Archive for June 2009
In a press release that arrived in most reporter’s inboxes, after 5pm on a Friday afternoon, Governor Tim Kaine responded to Republican Party of Virginia Chair Pat Mullins request to disclose information about his travel as the Chairman of the Democratic National Committee.
In a two page response, Kaine aide Lynda Tran explained that the request was denied because of the administration’s judgment of the rules pertaining to the Freedom of Information Act. Tran cited a number of different sections of the law that supported her claim that Mullins did not have a right to the information.
Tran wrote that FOIA attempts to “balance transparency and disclosure against the the impact the revelation of specific information could have on the Governor’s ability to properly and effectively carry out the business of the public.”
After building the case that the law supported their claim that Kaine did not have to provide any information regarding his personal travel, Tran went on to write that the Governor is going above and beyond by providing the details of his travel when asked about a specific event.
“..it is in the spirit of transparency and in the interest of Virginians that Governor Kaine is choosing to respond to questions pertaining his schedule during any of the numerous events that a regularly disclosed as part of his public schedule.”
Finally, on Mullins request for the costs associated with Kaine’s security detail, Tran pointed the RPV chair to the Executive Officers Protection Unit.
Meanwhile the RPV is still deciding how to react to the Kaine’s response. Spokesman Tim Murtaugh‘s full statement can be found after the jump.
Senator Mark Warner, a close ally of Governor Tim Kaine and a former governor himself, weighed in on the attacks his successor is taking from Republicans regarding his travel as DNC chair. During an interview yesterday from Washington, Warner told me that while he is confident that Kaine will always put Virginia first, the Governor should not be surprised the attacks are coming.
“I am sure, Tim Kaine understands that he was going to take some shots,” said Warner. “I am sure the Democrats took some shots at former Governor Gilmore when he was RNC chair.”
Kaine has been dealing with an almost daily barrage of attacks from the Republican Party of Virginia regarding his travel as DNC chair. The party even released a web video, parsing his words and accusing him of abandoning Virginia in a time of crisis. Kaine’s staff defended the Governor and said his travel was only on his time and generally only on the weekends when his state business was complete.
But his explanation was not enough for various media outlets that criticized the Governor on their editorial pages and investigated his travel even further to learn that not all of it took place only on weekends. When pressed by the Washington Post, Kaine refused to say that he will release his entire travel schedule ahead of time, but will only answer questions truthfully if a reporter were to ask about a specific trip.
Senator Warner, wouldn’t say if he thought that Kaine owed it to Virginia taxpayers to release his complete travel schedule, but did say that he understands the Governor’s concerns over his security. “I do know as a former governor, from a security standpoint the state police folks who provide incredible executive protection for the Governor and their families, like to not broadcast too much, ahead of time in particular,” said Warner. But the Senator did not go as far as to say that Kaine was handling the release of the information appropriately. “I will let Governor Kaine and you folks work out all the issues on the travel.”
But while Warner did not emphatically defend the way the Governor is handling the questions about his travel, he was quick to say that under Kaine’s stewardship the commonwealth of Virginia is outperforming the rest of the country. He said that when he is on the clock, Kaine is making all the right moves.
“I think his first job, his 9 to 5 job and for that matter not just 9 to 5 but more like 9 to 9 everyday, is still Virginia first and foremost.”
At least two prominent Virginia newspaper editorial boards have picked up on the Republican Party of Virginia’s questioning of Governor Tim Kaine‘s travel as chairman of the Democratic National Committee. The Richmond Times-Dispatch and the Roanoke Times have printed editorials that pick up where RPV Chairman Pat Mullins left off. A fact, Republican Party leaders were all too happy to trumpet to reporters this morning.
Meanwhile the Washington-Post printed a very probing news story about Kaine’s travel and how it impacts his job as Governor.
Each one of the editorial boards are very specific in their request of Kaine. They all believe that the public has a right to know exactly where he is going and how much it is costing taxpayers.
The Roanoke Times said:
“..the governor has a duty to Virginians beyond just the letter of FOIA. The only way the public can verify that his moonlighting has not interfered with his gubernatorial responsibilities is if it knows where and when he traveled and on whose dime. If big Democratic donors who have business before state agencies have provided free flights, people ought to know.”
Meanwhile the Times-Dispatch takes it a step further, by connecting Kaine’s DNC work to Jim Gilmore’s ill-fated run as RNC chair and even going as far as to thank the Republicans for bringing the issue forward:
“Although the governor can keep his golf game to himself, a partisan gala in Muscatine belongs on the public record. Kaine’s staff also said the DNC had agreed to reimburse the state for the cost of his security detail. Payment should have been made at the start. Taxpayers should thank the GOP for raising the issue.”
You may recall that Kaine was very reluctant to take the DNC Chairmanship in the first place. It was probably because he wanted to avoid reading editorial pages like this. The Governor has worked hard over the past three years to present himself as a transparent executive, willing to answer the tough questions. It will be interesting to see if this round of criticism changes his approach to his job as Governor or Party Chairman.
There is little doubt that the admission of infidelity by Governor Mark Sanford will have implications beyond South Carolina. Not only had Sanford become a vocal critic of the Obama administration, but he was a leading candidate for the Republican presidential nomination in 2012 and the high profile chair of the Republican Governors Association (RGA).
Aside from admitting that he cheated, the most significant piece of news that came from his strange press conference was Sanford’s decision to immediately resign as the chair of the RGA. The Republican Governors Association has been one of Bob McDonnell‘s biggest supporters, and one of the leading forces working to return the GOP to greatness. They have specifically focused their efforts on the gubernatorial races in Virginia and New Jersey as way to begin the long climb back.
While Sanford was the face of the RGA and Bob McDonnell has been heavily relying on the RGA, there is little to demonstrate a close personal tie between McDonnell and Sanford. Sanford, like many other prominent Republican governors, had been rumored to be coming Virginia to raise money for McDonnell, but no concrete plans were ever released. Sanford, himself, has not donated to McDonnell’s campaign.
While Sanford has not headlined a fundraiser specifically for McDonnell, the two were together at an event held in Northern Virginia on May 8th that led to a $750,000 windfall for the McDonnell campaign. The event was held by uber-fundraiser Fred Maleck for the Executive Roundtable of the RGA. Sanford was there and McDonnell was also a guest. McDonnell left the fundraiser with a $750,000 donation from the RGA. You can see the details of the donation here. The event got a little bit of press prior to the event because Alaska Governor Sarah Palin was expected to attend, but then backed out. Sanford, ironically replaced her.
The McDonnell campaign confirms that both their candidate and Sanford were in attendance.
McDonnell’s campaign did not have much to say about the Sanford admission. Spokesman Tucker Martin would only say that “Our thoughts are with the Sanford family. This is an incredibly sad situation and a very tough time for them. ”
Democrats, meanwhile, are letting the controversy speak for itself. They did not return a request for comment.
Interestingly, Mark Sanford has, for the most part, been purged from the RGA web site. However, one clip is still available for view. It features Sanford’s introduction of Bob McDonnell and New Jersey gubernatorial candidate Chris Christie at the group’s retreat this past winter. (A screen grab is pictured above).
In a move that will have enormous political implications, the private development company Highwoods Properties, has suspend its involvement in plans to build a new mixed-use development in Downtown Richmond that will include the construction of a ballpark in Shockoe Bottom.
Highwoods has been the driving force and muscle behind the plan to build the downtown ballpark that promised to bring activity and excitement to the historic section of Richmond. However, the project has been stalled over debate over the placement of the city’s ballpark and what team should play there if and when the stadium gets built. A growing chorus of community leaders believed the downtown ballpark combined with shopping and luxury urban living could not be supported by Richmond’s economic engine.
The roadblocks raised by powerful parties, seemed to be too much for Highwoods, and despite their belief that the concept would still work, they are dropping out.
Tara Morgan will have more on this story tonight on NBC12 at 5 and 6, and I will continue our coverage tonight at 11.
You can see the entire statement from Highwoods Properties after the jump: **UPDATED WITH ENTIRE STATEMENT FROM MAYOR JONES**
In addition to being Mississippi’s governor, Haley Barbour is also veteran political strategist. Today in a press event with Virginia republican gubernatorial nominee Bob McDonnell he compared 2009 to 1993.
In 1993, Barbour was the Chairman of the Republican National Committee and his party had just suffered a crippling loss of the White House, when Bill Clinton defeated incumbent President George H.W. Bush. Barbour told reporters that at the time, everyone was asking which Republican was going to attempt to oust Clinton from office and help re-build the Republican brand.
Barbour said his advice, was not to look ahead to 1996, but instead focus on 1993 and the gubernatorial campaigns of George Allen in Virginia and Christie Todd Whitman in New Jersey. He said that is exactly what Republicans did. Both Allen and Whitman won and that laid the ground work for the historic 1994 Republican sweep of Congress. (Of course, it was not enough to propel Republicans past Clinton in ’96)
Fast forward to 2009. Republicans are in similar desperate straights and it is now Haley Barbour who is being asked if he plans to run for President in 2012. To answer the question over his ambitions, Barbour responded with the same advice he gave his fellow Republicans in 1993.
“I feel exactly the same way today,” said Barbour. “That any Republican that is trying to focus on helping our party and helping his country, needs to focus on the election of 2009, including Virginia and New Jersey and the elections of 2010. After that we can start worrying about 2012. And since I have given that advice to a few thousand people, I’m taking it myself.”
The McDonnell campaign reported that the Barbour visit is expected to rake in about $250,000.
An extended clip from Barbour’s remarks, and the response from the Deeds campaign can be found after the jump..
Huckabee, Jindal, Romney, Guliani and now Barbour. Is there any doubt republicans have a close eye on Virginia? Just about every prominent national Republican seems to be finding every opportunity they can to come to the Commonwealth to stump for Bob McDonnell and make themselves known in the Old Dominion.
Haley Barbour, a favorite of social conservatives and the vice-chair of the Republican Governor’s Association comes to Virginia on Monday to stump for McDonnell and help the GOP nominee raise some cash for his race for Governor.
Aside from his responsibility as RGA vice-chair, Barbour is widely considered to be a mulling a run for President. The Mississippi Governor has made trips to both Iowa and New Hampshire and he is term limited in his current position. That means he will be out of a job in 2011, just in time to mount a campaign in 2012.
Interestingly, this is not the first time, Barbour’s name has come up in the Virginia governor’s race. The lobbying firm that he founded and is now run by his close associate Ed Rodgers hosted a fundraiser for Terry McAuliffe this winter that gave the Macker’s democratic primary opponents plenty of fodder. Although Barbour is no longer associated with firm, it still gave democrats the opportunity to take his name in vain as a way to criticize McAuliffe.
While Barbour is beloved by republican die-hards, he is also a prime democratic target. Expect Bob McDonnell’s political enemies to use the joint appearance as a way to build their case that McDonnell is an arch right winger, not the moderate he has attempted to portray himself.
McDonnell will appear with Barbour in both Virginia Beach and here in Richmond. We will have coverage of his press event in RVA Monday on Decision Virginia and NBC12.
Republican Party of Virginia Chair Pat Mullins teamed up with Del. Chris Saxman on Friday to announce their plan to submit a Freedom of Information Act request of Governor Tim Kaine‘s travel since he began as Chairman of the Democratic National Committee. The announcement was accompanied by a web video produced by the RPV that ridicules Kaine’s non-government related travel and encourages Virginians to call his office and complain.
The attack follows a persistent strategy by the Republicans to muddy up the relatively popular sitting Governor to neutralize his impact in the fall elections. Mullins has already rapped Kaine’s DNC work, calling him a “part-time” governor and Republican candidate for Governor, Bob McDonnell told me that Kaine is not a “Virginia Democrat” anymore and he is “tied to the extremely liberal and big government policies of Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi.”
There is no doubt that Kaine’s role as DNC chairman, a hyper-partisan role, leaves him vulnerable to these type of attacks. And it is not just the Governor’s political enemies who are questioning his work. The Washington-Post wrote about the Governor’s recent trip to Kansas City and how the local paper described Kaine as the “former Governor of Virginia”.
I just spoke to a representative from Governor Kaine’s office on this matter. Lynda Tran said that the Governor’s travel schedule and his security protection is “no different than any other previous governor of Virginia.” She also said that his security detail, which Mullins specifically mentions in the FOIA request, is “with the Governor 24 hours a day, whether he is sleeping in the mansion or hiking in the mountains with his children.” Tran went on to say that the protection is something the “people of Virginia have deemed necessary for their governor.”
The Governor’s office has not received the FIOA request, but they when they do, they plan to hande it appropriately. Meanwhile, they are trying to downplay the position the RPV attempts to put the governor in, with their satirical web video.
“They [RPV] are taking small clips of Friday and Saturday night events,” said Tran. “Even governors are allowed to have a little fun.”
You can see the request and the video after the jump..
In the rough and tumble world of Washington, D.C. beltway politics, Eric Cantor and Bobby Scott couldn’t be further apart. Cantor has become the standard bearer for a new Republican revolution, while Scott has become a respected member of the Democratic majority with growing influence.
But when it comes to their home districts, Scott and Cantor share a common interest and it just so happens that common interest is Richmond. Both Congressman represent a portion of the city and as a result their work in Washington sometimes must intermingle. By in large that work is behind the scenes, but for one signature issue, the kind of issue that could make a legislative legacy, the two have joined very public forces.
Cantor and Scott have agreed to work together to attempt to leverage federal funds to build a high speed rail-line from Richmond to Washington, D.C. The idea of a train that one could get on in Shockoe Bottom and end up at Union Station in 45 minutes is mythical to Richmonders. It is almost like Ahab’s search for the great white whale.
But ironically, it is this difficult economy that is offering Scott and Cantor to opportunity land their big fish. The American Investment and Recovery Act (simply known as the stimulus) has pumped millions of dollars in federal funds to build the kind of infrastructure that could lead to a project like a high speed rail line.
Today the unlikely duo held a tele-conference with Richmond officials and Karen Rae, Deputy Administrator of Federal Railroad Administration to explain the process to submit proposals for competitive grant funding to get the project off the ground. It was their second major public appearance on the subject. A few months ago the two held a press event at Main Street Station to announce their partnership. (Rachel DePompa covered that event NBC12)
Expect this to just be the beginning, because if and when this project happens it will require the slashing through of plenty of red tape. Tape thick enough to require the muscle of two powerful Congressman to cut.
The Democratic nominee for Governor, Creigh Deeds is not wasting any time staffing up for his head to head rematch with Bob McDonnell. Yesterday Deeds campaign manager, Joe Abbey sent supporters an e-mail listing the the new political team.
Abbey, the 30 year old who engineered Deeds unlikely victory, has become a new political hot property after a flattering profile in the Washington Post. He will lead a team of veteran DPV hands, staffers from his boss’ former opponents and campaign gurus from both the Warner and Kaine camps.
Unlike the last time Deeds ran against McDonnell in a statewide race, it is very apparent from Abbey’s e-mail that this time the campaign focus heavily on new media connected to grassroots supporters. It is not a surprise that the new Democratic nominee would come in prepared to take advantage of the success built by Barack Obama‘s campaign for President in Virginia last year.
I can bet that Creigh Deeds has never run a campaign, where a member of his inner circle has the title of “Mobile-Media Consultant.”
The full list of the new Deeds team can be found after the jump–