For those late to the story, recall that back in June Virginia state Senator Phil Puckett (D-Russell) resigned to clear the way for his daughter to get past the anti-nepotism rules in the Senate and get a state level judicial appointment. That appointment never happened after the firestorm of controversy erupted over his apparently having also been enticed with a job offer on the state tobacco commission to free up a new seat for a Republican senator.
But one thing that did happen was revealed last week, when the Washington Post reported that in an effort to keep Puckett in the Virginia Senate (and thereby keep that body in Democratic control), Sen. Mark Warner called Puckett’s son to offer an appointment to the federal bench for his sister—if only his dad, Sen. Puckett, would stay put. Apparently this came too late, as Puckett had already made his final decision to resign.
Ed Gillespie rightly brought this up at last night’s debate, as such an issue casts serious doubts about the Senator’s judgment and ethics. This is the Senator who, after all, parlayed his $18,000/year job as a Democratic Party functionary into a $100 million fortune based on connections to power brokers willing and able to game the system.
So how did Warner respond? He said he was just “brainstorming” about ways to help Puckett. You know, just tossing out some ideas, something like, “If I get your sister this prestigious lifetime job on the taxpayer dime, do you think your dad would continue to serve in the Senate? Maybe I can get her another job, if the federal judiciary isn’t her schtick. Just let me know how I can help, ya know, because as the senior U.S. Senator from Virginia, I get a lot of leeway from the president about who gets those jobs.”
That’s not brainstorming. It’s bribestorming…thinking up creative ways to use one’s power and influence to purchase influence (with taxpayer dollars) over a sitting legislator.
Ed Gillespie had the best line of the debate last night when he observed that “Mark Warner likes to describe himself as a problem solver. Ask yourself, what problems have been solved?”
The answer is none. None at all, which is why Warner kept trying to change the subject to stuff that happened over a decade ago instead of during his last, disastrous term in the Senate.
But Warner certainly displayed a talent for creating a problem for his own re-election.
Cross-posted at Virginia Virtucon.