“Let’s face it if a member of the legislature had done what Ms. Webb did you would be calling for their resignation. Apparently your publication promotes double standards. Wrong is wrong, and what Ms. Webb did was unethical, and possibly illegal. This is not a Republican or Democrat issue, but honesty in government issue.”
So commented Del. Steve Landes (R-Augusta) on Commonwealth Commonsense in response to one of my posts on the matter.
When asked by several of the Republican lawmakers for campaign donations, Katie Webb, lobbyist for the Virginia Hospital and Healthcare Association, refused their requests and stated the reason why: They voted against sale tax increases VHHA felt were needed to fund Medicare reimbursements to hospitals.
The letter was unusual in its bluntness, but what it said was obvious: If you don’t vote our way, don’t expect contributions. Somehow, Landes, who did not receive one of the letters, thinks that’s unethical and suggests this is an “honesty in government issue.”
I can’t understand the complaint. Webb was being honest. What would be dishonest is to make up some tortured reason that wouldn’t offend the lawmakers, which is what often is done, or to simply ignore the request. Lawmakers know they get contributions from people and organizations that want them to vote certain ways. Many folks don’t like that idea, thinking it provides too much power to the rich and corporations, but that’s the way the game is played. And unlike many liberals, I really have no problem with campaign contributions buying access because on election day, my vote counts just the same as a rich woman’s or a CEO’s vote.
Landes tried to get Attorney General Jerry Kilgore to weigh in on the matter, but his office declined, saying the AG doesn’t rule on the facts of a case. Landes wants Webb charged with bribery. The Washington Post reports the AG’s definition of bribery as “the offering, giving, receiving, or soliciting of anything of value with intent to influence the recipient’s action as a public official.” Boy, if that were followed to the letter, politicians wouldn’t receive enough to pay for a cup of coffee.
“There’s nothing shocking in this,” said Mark Rozell, chairman of the Politics Department at Catholic University. “It was just that the PAC’s response was so candid in admitting that they do what everyone else does.”
In fact, last week, Kilgore’s campaign solicited a donation from the Virginia Hospital and Healthcare Association as part of a broad mailing, a campaign spokesman said.
In his request, was Kilgore saying if you contribute to my campaign, “I’ll be sure to consider your point of view and the bigger the contribution the larger the consideration”?
Landes, who probably wouldn’t have any standing in a lawsuit, said he’ll leave it up to the lawmakers who received the letter to decide whether to pursue the matter in court. But that tact is losing its appeal.
“The truth is, we all have bigger fish to fry,” said Del. L. Scott Lingamfelter (R-Prince William). “I thought the letter was inappropriate. But having said that, I don’t think Ms. Webb got up in the morning intending to break the law. She overstated her point.”
Similarly, Sen. James K. “Jay” O’Brien Jr. (R-Fairfax) said he was ready to let things rest. “I thought it was in awfully poor taste,” he said. “She crossed the line, I thought. But it just shows you the nature of things in Richmond these days.”
At lease one of those who received the letter said he saw nothing unusual in it.
“I didn’t take any offense at the letter to begin with,” said Sen. Bill Bolling (R-Hanover). “Different people could read the letter in different ways. They were saying that they were not going to be supportive and here’s why. I thought they were being very honest in their position, and you can’t ask for more than that. I frankly never understood the angst.”
I haven’t understood it either.