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The Democrat misrepresents a prosecutor’s report on Cuccinelli and clouds a legitimate campaign issue.
Tuesday, July 23, 2013
Terry McAuliffe seemed to have Ken Cuccinelli right where he wanted him about an hour into Saturday’s first gubernatorial debate at the Omni Homestead Resort.
The Democrat was poised to put his Republican rival on the defensive over Cuccinelli’s relationship with businessman Jonnie Williams Sr., the figure at the center of the gift-giving scandal engulfing Gov. Bob McDonnell. Two days before the debate, Richmond Commonwealth’s Attorney Michael Herring released a report clearing Cuccinelli of criminal wrongdoing for failing to promptly disclose certain gifts from Williams and stock holdings in his company, Star Scientific. Cuccinelli requested the review after amending disclosure statements.
The findings in Herring’s report do raise legitimate questions about Cuccinelli’s judgment and lack of attention to detail. But instead of probing that weakness with some well-placed jabs in Saturday’s debate, McAuliffe threw a reckless, roundhouse punch that missed.
“If you read the whole report, which I have done, it says in here that the attorney general should have been prosecuted, but the Virginia disclosure laws are insufficient,” McAuliffe said.
Herring’s report says nothing of the sort. The prosecutor confined his review to the question of whether Cuccinelli violated the state’s conflict-of-interest law and concluded that the attorney general did not.
“Although one cannot help but question whether repeated omissions of gifts from Williams are coincidence or a pattern reflecting intent to conceal, the disclosure of several other gifts and benefits from Williams in his original statements suggests that the Attorney General was not attempting to conceal the relationship,” Herring concluded.
As PolitiFact Virginia noted on Sunday, McAuliffe’s characterization of Herring’s findings “defies any reasonable reading of the report.” The Democrat got a well-deserved “Pants on Fire” rating from the fact-checker.
McAuliffe’s misfire called attention to one of his own weaknesses, his penchant for embellishment. If he can’t control it, his campaign message will be lost amid the flames lapping his trousers. Cuccinelli still has some explaining to do about his relationship with Williams. And Virginia’s flimsy ethics laws should be on the table for debate in this campaign. But McAuliffe helps neither cause with reckless assertions like the one he made Saturday. The facts are troubling enough. McAuliffe should stick to them.
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