Archive for July 12th, 2012
In what will be part of an explosive issue in the 2012 U.S. Senate race from Virginia, a Richmond Circuit Court Judge ruled Thursday that Jens Soering, a German man convicted of killing his girlfriend’s parents in a gruesome 1985 murder, can stay in a Virginia prison.
In late 2009, then Governor Tim Kaine issued a transfer of Soering into German custody. Kaine was in the last months of his gubernatorial term and Bob McDonnell had already been elected as Virginia’s next governor.
Shortly after McDonnell’s inauguration, he and the newly elected Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, went to work to revoke the Kaine transfer of Soering, concerned that he would serve only a small part of his double life sentence in his native country.
Thursday, a Richmond Circuit Court ruled that McDonnell had the legal right to revoke that transfer. Back in 2010, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder informed Virginia authorities that they would not challenge the transfer revocation.
Soering’s legal options are not exhausted quite yet. He still has the option of appealing this decision to the Virginia Supreme Court. However, with the Circuit Court’s clear statement on the issue and the Federal Government’s desire to not intervene his options are running out.
That leaves the impact it will have on Tim Kaine. Kaine has repeatedly tried to explain his decision to allow Soering to return to Germany. His main argument has centered around a desire to relieve Virginia taxpayers of the expense of detaining Soering for the rest of his life. It is an argument Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli doesn’t buy.
“I don’t think Tim Kaine has ever adequately explained what on earth he was thinking,” Cuccinelli said in a phone interview Friday evening.
According to Cuccinelli, Soering would’ve had the opportunity to be released from prison in Germany in 2 and half years. If things had gone in that direction, Soering could have been in a position to petition for his release right now.
Cuccinelli said that he believes that this issue should be front and center in the race for Senate from Virginia.
“This is a terribly unexplained exercise of the authority that he (Kaine) had at the time,” Cuccinelli said.
The Attorney General told me that he believes that the General Assembly should consider legislation that would limit the ability of the Executive Branch to use their broad powers after the final election before their term ends.
Governor McDonnell, who is responsible for revoking the Soering transfer, was gratified by the court’s decision.
“Jens Soering committed a heinous and gruesome crime when he killed two innocent Virginians,” said McDonnell spokesman Tucker Martin. “The Governor believes he must serve his full sentence in the Commonwealth of Virginia.”
The question now is how big this issue plays in November for Kaine. There are reports that behind the scenes republican media experts are preparing a significant ad campaign centered around the attempted Soering transfer. Already the National Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee is working to draw focus to the issue.
“Now that a judge has ruled on this matter, it’s even more important for Tim Kaine to finally step forward and be honest with the citizens of Virginia about his decision to help a convicted double-murderer in the final hours of his Administration,” said Brian Walsh a NRSC spokesman.
Cuccinelli told me he isn’t sure what documents could even be produced that could explain Kaine’s thought process. He also called on Kaine to provide a more thorough explanation.
“There is no reasonable motive,” said Cuccinelli. “What could you possibly be trying to accomplish?’
I have a request into the Kaine campaign on the court’s decision and a response to Cuccinelli’s critisim. I will update you when I have more.
Speaking of Kaine.. Cuccinelli did not mince words when attacking the former governor’s role in this process and his explanation as to why he offered the transfer in the first place. Below is audio from our conversation, leading off with his strongest attack line.
“That was as close to B.S. as you could get out of a government official”
- Ken Cuccinelli on Tim Kaine’s explanation regarding the Soering transfer.
The already packed 2013 field for Lt. Governor of Virginia has just added a pretty high-profile name. As widely expected, former Obama senior staff member Aneesh Chopra formally announced plans to run for state’s number two elected spot. Though not a household name, Chopra brings impressive credentials with high-profile work at both the state and federal level.
Chopra got into government by serving as then Gov. Tim Kaine‘s Secretary of Technology. His effort was impressive enough that after Barack Obama captured the White House, Kaine recommended Chopra for a similar role in Washington, D.C.. Chopra was the first U.S. Chief Technology Officer and held the role for roughly 2 and half years. His job was to help integrate technology into all U.S. policy decisions. It was the first time in American history that technology was given such an important role in the shaping of government decisions. Part of his effort was to make the government’s work more transparent by posting a wide range of the public’s work online.
The position by its nature is not open to much controversy, but Chopra did find himself in some. He was forced to defend the Administration’s position on the controversial SOPA/PIPA legislation that was designed to reign in internet piracy issues. The Obama administration never formally endorsed the two pieces of legislation but did concede that internet piracy was a problem. They however were reluctant to get behind any policy that they felt inhibited free expression and innovation. Eventually the heated debate led to the legislation being killed and at this point there is no serious movement toward developing a cogent policy to combat internet piracy.
That is no longer Chopra’s problem as he is squarely focused on being elected to Lt. Governor of Virginia. His impressive fund-raising effort in the 2nd quarter of this year has impressed some lefty bloggers and he is certainly connected to some high level Virginia democrats. His problem, as is often the problem with candidates for Lt. Governor, is that he lacks significant name recognition. While often called upon to be the public face of technology issues on the state and federal level, the scope of that publicity is pretty limited. He will face a tall challenge introducing himself to the Virginia electorate at large.
To see more about Chopra, here is a look back at my interview with him right before he took the U.S. CTO position back in 2009.
His full press release announcing his run can be found after the jump.