Democrats are outraged at the deal we reported yesterday that gave Republicans a majority in the Virginia Senate.
From the Democratic Party of Virginia’s Twitter feed:
That’s straight-up accusing Terry Kilgore and other Republicans of criminal actions. Democrat-affiliated groups are calling for investigations, but can’t make up their mind as to who they’re most angry at, Republicans or their own Sen. Phil Puckett. From ProgressVA:
Virginians deserve answers over the next days over how state jobs were used as leverage in a political fight over extending affordable health care to Virginia families. Right now, it’s hard to decide who to be more disgusted with: Delegate Kilgore and his GOP colleagues who seem to be treating the Tobacco Commission as their own personal slush fund or Senator Puckett, who apparently has prioritized his personal interests over the best interests of his constituents.”
Funny, I don’t remember any outrage from DPVA when Boyd Marcus was promised a six-figure salary for his treachery. In fact, Terry McAuliffe called criticism of his quid pro quo with Marcus “petty.”
Regardless of that, the question remains whether the alleged deal was illegal. Here is, in relevant part, Virginia’s bribery law:
§ 18.2-447. When person guilty of bribery.
A person shall be guilty of bribery under the provisions of this article:
(2) If he accepts or agrees to accept from another…any pecuniary benefit offered, conferred or agreed to be conferred as consideration for or to obtain or influence the recipient’s decision, opinion, recommendation, vote or other exercise of discretion as a public servant or party official.
Sounds to me like there may be some fire underneath all this smoke. Is resigning from the Senate an “exercise of discretion as a public servant”? Clearly the Democrats think it is. I think they’re probably wrong, but we shall see soon enough.
UPDATE 06/09 2:29 PM: Reacting to the firestorm of criticism over the apparent promise of a job at the tobacco commission to Phil Puckett in exchange for his resignation from the Virginia Senate, the chairman of the commission, Del. Terry Kilgore (R-Scott) has now canceled the Wednesday meeting of the commission, which he had called last Friday for the purpose of hiring a new staff member.
So, we have the quid but no quo, yet: Puckett’s resignation is official, but it remains to be seen whether he’ll get what he was promised.
The Times-Dispatch also reports that Senate Majority Leader Tommy Norment (R-James City County), who disclaims any knowledge of a deal with former Sen. Puckett, said he plans to use the new majority to push for passage of budget without Medicaid expansion language. But, right now pro-Obamacare votes in the Senate still total 22, versus 17 opposed, so it isn’t clear just how Norment thinks this can happen. Pressure on GOP Senators Watkins, Stosch, and Hanger to change their minds on Medicaid expansion—or to at least agree to debate it separately—is now going to reach its peak.