflict of interest laws with ambitious politicians who flew too close to the sun.

McDonnell: In 2011, the CEO of Star Scientific made a $15,000 gift to defray the costs of the wedding of McDonnell’s daughter Caitlin. The $15,000 was not disclosed as a contribution on the grounds that the money was a gift to McDonnell’s daughter — not to him.

While it is disputed whether McDonnell’s agreement to be responsible for the cost of the wedding did require disclosure of the $15,000 gift, there is no disagreement that Star Scientific is the subject of a federal securities investigation. Moreover, both McDonnell and his wife have found several occasions to promote a new Star Scientific dietary supplement.

Cuccinelli: Star Scientific filed a lawsuit challenging a tax assessment on property it owned. Cuccinelli was required to arrange for legal representation to defend the state against Star Scientific’s lawsuit, but that legal representation did not have to be provided by the Attorney General’s own office.

Cuccinelli did represent the state in Star Scientific’s lawsuit, but failed to disclose that he had a financial interest exceeding $10,000 in Star Scientific. In October 2010, Cuccinelli purchased a little more than $10,000 worth of Star Scientific stock. At the end of the year, the value of that stock dropped below $10,000, and therefore did not need to be disclosed. But, in September 2011 Cuccinelli acquired 3,600 additional shares in the company, lifting the value of his total stock holdings to nearly $19,000.

After enterprising reporters published the whole story, Cuccinelli agreed to appoint outside lawyers to represent the state of Virginia in Star Scientific’s lawsuit.

These events illustrate some inconvenient truths about:

  • Virginia’s conflict of interest laws
  • Bob McDonnell
  • Ken Cuccinelli

As the average person instinctively recognizes, it is just ridiculous that Virginia law says there is no conflict of interest if a Virginia elected official has a $9,999 financial interest in a company which can benefit from public decisions, but there is a conflict of interest if the same public official has a $10,001 financial interest. It‘s also ridiculous that the law says that gifts to a public official’s immediate family members do not require disclosure.

Let’s assume that McDonnell and Cuccinelli both knew what the law required, but decided they had not violated the law.

Such decisions reflect ethical standards that are far too low, and reflect negatively on their aspirations for higher office.

Peter Rousselot is a member of the Central Committee of the Democratic Party of Virginia and former chair of the Arlington County Democratic Committee.

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