Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Bob McDonnell Got Some Gifts, Eee-Eye-Eee-Eye Ohhhh

Bob McDonnell & wife Maureen; happier times (AP)
Former Virginia Republican Governor Bob McDonnell and his wife Maureen had good reason to smile as they danced at his inauguration ball in Richmond back on the night of January 16, 2010 (pictured left).

They were riding the crest of a political wave that swept 29 Republican governors into office; including NJ Governor Chris Christie three days later on January 19th and Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker on November 3rd.

Democrats were humbled in the 2010 mid-term elections that saw the GOP capture 63 seats in the US House of Representatives to recapture the majority and also boost their Senate minority numbers by 6 as well; they captured 680 seats in state legislatures around the nation creating a number of "Super Majorities".

But as we know, a lot can happen in four years.

McDonnell and his wife appeared in Federal Court earlier today to face 14 counts of obstructing Federal investigators, conspiracy and fraud. The charges stem from at least $140,805 worth of gifts they received from Jonnie Williams, the wealthy CEO of a nutritional supplement company called Star Scientific.

This afternoon McDonnell was adamant about he and his wife's innocence: “We did not violate the law, and I will use every available resource and advocate I have for as long as it takes to fight these false allegations, and to prevail against this unjust overreach of the federal government.”

The embattled ex-Gov trying to curry sympathy with the right by characterizing the charges as some kind of infringement by the Federal Government is a pretty desperate ploy.

Frankly he's got some cojones accusing the Federal Government of "overreach" considering the gifts he and the former-First Lady of Virginia received from their pal Jonnie; including golf bags, golf shoes, an engraved Rolex watch, designer dresses, earrings, wallets, two iPhones, $15,000 worth of catering for the McDonnell's daughter's wedding and free trips on Williams' private plane.

The jaw-dropping list of goodies was summarized in a stunning document made public in the 45-page indictment - click here to take a look at the list of gifts for yourself. You think that's bad?

The Washington Post reports the McDonnells also had the gall to bill the state of Virginia for personal items like nasal spray, sunscreen and dog vitamins too. And don't think their buddy 'Ole Jonnie was in some kind of perpetual gift-giving mood for no reason either.

An excellent article on the Politico Website today by Alexander Burns and Elizabeth Titus details several specific instances when McDonnell used his political influence and the power of his office to do favors for Star Scientific immediately after some kind of lavish gift from Jonnie was received.

And so yet another once high-flying GOP governor once mentioned as a possible presidential contender in 2016 falls under the cloud of scandal; even though McDonnell's gift grab pales in comparison to Bridge-Gate.

Speaking of which, even as Christie was sworn into office today and basically ignored the growing scandal surrounding his massive abuse of power during his speech, Hoboken Mayor Dawn Zimmer  isn't backing off an inch on her charges that Christie's Lt. Governor Kim Guadagno threatened to withhold Hurricane Sandy relief funds for Hoboken if Zimmer didn't back a massive redevelopment project on a three-acre site proposed by The Rockefeller Group.

Who did the Rockefeller Group hire as it's lobbyist? According to the NY Daily News, none other than former Christie cabinet officer Lori Grifa. The Daily News article also points out that The Rockefeller Group's law firm, Wolff & Samson is the law firm of (drum roll please) Port Authority Chairman David Samson - a Christie appointee.

Kim Guadagno was probably pushing the righteous indignation act just a little bit too hard the other day when she called Zimmer's accusation of political retribution "completely false" and "illogical".   

According to WNYC reporter Sarah Gonzalez, Zimmer fired back with a copy of a letter dated April 23, 2013 written to Governor Christie in which she objects to Sandy aid being contingent on her supporting the Rockefeller Group development proposal to counter charges from the Christie camp that Zimmer's charges against the Governor appeared out of nowhere.    

Seriously what is it with these Republican governors anyway? It's like the political power buzz of the 2010 elections and Tea Party fervor never wore off and they saw it as some kind of rubber-stamp edict from the voters who elected them to do whatever they pleased; even if it was ethically and legally reprehensible. 

How about Republican North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory? This state might as well have the flag of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) flying over the state capital, or they should just send Republican thugs out across the state with bats to beat the poor, working class and middle class citizens of the state into submission.

Journalist Bill Moyers has been doing some excellent coverage of ALEC on his television show and his Website. He reports that The Raleigh News & Observer reporter John Frank claims that 54 out of 170 state legislators in North Carolina are members of ALEC; including the Speaker of the House Thom Tillis; ALEC's 2011 "legislator of the year".

Governor McCrory's new legislative lobbyist? State ALEC chairman Fred Steen; himself a former state legislator.
No wonder North Carolina has passed some of the most draconian voter suppression laws since the Jim Crow Era and actually voted against the state accepting additional funds from the Federal Government to extend available unemployment benefits for those in the Tar Heel state still struggling to find work.

Not only are Republicans busy suppressing as many votes as they can, Think reports that Governor McCrory is catching heat for leaving North Carolina's 12th Congressional district without an elected US Congressman representing them for more than a year.

According to the article by Josh Israel, Democratic Rep Mell Watt resigned his office on the first day of the legislative year to become director of the Federal Housing Finance Agency and Governor McCrory won't hold a special election until November 4th - meaning a Congressional district that stretches from Charlotte to Greensboro with over a million citizens, the majority of whom are minorities, will have no representative in the US Congress for 12 months.

Kudos to MSNBC's Chuck Todd for confronting McCrory last Wednesday on The Daily Rundown.

But confrontation isn't enough. The mainstream media, average citizens and the Justice Department have to come together to identify, address and stop this kind of contemptuous dismissal and denial of the Constitutional rights of citizens.

Par for the course for this Republican party - and a blight on the basic ideals of liberty, freedom and citizenship for our nation. Republicans just can't sell their extremist policies and rigid ideology to mainstream Americans, so they're determined to cut off access to the political process (and health care) for millions of Americans who don't vote Republican.

But have faith. In "The Loudest Voice in the Room: How the Brilliant, Bombastic Roger Ailes Built Fox News - And Divided a Country" a new unauthorized biography on Fox News chief Roger Ailes, one of the chief architects of this divisive form of political warfare, author Gabriel Sherman asserts that the Republican party has shackled itself to a rapidly shrinking base that's aging fast - and unable to connect with the more diverse, politically progressive, younger and more technologically savvy voter base that is becoming the majority in this nation.

Smarter more moderate Republicans like Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal, South Carolina Senator Lyndsey Graham and Arizona Senator John McCain know the numbers don't lie; but they sit quietly on the side of the room while the Tea Partiers dance. If the GOP couldn't pull it off with Mitt Romney in 2012 against Obama; it's probably not going to happen in 2016 either.

Not while the GOP is ruled by misogynists, zealots and reactionaries; and governed by an archaic  intolerance that's indigestible for the majority of Americans. 

For Republicans, the states have become the last bastion of this vicious brand of Conservatism.

But as we've seen by the actions of Republican Governors like Bob McDonnell, Scott Walker, Chris Christie and Pat McCrory, they're starting to loose their grip on the pulse of the states as well as they increasingly operate not in the actual political arena - but in an abstract ideological vacuum where reason, dissent or debate are not tolerated.

By their own actions they have become the authors of their own epitaph; maybe not tomorrow, but soon.

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