HAPPY THANKSGIVING: The top turkey quotes from Virginia politicians in 2014.
By Kathryn Watson | Watchdog.org, Virginia Bureau
ALEXANDRIA, Va. — Around Thanksgiving, some groups like to award the distinction of “turkey of the year” to the politicians who screwed things up.
Instead, we’re picking the top six turkey-worthy quotes from Virginia politicians — three from Republicans and three from Democrats — in a light-hearted manner to refresh your memory.
Just be thankful you didn’t say these things.
6. McDonnell claiming relationship with Williams was normal
Former Republican Gov. Bob McDonnell emphasized in his federal corruption trial this summer he did nothing wrong.
“My administration did nothing for them other than give them access to government,” McDonnell said in trying to emphasize the normalcy of his relationship with Star Scientific’s Jonnie Williams.
But McDonnell’s comments about how it was normal to receive elaborate gifts and to give groups access to government didn’t help him. The jury found the relationship anything but normal and convicted McDonnell and his wife on 20 counts of federal corruption.
In light of the federal investigation into former state Sen. Phil Puckett, the Democrat who resigned for a state job offer just in time to give Republicans a Senate majority and defeat Medicaid expansion, Howell sent a letter to the Department of Justice and a U.S. attorney asking about the legality of appointing three other recently retired lawmakers to state jobs.
In his letter, Howell said it’s “common practice” for state lawmakers to retire and take state jobs.
“Although I have no doubt that this longstanding practice is legal and appropriate, I am concerned that you may have a different view based on a novel extension of federal public corruption law,” Howell wrote.
For elected officials, it makes fiscal sense to use their knowledge from the General Assembly.
A state lawmaker who served for 20 years could expect to get $6,000 a year in retirement, while someone who leaves the Legislature after 17 years for a $100,000-a-year state job could earn about $34,000 annually in retirement, according to the Virginia Public Access Project.
Gov. Terry McAuliffe had a radio fail this summer when he said only one facility was housing unaccompanied minors who cross the U.S. border illegally.
“Now, we don’t have an issue in Virginia — we only have really one facility, that is the federal government contracting with a private contractor, Joe Gibbs,” McAuliffe said in July on WTOP’s ‘Ask the Governor,’ referring to Gibbs’ nonprofit Youth For Tomorrow in Prince William County. “That is not the state. That is the federal government contracting with a private entity, which they’re entitled to do.”
The problem was, Watchdog.org had already uncovered two additional facilities in Richmond and Alexandria, on top of the existence of a fourth facility in the Shenandoah Valley.
That makes four.
Retiring U.S. Rep. Gerry Connolly defended the U.S. funding of the Palestinian Authority, even though the authority includes members of Hamas, a group the U.S. says is a terror organization.
Connolly made his remarks at a September Arab American Candidates Night forum, emphasizing his commitment to fighting House colleagues who try to gut funding.
“When there are voices calling for the defunding of the Palestinian Authority, I oppose them, publicly,” Connolly said. “In fact, I signed a letter signed by Congressman David Price of North Carolina, also signed by Jim (Moran), that said we are not going to defund the Palestinian Authority.”
Let’s just say he wasn’t looking to score points with Israel.
2. Sen. Steve Martin’s “host” comment
Republican state Sen. Steve Martin made national headlines over a controversial Facebook post he wrote in response to a Valentine’s Day card from pro-choice advocates.
“I don’t expect to be in the room or will I do anything to prevent you from obtaining a contraceptive,” Martin wrote. “However, once a child does exist in your womb, I’m not going to assume a right to kill it just because the child’s host (some refer to them as mothers) doesn’t want it.”
Martin eventually changed the word “host” to “bearer.”
When congressional approval is barely above single digits and Americans are desperate for work, the last thing you want to say is Congress needs a raise.
Unfortunately for retiring Democratic Sen. Jim Moran, however, that’s exactly what he did this spring.
“I think the American people should know that the members of Congress are underpaid,” said Moran, noting that many congressmen have to rent a small apartment in Washington or sleep in their offices because they have a home in their district. “I understand that it’s widely felt that they underperform, but the fact is that this is the board of directors for the largest economic entity in the world.”
As a member of Congress, Moran earns $174,000 — more than three times average household income in the U.S.
Kathryn Watson reports for Watchdog.org’s Virginia Bureau, and can be found on Twitter @kathrynw5.