Social media has been in hyper drive over the last 24 hours about a story that broke yesterday on PJMedia entitled, BANANA REPUBLICANS: New Head of Virginia GOP on Eric Cantor’s Payroll. Mark Levin, VA Right, The Blaze w/Doc Thompson, SaraforAmerica and JHPolitics are just a few who are talking about it. The short version is as follows:
Shaun Kenney is the co-owner of Bearing Drift, which has historically been the “premiere conservative” blog for the last 10 years in Virginia.
Shaun Kenney and his brother, Jason Kenney (also a contributor at Bearing Drift), are principals of K6 Consulting Group LLC, a political and communications consulting firm.
Eric Cantor is a client of K6 Consulting, but until Monday of this week neither the Kenneys nor Bearing Drift had publicly and directly disclosed the existence of this relationship, contrary to the claims by Kenney on Breitbart today.
Shaun Kenney has previously attacked, maligned, and insulted those who have inquired if he or K6 Consulting have any relationship with Eric Cantor.
Shaun Kenney has arguably written positive articles on Bearing Drift about Eric Cantor and been conspicuously quiet on other stories that would not have been positive toward Cantor. (Obviously the credible response is that Kenney would have written those posts in the manner he did regardless of a Cantor client relationship).
Shaun Kenney was appointed two weeks ago as the new Executive Director of the Republican Party of Virginia.
Eric Cantor is facing a Republican primary challenger, Dave Brat.
The night before the FEC Campaign Finance reports were made public, Bearing Drift disclosed to the public that K6 Consulting does work for Cantor. It was an attempt to stay ahead of a story they knew would be toxic, since, contrary to the claims by Kenney on Breitbart today, Shaun Kenney had not been “very open” about the relationship between K6 and Cantor. The entire Cantor/K6/Kenney story isn’t about Bearing Drift per se, but it tangentially involves them since Shaun Kenney is co-owner and blogger at Bearing Drift.
Breitbart has now published a story this morning reporting that Dave Brat has submitted a letter to the Chairman of the Republican Party of Virginia. The letter said:
Dear Chairman Mullins,
I am extremely concerned with the breaking news regarding Shaun Kenney’s alleged connection to the Eric Cantor Campaign. If Eric Cantor’s campaign or any of his affiliates has hired Shaun Kenney’s consulting firm, any pretense of fairness in the upcoming Seventh District Congressional Race is diminished. With Shaun Kenney recently named Executive Director of the Republican Party of Virginia in this same time period, additional questions remain to be answered. How long has this relationship existed, and is there a relationship with Young Guns PAC or any other Cantor affiliated political committees? If so, for how long have these relationships existed, do these relationships continue, is Mr. Kenney still involved in any way with his consulting firm, does he profit in any way from that firm’s business, or does he do any work of any sort that contributes to the profitability and branding of that firm?
These unanswered questions are why we are calling on you as Chairman of the Republican Party of Virginia to investigate these issues thoroughly and impartially. We ask for an independent investigation into the relationship between Shaun Kenney, K6 Consulting Group, Eric Cantor, and the Republican Party of Virginia. The ethical and legal findings should be made public as soon as possible.
Specifically, we ask for an opinion of the RPV General Counsel. We want to know if Shaun Kenny has violated Article 3, Section F 1,2 of the RPV Party Plan where it states that:
Any written or verbal contract or other transaction between (i) the Party and (ii) the Chairman, one or more members of the State Central Committee, and/or the Executive Director (hereinafter “Responsible Person”), or any corporation, partnership, firm or association in which a Responsible Person or a family
member of that Responsible Person has a material financial interest, is void unless:
a. The material facts as to the transaction and as to the Responsible Person’s interest are fully disclosed or known to the State Central Committee, or to the Executive Committee acting in its stead pursuant to Article III, Section E.1.b, prior to the time that such contract or transaction is approved, and
b.The State Central Committee, or the Executive Committee acting in its stead pursuant to Article III, Section E.1.b, approves the contract or transaction in good faith by an affirmative majority vote (without counting the Responsible Person) at a meeting at which there is a quorum present (without counting the Responsible Person).
2. The term “material financial interest” shall mean a financial interest of any kind which, in view of all the circumstances, is substantial enough that it would, or reasonably could, affect a Responsible Person’s or family member’s judgment with respect to transactions in which the Party is involved. The term “family member” shall mean a spouse, parent, child, spouse of a child, brother, sister…
Even if there is no legal conflict of interest in this matter, I’m sure you understand the gravity of the obvious appearance of a political and ethical conflict of interest. This will not serve the Party well if we want to build an inclusive, fair, broad-based organization. The Party can not be seen as being owned by any machine or clique.
We hope to see these questions answered and this situation resolved in a timely matter, as the election is now less than sixty days out.
To be fair, The Bull Elephant has spoken directly with Jason Kenney and Shaun Kenney and they have unequivocally and emphatically denied that Shaun Kenney has financially benefited from the Eric Cantor/K6 relationship, or that any other financial relationship exists between Shaun Kenney and the Cantor organization. We are glad to hear that and appreciate the recent openness on that question. However, this denial does not address the broader issue of transparency and the perceived political/ethical conflict of interest that Dave Brat mentions in the last paragraph of his letter.
It is silly to say that your company and brother work for Eric Cantor and that it does not influence your behavior at all. If this is the case, then why has there been such an overt attempt to hide it? Why has Shaun Kenney gone on the offensive for the last couple of months attacking anyone who asks if his company is doing work for Cantor? It is hard to imagine Shaun Kenney (or anyone for that matter) NOT making decisions that benefit and advance their company or help/protect their company’s brand or brother’s work. It would be natural for anyone, frankly.
Everyone remembers long-time Republican consultant, Boyd Marcus, defecting to Democrat Terry McAuliffe last year during the governor’s race. Boyd Marcus and Ray Allen had been partners in Marcus & Allen Consulting for more than a decade, and their chief client was (and still is for Ray Allen) Eric Cantor. Does anyone really think that Marcus & Allen Consulting could have stayed together while Boyd Marcus took on McAuliffe as a client? Clearly this would have caused a serious conflict of interest for Eric Cantor, regardless of whether any McAuliffe money made its way to Ray Allen.
Or how about Boyd’s son, Randy Marcus, who was Chief of Staff to the scorned Lt. Governor Bill Bolling? IF Randy Marcus had publicly been bashing Ken Cuccinelli last year in the press, would anyone really think that it had nothing to do with his dad or boss?
The problem here is really an issue of transparency, which only makes the conflict of interest questions more pertinent. Now Shaun Kenney is the Executive Director of the Republican Party of Virginia, which elevates the conflict of interest questions from beyond merely blogging into the realm of actual GOP governance and operations. I think Dave Brat raises some very good questions in his letter. We will have to wait and see the response. The more transparent and forthright the response, the quicker this can all get behind us.