Maryland Senator Ben Cardin joins us to talk about the youth movement against gun violence, Russian sanctions, and more. D.C. Councilmember Mary Cheh shares her thoughts on relief for high water bills and news that D.C. Public Schools is taking over an all girls charter school.
Former Virginia Gov. Robert McDonnell and his wife are found guilty by a jury in a sprawling corruption trial. A longtime political strategist in local D.C. campaigns is linked to a political scandal in Philadelphia. And a Maryland family backs away from plans to build a controversial shooting range in Montgomery County. Join us for our weekly review of the politics, policies, and personalities of the District of Columbia, Maryland and Virginia.
- Tom Sherwood Resident Analyst; NBC 4 reporter; and Columnist for the Current Newspapers
- Michael Pope Northern Virginia reporter, WAMU 88.5; political reporter, Connection Newspapers; Author, "Hidden History of Alexandria, D.C." (The History Press)
- Quentin Kidd Professor of Political Science and Director of the Wason Center for Public Policy, Christopher Newport University
- Jennifer McClellan Member, Virginia House of Delegates (D-71st District); Vice Chair, House Democratic Caucus, Virginia House of Delegates; Former Vice-Chair, Virginia Democratic Party
- Steve Landes Member, Virginia House of Delegates (R-25th District)
- Robert White Independent Candidate, D.C. Council (At-Large)
Featured Video: “The Virginia Way Is Dead”
For some critics, the guilty verdict in Former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell’s corruption trial is a sign that the state has lost its way.
“The Virginia way is dead,” said Quentin Kidd, a professor of political science and the director of the Wason Center for Public Policy at Christopher Newport University.
“It’s a part of history that we’re nostalgically reaching for,” Kidd said, “but I just don’t think it exists in the modern Virginia that is a state with a very competitive political environment … an environment that is much more amenable to lobbyists and business people.”
Watch the full discussion below.
Watch Full Video
Watch the full video of our conversation about the verdict in the Bob McDonnell trial and with Robert White, an Independent candidate for D.C. Council (At-Large).
MR. KOJO NNAMDIFrom WAMU 88.5, at American University, in Washington, welcome to "The Politics Hour," starring Tom Sherwood. I'm Kojo Nnamdi. Tom Sherwood is our resident analysis. He's a reporter for NBC 4 and a columnist for the Current Newspapers. And obviously the big news here in the Washington area and around the nation over the past 24 hours has been the guilty verdicts in the case of former Virginia Governor Robert McDonnell and his wife Maureen McDonnell. A total of 18 counts on which, together, they have been found guilty. That's what we'll be discussing to a large extent during the course of this hour.
MR. KOJO NNAMDILater on we'll be talking with Robert White. He's an Independent candidate for D.C. Council. He's running for an at-large seat. But first, Tom Sherwood, there is the story of another guilty plea today in the District of Columbia in the on-going investigation of the 2010 campaign of Mayor Vincent Gray. Mark Long pled guilty today to conspiring with businessman Jeffrey Thompson and others to conceal under-the-table campaign payments and other things. Now, this individual was the driver for Mayor Gray during that 2010 election campaign. What else do we know?
MR. TOM SHERWOODWell, first of all, this is an ethics extravaganza today. And so I'm happy to be here to talk about it.
SHERWOODMark Long is a businessman who would during the campaign in 2010 for Mayor -- for Vince Gray -- drove him around. Now, you have to read this, the 12 or 13-page document, to know exactly what happened, but Long, today, pleaded guilty in D.C. Superior Court to one charge of conspiracy. And as Mark Segraves from Channel 4 reported, Ron Machin, the U.S. attorney said this -- that the mayoral campaign was rife with corruption.
SHERWOODAnd that, "our work continues." But specific for Mark Long, in addition to getting money from Jeff Thompson to fund his failed 2008 council campaign, in addition to working with Jeff Thompson to try to get a candidate to drop out of the mayor's race in 2010, the most important part in the indictment, I mean, or the criminal information or whatever the legal term is…
NNAMDIYou were going to say whatever the heck, weren't you?
SHERWOODYeah, it's a habit here right here. I'm not going to read it. It's too many legal words. But Mark Long drove Vince Gray to secret meetings with Jeffrey Thompson, the man who funded this shadow campaign. Mark Thompson (sic) picked up campaign contributions from Jeff Thompson.
SHERWOODMark -- excuse me -- Mark Long. And delivered them to Vince Gray. So you've had two things happen. We had Jeffrey Thompson last year go into court and kind of admit to the shadow campaign. And Vince Gray called him a liar. We now have Vince Gray's driver ready to confirm or at least back up the allegations made by Jeffrey Thompson. This is bad news for Mayor Gray. A lot of people have thought, oh, well, he's near the end of his term.
SHERWOODHe lost reelection. He's going to sail off into the sunset without facing any criminal charges. Everything about this document, everything about what happened in court today, and everything that the U.S. attorney says means that the shadow over Vince Gray is not done yet.
NNAMDIJust two questions. One, is it clear that Vince Gray was in a vehicle with Mark Long going to meet Jeffrey Thompson?
NNAMDITwo, why is it that Mark Long has indeed pled guilty at this point, you think?
SHERWOODWell, I -- in the classic words, he flipped. You know, he was facing charges. Whenever someone pleads guilty in court, generally speaking, they have -- they are facing much -- many more charges or much more severe consequences if they don't plead guilty to something. So in this case, Mark Long has pled guilty to this conspiracy count, where he could have been charged with several other crimes also. So he's flipped. He's now cooperating with prosecutors and their investigation into the Gray 2010 campaign.
NNAMDIWhy could he not seek not to be prosecuted at all if he had crucial information about the individual the U.S. attorney is clearly after, Mayor Gray?
SHERWOODWell, he's plead guilty, but we don't know what his sentence will be. He will be sentenced later. He's only plead guilty today and he'll be back in court to be sentenced. But just like Jeffrey Thompson, you know, he plead guilty, as the mastermind, the financier of all these illegal contributions. And he's not facing much time in prison. Many people think that the real goal here is to get Vince Gray to acknowledge publicly that he participate in the illegal scheme to get him elected. And it's not a question about how many years he'll be going to prison.
NNAMDIIn the case of what the verdicts were that we just discovered about in Virginia yesterday, Jonnie Williams, the individual who was the one cited for helping the McDonnell family, was not prosecuted at all. Joining us now to talk about that is Quentin Kidd. He's a political science professor, chair of the Department of Government, and the director of the Wason Center for Public Policy at Christopher Newport University, in Newport News, Va. Quentin Kidd, thank you by joining --thank you for joining us.
MR. QUENTIN KIDDWell, it's good to be with you. I wish that it was for better circumstances, but it is what it is.
NNAMDIAlso joining us by phone is Jennifer McClellan. She's a member of the Virginia House of Delegates, a Democrat who represents the commonwealth's 71st District. Delegate McClellan, thank you for joining us.
REP. JENNIFER MCCLELLANThank you. Good afternoon.
NNAMDIAnd Delegate Steve Landis is a member of the House of Delegates, is a Republican who represents the commonwealth's 25th District. He is a Republican. Steve Landis, thank you for joining us.
REP. STEVE LANDESKojo, thanks for having me on.
NNAMDIIf you have questions or comments you can call us at 800-433-8850. You can send email to email@example.com. You can shoot us a tweet, @kojoshow. Or you can go to our website kojoshow.org, where you can watch a live videostream of this broadcast. Quentin Kidd, I will start with you. What exactly did the jury find Bob McDonnell and his wife Maureen guilty of yesterday?
KIDDWell, in two words, public corruption.
KIDDTrading position and ability to do things for -- in this case, gifts and money. What's interesting is what they didn't find them guilty of, which is the false documents, the false statements, which was the charge that allowed them to make -- to make this -- to bring this into federal court.
NNAMDIAnd the irony is, if Governor McDonnell had accepted a plea deal, to plead guilty to making a false statement on a loan application, he would have not been facing any jail time at all.
KIDDThat's right. The twists and turns of this are just fascinating. So he had the opportunity to plead guilty to one federal count of making a false statement. His wife would have not been charged with anything. He refused, saying he wasn't guilty of that. Well, the jury agreed with him, except that the jury -- but alternatively the jury said he was guilty and his wife was guilty of essentially a bunch of public corruption charges.
KIDDAnd so the federal prosecutors walked through the federal courtroom with a charge that Bob McDonnell didn't agree to, but they also brought in with them several charges that they couldn't have brought to federal court had it not been for that false statement charge. So the McDonnells are guilty of something that couldn't have been brought to federal court if it had not been on the coattails of that false statement charge.
KIDDAnd they have completely pulled the rug out from under Virginia, in terms of it's sort of standard way that ethics are practiced in Virginia. You know, the rug was pulled out from under what we commonly refer to as the Virginia way, that implied that, you know, public officials had a virtue that was beyond the law, that they -- that they were beyond the law. Well, the federal court and this jury said, no way. Virginia needs clear ethics laws. Virginia elected officials need to know more clearly what's right and wrong.
SHERWOODBefore we analyze that -- thanks for being on today -- this is Tom Sherwood. What's next? As I understand it they'll be sentenced in the same courtroom on January the 6th? Is that correct? And they don't -- they face a lot of jail time, but people don't expect them to get it.
KIDDYeah, but I have to say, I didn't expect -- if you had asked me two days ago, I wouldn't have told you that they would be found guilty on 20 of the 26 counts. And so, you know, I hear people saying, "Oh, surely they're not going to get a lot of years." But I'm not second guessing anything anymore. You know, the court really nailed them. I mean they really -- they -- the jury hammered them and the judge provided instructions that were -- that allowed the jury to hammer them like that.
KIDDAnd so, yeah, January 6th they get sentenced. Immediately they appeal. But what I find fascinating, politically, is January 6th is just right before the general assembly session starts and I would be shocked if ethics reform is not a big issue in this general assembly session.
SHERWOODWell, we'll come back to that, maybe, if we get the other guests in here. But I don't know that Virginia's going to change its ethics laws.
NNAMDIWell, last week Tom Sherwood indicated that he thought that the jury would find them guilty. I indicated that I thought they could walk. I hate it when he's more right than I am.
SHERWOODI won $5 from Mark Segraves.
NNAMDIDelegate McClellan, former…
SHERWOODWhich I'll donate to charity.
NNAMDIDelegate McClellan, former Congressman Tom Davis told the New York Times that this may be a tragedy for the McDonnell family, but it is a tragedy for the commonwealth. How do you see it? Tragedy, wake-up call or both?
MCCLELLANI think both. I think, you know, everybody that knows the McDonnells, whether you agreed with his politics or not, you just -- you can't help but just be sad that this has happened. But I also think it has caused us to reevaluate our current ethics laws. And I will say, from the outset, it's -- bribery is already a crime. And I don't think, you know, we need to do any more on that.
MCCLELLANBut I do think we could provide a lot clearer guidance in our ethics rules and our disclosure rules to try to prevent something like this from happening. That's a very difficult thing to do, but I think we need to try to do it.
NNAMDIWell, how would you provide that guidance, Delegate Landes? One of your colleagues in the Virginia Senate, told the Washington Post recently that he doesn't think you could write a law that could cure the kind of behavior at the center of this case. How do you see it?
LANDESKojo, you know, I agree with Jennifer in that this is a sad day for the commonwealth and, basically, all public officials and the McDonnell family. I know we -- that those of us that know the McDonnells very well just our prayers are with them. But, you know, we addressed and tried to address the issue that we saw on the horizon last year during the session.
LANDESAnd I think we came up with a pretty good -- as best we could get, from a standpoint of a compromise between both parties and both the House and Senate -- an effort to try to, you know, provide assistance and advice to public officials on what they should and shouldn't do. The problem is the governor vetoed the funding for the commission that we set up to provide that.
LANDESNow, we only have one staff person, as opposed to the three attorneys that we envisioned to provide assistance, not only to members of the general assembly, but to local government officials, the governor, his staff and our staffs and other public elected officials in the commonwealth. And so we'll have to come up with a way to make that, I think, that commission work. And during the next session…
SHERWOODExcuse me. Why do you need -- this is Tom Sherwood, sir. Why do you need a commission? I mean there are states there -- there are boilerplate ethics laws around the country that can be adopted. Why do you have to have a commission and wait another year until 2016 maybe to get something passed? I mean, are you talking about a commission that works for a few weeks or months?
LANDESNo, Tom. We're talking about a commission that would be in place with staff…
LANDES…that would -- and that's what I'm talking about...
SHERWOODOh, I'm sorry. I thought you were talking about a task force. My ears were…
LANDESNo, no, no, no, no.
SHERWOODOur ears were hurting.
LANDESThe whole idea for the commission was to provide very similar to what we have with the Freedom of Information Act Council that provides advice to officials on what to do and not to do. I'm not an attorney. Jennifer does practice law and she's a very good one. But I'm the kind of person that needs the kind of advice -- and obviously most attorneys -- I think even Jennifer would say -- when you don't practice in that area, you have to have somebody you can seek advice from. And that's what we set up the commission for with the staff and the attorneys that would be able to provide that assistance.
SHERWOODIt was widely seen as pretty weak, but -- and the -- I'd like to ask you about -- even under the law that was passed by the assembly -- the Roanoke Times reporter -- Dan Casey, I think it was -- reported that the governor could still have accepted the Rolex watch because Jonnie Williams, the guy who was looking for favors…
MCCLELLANI disagree with that, Tom. I think under the law that we passed we made clear that anyone seeking business before the state is not a friend that would fall in the friend exemption. And we capped any gifts that you could receive at $250. So…
SHERWOODI thought it only applied to lobbyists and those seeking contracts for the state.
MCCLELLANIt -- I think it says those seeking business before the state, which Jonnie Williams clearly was. That was at least our intent, was to stop exactly what happened with the watch and…
SHERWOODWell, you know, Senator Dick Saslaw has said a couple of times up here in Alexandria, "Oh, well, you can write the toughest ethics law you want, but that won't stop people from doing bad things." And he points across the river to the District and says, "Look at the District. It's got a tough ethics law. And look at all the corruption that's occurred there." But isn't a tough ethics law not only to discourage people from doing something, but to provide really tough penalties if they in fact break the law? And I don't get that sense that the commonwealth wants to go that far.
MCCLELLANWell, it's, you know, it is -- it depends what the infraction is. You know, what you don't want is to set up a system where if someone makes an honest mistake, you know, the hammer will come down on them. So we're trying to find that balance. But you're absolutely right, you know, where you break the law, you know, it's clear, it's egregious, you meant to do it, you -- there should be consequences for it. But we're trying to find that balance for all government officials, you know, full time and part time. And not make it so complicated that they would have to, each of them, have a compliance officer.
MCCLELLANWe made a first step this past session. I think we can go farther in providing, you know, guidance, you know, clear penalties, you know, clear "you can do this, you can't do that." But it's going to be an ongoing process. And I do think, you know, if someone wants to be corrupt, they're going to be corrupt, whatever the law says. I agree with that. But there should be consequences when they do and whey they're caught.
NNAMDIJennifer McClellan is a member of the Virginia House of Delegates. She's a Democrat who represents the commonwealth's 71st District. She joins us by phone on this edition of "The Politics Hour," where we're discussing the guilty verdicts handed down yesterday in the case of the former governor of Virginia, Robert McDonnell and his wife Maureen. Also joining us by phone is Steve Landes. He's a member of Virginia House of Delegates, a Republican representing the commonwealth's 25th District.
NNAMDIQuentin Kidd is a political science professor, chair of the Department of Government and the director of the Wason Center for Public Policy at Christopher Newport University, in Newport News. And Tom Sherwood is our resident analyst. He's a reporter for NBC 4 and a columnist for the Current Newspapers. We're taking your calls at 800-433-8850. You can send email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Quentin Kidd, what are you expecting about -- in terms of how lawmakers will react to this verdict yesterday?
KIDDWell, I mean, I would expect some movement on tightening ethics rules, you know, in the next session of the general assembly. And, you know, I would think both parties would have a motivation to work together. There's going to be the -- there's going to be a real -- a dramatic visual that gets presented to the state on January 6th. And I, you know, this is a culture thing, as much as it's anything else. I mean, you know, Delegate McClellan and Delegate Landes are right, that the general assembly has tried to make some changes and there's a balance to be struck, but it's a cultural thing.
KIDDBecause Virginia has had decades and decades and centuries of a culture that essentially says we trust the virtue of elected officials. And so we're not going to legislate or restrict in too severe ways because we trust the virtue of officials. And it may not be the virtue of officials that we should question. It may be the virtue of everybody working around them to try to get something.
KIDDSo in this case we had Jonnie Williams on the stand admit essentially that he was trying to bribe the governor's wife. Well, so maybe our ethics rules need to speak as much to the behavior of everybody around our public officials, as much as it does to public officials.
SHERWOODWell, all this reminds me, Quentin, of going back to Henry Howell, back in 1973, when he nearly won the governor's race. And he -- his big slogan was "Keep the big boys honest." And then you go down to Jim Hightower, down in Texas, and, you know, says, "You can't clear up the water until you get the hogs out of the creek." So I'm just wondering if this commonwealth really will break with that tradition of expecting people to do well and not have tough laws. I'm just not confident we've got a…
KIDDThis is the second, you know, a governor is obviously powerful, but don't forget, we have a very powerful former delegate sitting in a federal prison in New Jersey right now, Phil Hamilton…
KIDD…for essentially public corruption. So there has been, you know, a couple of instances -- and those are just elected officials. You know, I think there is -- there's -- there are warning sounds that we're hearing, saying we've got to clean this up because we're going to continue to have problems if we don't.
SHERWOODWell, you know, the argument could be, well, someone will say, well, you know, it worked -- the system worked. McDonnell was convicted. His wife was convicted. They'll be sentenced on January the 6th. I mean, so the system worked.
KIDDI had a…
SHERWOODAlthough you explained that complicated thing of how they got into federal court.
KIDDYeah, well, I was giving a talk last night to a group and a woman stood up and said that she -- her neighborhood watch group had had a police officer come and talk to them. And just to say thanks to this police officer, they sent a thank you card with a $25 gift card to Starbucks in it. The police officer mailed it back to them with a thank you card that said, "Thank you for thanking me, but I can't accept this gift. I was going my work as a part of my, you know, I was there as a part of my job. I can't accept this."
SHERWOODGood. Put him on that commission that the state wants to create.
KIDDWell, and this lady said, "Why is it that elected officials can take anything in the context of their job?" And, you know, I was trying to explain to her the, you know, the way this process works, but the public doesn't understand why an elected person can take anything as a gift, let alone something like a Rolex watch.
NNAMDIDelegate McClellan and Delegate Landes -- Delegate McClellan first, regardless of whatever legislation comes out of this, how do you expect this verdict is likely to affect the behavior of law makers? The jury made it clear here that you can be convicted of crimes, even if what you've been accused of seems to be in a gray area, as far as the laws are written.
MCCLELLANYeah, I think people will be a lot more careful and start to second guess. And, again, I think that's why we need clearer, bright line rules because it is a lot easier to stay out of trouble when you know what the rules and what they're not. I mean, the sad thing -- the saddest part about the McDonnell situation -- if you believe him -- he didn't think he was doing anything wrong because he was following -- he thought he was following the letter of the law.
MCCLELLANNow, there are a lot of areas where it's going to get gray. You know, I totally agree and I think everybody would agree accepting a Rolex watch is a red flag. But there are a lot of gray areas like, you know, and one area we have…
NNAMDIA cheaper watch would be a gray area?
NNAMDIA cheaper watch would be a gray area?
MCCLELLANNo, no. But I'm going to give you -- let me give you an example. You know, there -- we are often invited to go on trips to look at things that -- to educate us. For example…
MCCLELLAN…we get invited to take a train to a coalmine to tour the coalmine so that we can understand, you know, how a coal mine works because none of us are coalminers. That, I think, is a gray area. Some people don't feel comfortable in that. You know, I've never gone on that trip.
NNAMDIAnd who pays for that trip?
SHERWOODWell, the coal companies.
MCCLELLANThe coal company does. And I guess that -- and that's the question we need to ask ourselves. When you sign up to be a part-time legislature -- legislator. And you are not independently wealthy, should you be expected to pay for that? If the answer is yes, then let's say the answer is yes. Let's all agree. If the answer is no, let's all say it's no and all agree.
SHERWOODI think -- pardon me. I don't think this is that complicated. If the state law says that if you take a trip to the coalmines you must fully report it. Fully report it.
SHERWOODAnd then people can judge you in the ballot box and in the public sphere of what you've done and where you've done. If you just have more disclosure.
LANDESAnd we do, Tom. The new law, we have to report twice a year now on anything that we receive. And the one question that we still have -- and I agree with Jennifer, we need further clarification on -- I'm going to give you another example. On little things that most people in the business world would say, "Why are you even reporting that?" And that is, you know, we get meals. Now, if it's a $1,000 meal that's one thing. If it's a $50 meal that's another thing. But when you classify all those things, that is a gift.
LANDESThat is something that somebody's giving you because of your position. For instance, there are many receptions that many of us go to and we have no clue what the cost is and the groups don't report it because there are a number of legislators there. But isn't that the same thing as a -- that same group taking you out to dinner that may cost $100? So that's the kind of thing that we've had difficulty further defining. Now, what we did with the law was say that that's not a tangible gift. In other words, that's something that -- it come and goes from the standpoint of -- it's a meal.
LANDESIt's not a Rolex watch, which all of us agree, as Jennifer said, is, you know, anybody with common sense would say that -- somebody should have questioned -- the governor should have questioned, at that point, where that came from. But that is where we get into the difficulties. And the trip that Jennifer mentioned, there are also groups that we're members of, national organizations, that, again, have meetings. And I'm, for instance, a member -- just got appointed to the Education Commission of the States. Well, that's compact between the states.
LANDESNow, I'm representing Virginia, but the cost is covered by the citizens. And there are groups that obviously participate in that organization -- I've not been to a meeting yet -- that may say, "Hey, we'd like to take you out to eat or we have this reception that we want you to come to." So now the question is going to be in my mind, should I do that or not? Because before I had no question whatsoever that that would have been okay. But I will say I'm…
NNAMDIFor the time being, I would suggest that you pay for your own meal. For the time being anyway.
LANDESWell, the problem is -- let's look at it this way -- when you do something for the radio station that's a business-related item, and the expectation is we will cover that cost, whether it's travel or food, that's the same thing for legislators. Do, you know, should it be covered at that point only by, you know, the state? Or if a group that's inviting us to come as a speaker or the like, should they cover those costs? That's the gray area.
SHERWOODWell, just disclose it and then...
LANDESWell, and we do. And, again, we've improved that to make sure it's clear that we're disclosing it and we're doing it in line with when the lobbyists and these association and groups have to report as well.
NNAMDIGot to go to the phones.
MCCLELLANAll right. And let me…
NNAMDIAllow me to go to the phones to speak with Doug, in Silver Spring, Md. Doug, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
DOUGHi. I was so glad to hear somebody express the same frustrations I had listening to the coverage of the McDonnell trial on -- and I don't know if this was WAMU's judgment call or NPR's, but it seems like every single story that they have on the trial, they go to -- I can't remember the gentleman's name -- a law professor at George Mason University who was such an obvious apologist for McDonnell. He had the same mantra every time. The prosecution has nothing.
DOUGThe jury will never believe a transparently, unreliable witness like Jonnie Williams. And then in the final week of the trial his banter became, it's definitely going to be a hung jury. There is no way that the jury will unanimously vote to convict. And it…
NNAMDIWell, I'm glad you raised that issue because we are joined now in studio by Michael Pope. He is the reporter for WAMU 88.5 and the Connection Newspapers. Michael, thank you for joining us. To what extent do you feel that the coverage of this case seemed to suggest -- certainly to our caller -- that there was going to be an acquittal here? And my second question is that the coverage of the case now involves a number of people saying that the McDonnells are not likely to get the maximum 30-year sentence. They're probably going to get much less than that. What's the basis for saying that?
MR. MICHAEL POPEWell, Doug, you can blame me because I interviewed -- Rich Kelsey is the professor's name. He's the assistant dean at the George Mason School of Law. And I talked to him throughout the trial. And I thought it was interesting that his opinion actually kind of changed over time. There were times when he felt like the prosecutor's hadn't made their case. And then there were other times he felt like the governor was in deep trouble.
MR. MICHAEL POPEI remember interviewing him after the closing arguments, when he felt like the prosecutors made a very strong case and that the governor was in very, very deep trouble. So he…
NNAMDIDoug may have only heard the earlier remarks.
POPEYeah, well, I mean, you know, that's radio. So Rich Kelsey's opinion actually did change over time, multiple times as the trial went on, which I'm sure the juror's minds probably also changed over time. So you also asked about the coverage of the sentencing. That -- the whole sentencing process is a little more straightforward then the jury process. Right. Because, you know, members of the jury are not lawyers.
POPEAnd they're not part of the legal system. And, you know, they're instructed by the judge, but they -- they're unpredictable, in a way that the sentencing process is more predictable because it's not in the hands of a jury, as it would be under Virginia law. It's -- this is federal law.
SHERWOODSo are they going to get the max?
NNAMDIWhat is the basis of the either informed or uninformed speculation that their sentences are going to be likely much lower than the max?
POPEI think what we've seen in the coverage in terms of people being quoted on that is people are using past cases as a basis for making decisions. Right. So I think what we've been seeing lately is, you know, usually in white collar cases here is what happens. But, you know, one thing that's important to remember with this case is that the past has not been prologued because we've never seen a case like this.
POPEI mean this is totally unprecedented, as we can see from the headline in the Richmond Times Dispatch today. I'm holding it up -- are we on webcam here? Should I hold this for the camera?
NNAMDIYes, we are. We are live streaming.
POPESo listeners obviously can't hear (sic) this, but the Richmond Times Dispatch has a giant headline, one word, "Guilty." This is -- I used to work for a newspaper down in Florida. And we would call this headline a World War III headline. Really grabs your attention. You can see it from across the street. This is an indication of the unprecedented nature here of what's…
SHERWOODThe -- and the judge can't disrespect the jurors. The findings were pretty tough. They were -- I was expecting him to be found guilty, but not on so many counts.
POPEAs a general rule, judges hate to overturn juries.
LANDESAnd, Kojo, I…
NNAMDIDelegate McClellan, I remember everything. I interrupted you earlier.
MCCLELLANWell, that -- all I was going to add on our prior conversation is, I think everyone will agree that the most -- more disclosure is good. No one will dispute that. And that all of the gifts and everything that we get should be disclosed. I think the gray area -- and it gets complicated when you try to decide what should be prohibited altogether. That's all I was going to say.
SHERWOODAnd that -- let me just add to this. Bruce DePuyt from News Channel 8 tweeted me about this and said, "Calling things gray areas is almost an excuse for not doing something." Well, it's still a gray area, we can't address it.
MCCLELLANI didn't say we shouldn't address it.
SHERWOODWell, I know, but I'm just saying it can be used as an excuse to not address it. No. That's a gray area. We'll leave that for the next time. It seems to me you can draw bright lines with -- bright red lines saying stop.
NNAMDIAn earlier reference was made by Delegate Landes to the case of Phil Hamilton. Delegate Landes, Quentin Kidd -- Delegate Landes, first -- what do you think this will mean for the ongoing interpretation of what's known as the Virginia way?
LANDESWell, Kojo, from my perspective I think -- as you've mentioned, if we can define things clearly and there's no legal gray area. And when we talk about gray areas, it's not just our interpretation, but it's also from a legal standpoint based on -- you've got to look at Virginia law, you've got to look at federal law and you've got to look at what other states have been able to do. And we can do that, I think. The purpose of the commission was to also have, you know, and follow up -- not only provide advice -- to make sure that we were filing things properly and to do those kind of things.
LANDESThat was the enforcement part of it from the standpoint of fully disclosing and making sure that it was transparent, and actually having those things posted was another thing that we thought would be good for the public to see. For those things that, you know, the meals and things like that that we described and we're talking about.
SHERWOODMaybe every three months and not twice a year, but every three months. I mean, with the internet and the web system and the -- it's such an easy way to make reports.
POPEOr even continuous. Why can't it be…
LANDESWell, it may be easy for you, but for those of us that have other jobs -- we tried to come up with something that was reasonable from the standpoint. But you also have to realize that we get -- and the state gets reports from the firms that have a lot more people than we do that can do that. And this was, again, maybe we can look at that, maybe we can do it once a quarter or maybe three times a year, but that was the purpose of that. But you also have to realize -- I think people forget -- we're not like Congress.
LANDESWe're part-time legislators. And I have one full-time staff person. That's it. It's me and her. And I don't know about Jennifer, but, you know, we don't have these huge staffs like other people do to keep track of this and to do this, unless we pay somebody else to do it for us.
NNAMDIQuentin Kidd, we're running out of time fairly quickly. Would you say, as some critics might, that Virginia seems maybe to have lost its way?
KIDDYeah, I think the Virginia way is dead. It's a part of history that we're nostalgically reaching for, but I just don't think it exists in the modern Virginia that is a state with a very competitive political environment, a plurality of power pockets around the state, and a political environment that's much more amenable to lobbyists and outside, you know, business people who want to play in politics. You know, the Virginia way is dead.
KIDDAnd if you're not going to have the Virginia way, which, again, implied some level of virtue that didn't need any rules, then you need those rules. And in defense of our elected officials, I think Delegate Landes makes a point that's really important here. We probably need to give our elected officials more resources. I mean, is it really legitimate to say that we're going to be a part time legislator but you're probably going to work, you know, 35 hours a week on this job. And we're going to give you something like $17,500 a year to kind of run your office. And we'll give you a full time staff member and that's it. We'll pay you 17, 18,000 a year.
KIDDI mean, we probably need to step up to the plate as citizens of Virginia and pay our elected officials more so that they don't have to rely on, you know, outside sources of funding for say, you know, trips up the road to talk to a group of people or things like that. I mean, I think, you know, there's a lot more to this than just we need tougher ethic laws. I think we need more resources for our elected officials as well.
NNAMDIMichael Pope, what's the next step here, appeal?
POPETheir appeal -- the lawyers for the governor have already announced their intention to appeal. It's likely that the jury instructions would be a place that you would see some kind of challenge. And in terms of what's next in a larger sense, Quentin Kidd says the Virginia way is dead. I think now that it's dead I think a lot of elected officials are looking at themselves in the mirror and wondering if they want to go on that golf trip with the lobbyists. They're wondering if they want to get on the corporate jet of a big time donor.
POPEAnd you've got to think that Governor McAuliffe is thinking to himself, do I really want to have this event at the governor's mansion?
NNAMDIAnd I'm afraid that's all the time we have in this segment. Michael Pope is a reporter for WAMU 88.5 and the Connection Newspapers. Quentin Kidd is a political science professor and chair of the Department of Government and the director of the Wason Center for Public Policy at Christopher Newport University in Newport News, Va. Jennifer McClellan is a member of the Virginia House of Delegates. She's a Democrat representing the Commonwealth's 71st District.
NNAMDIAnd Steve Landes is also a member of the House of Delegates, a Republican representing the Commonwealth's 25th District. Thank you all for joining us. You're listening to the Politics Hour. Tom Sherwood is our resident analyst. He's a reporter for NBC 4 and a columnist for the Current Newspapers. Tom Sherwood, speaking of ethics in political campaign...
SHERWOODCan I just say one more thing and interrupt you and be rude and just say one more thing about that Virginia...
NNAMDIAbsolutely not. We're moving on. No, go ahead.
SHERWOODThey should consign the Virginia way to the history bin just like they did massive resistance. And they should not let gray areas keep them from drawing bright redlines.
NNAMDIOn now to D.C. politics. Joining us in studio is Robert White. He's an independent candidate for the D.C. Council. He's running for an at-large seat. Robert White, thank you for joining us.
MR. ROBERT WHITEThank you for having me.
NNAMDITom Sherwood, Tom Lindenfeld, you wrote about him in your column in the Current this week. Well-known political operative both in Washington, D.C. and frankly around the nation. Major role in getting Adrian Fenty elected in 2006, criticized Fenty after he lost the 2010 race. Advisor to Muriel Bowser in her campaign, dropped no sooner she found out that he is likely to be charged in a case in Philadelphia that we talked about here last week. It describes Lindenfeld as accepting a $1 million loan from a businessman and using some of it to cover the expenses of the campaign he was working for.
NNAMDIRepresentative Chaka Fattah was running for Mayor, the loan was later repaid in part with federal grant money. So it doesn't look good for Lindenfeld.
SHERWOODNo, it doesn't. I tried to get him to talk to me but he didn't talk. The fact is, you know, Tom Lindenfeld has a well-respected consulting business. He wasn't just an advisor to Muriel Bowser. He was planning the ground game and doing phone calls and some voter identification and getting prepared. He's worked for the Senate campaign of one unknown guy Obama. He was -- he's been all over the place.
SHERWOODHe did Tony Williams' campaign in 1998. He did Adrian Fenty's. And he was doing Muriel Bowser's and he's quietly dropped out of sight in June on that campaign.
NNAMDINow he is on -- now he finds himself in what's known as Jeff Thompson territory.
SHERWOODI find it hard to believe -- I've known him for awhile -- that he would -- someone would call up and say, now here's what we're going to do, Tom. We're going to send you a -- we're going to give your company a million dollar loan and you're going to funnel the money back to Philadelphia so that we can fake the campaign of Chaka Fattah for mayor -- came in fourth incidentally -- and then put your whole career and your whole reputation on that. I just find that astonishing that he did that. I can't wait to see more details come out of that case.
NNAMDIRobert White, the loose lips columnist for the Washington City Paper joked this week that there are so many candidates running for this at-large seat that the only way to deal with them would be to create a second D.C. council for them to run for. With so many others in the field, why do you feel you have something unique to offer? Why are you running for this seat?
WHITEWell, I'm running because I think I have a great vision for our city that really takes into account what people are wanting and what people are looking for, both in public servants and also what they want to see in their city. But I also feel like I bring a very unique and strong experience to the council. And so we're looking to replace a councilmember who's been on the council for a number of years. And I think it's important that we have someone take that seat who's ready to hit the ground running. And I think I bring that...
NNAMDIYou said you bring something unique.
NNAMDIYou worked for Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton. That's not unique. What is it about you that's unique?
WHITEIt is a bit unique that I worked for her. So I'm an attorney and I was...
NNAMDIA lot of people work for her.
WHITEWell, some people have but that experience -- you know, I worked for her for a number of years and worked on issues that touch really every part of our city from home rule to economic development to prison reform. And so it is a unique experience. But beyond that I also have very strong civic experience, president of my civic association.
WHITEBrightwood Park, Brightwood Park Civic Association. You know, and that combination of experience plus a personal experience, and that's a very important one. I grew up in D.C. in many of our worst times. And I bring that personal perspective to everything I do.
NNAMDILet me ask you a Tom Sherwood question. I live in Brightwood. Where is Brightwood Park?
WHITEBrightwood Park is the little known neighborhood sandwiched between Brightwood and Petworth. And Brightwood and Petworth have such good and strong civic associations that every week they each expand one block further north or south. So we had to start waving our hands around and make sure we had attention to playgrounds and stop signs and things that our neighbors were...
SHERWOODIf you have questions or comments for Robert White, give us a call at 800-433-8850 or send email to email@example.com. You can also shoot us a tweet @kojoshow. Tom.
SHERWOODSo who are you? How do you make money? What's your profession?
WHITESo I resigned my job as Congresswoman Norton's legislative counsel to run for this seat.
SHERWOODHow long did you work for her?
WHITEA little more than five years.
SHERWOODOkay. And so you don't have a job now.
WHITEI don't have a pay job as my wife...
NNAMDIHe's got a job. He's running for office, that's his job.
WHITE...would point out.
SHERWOODNo, he doesn't have a job for which he's making money...
SHERWOOD...the American way.
WHITEYeah, to run a citywide campaign...
SHERWOODYou got a dozen folks running and how are you going to -- you've got your signs up on some of the street poles in public space. And how are you getting that -- what kind of campaign fund -- money do you have? Do you have money to run a good campaign?
WHITEWe do. And so I should say in addition to signs on poles, we have signs in yards. We have well over 3 or 400 signs in people's yards, which is important. But we are raising money because we have significantly more contributors to our campaign than any other at-large campaign has. We have about 600 folks who have contributed at this point. So we have a just like very broad basis of support.
NNAMDIYou've been endorsed by several council members and you've received contributions from Fort Myer Construction and from well-known super lobbyist David Wilmot. What would you say to those people who say you're the establishment candidate here?
WHITEWell, I'm not sure how I could be the establishment candidate when I don't come from the council. But what I think people have to appreciate is how hard we've been working. And so when you have 600 folks contributing to a campaign, what you're seeing in this campaign is just such a broad base of support people looking and saying, you know what, this guy has the policies chops, this guy has the support and this guy is really out there knocking on doors. And they're starting to get behind what I think is a very strong campaign. So I don't think I'm the establishment person. I think I'm the person that people respect what I bring to the race.
SHERWOODSo if you get elected, what do you want to do when you tell -- go to community meetings or you knock on those doors and somebody might be home, what do you say? What's your priority for people who don't know you? What's your priority?
WHITEMy priority is that people understand, first, my background so they understand that I...
SHERWOODNo. I mean, if you get elected what is your -- what you would do on the council. Are you worried that the school reform may not go fast enough? Are you worried that the Department of Employment Services is a mess? Are you worried that the highways don't work very well through the city, the parking's a mess? What are you worried about? What would you do that's different?
WHITEWell, we have obviously plenty of issues in the city but we've knocked on about 15,000 doors at this point. And no matter where we are, whether we're in Ward 8 or Ward 2 or Ward 3, we're really hearing consistently the same three issues, jobs, housing affordability...
SHERWOODYou're hearing about jobs in Ward 3?
WHITEI am. I am. And the number one issue we're hearing citywide is education.
SHERWOODSo do you -- Kaya Henderson should stay on the job?
WHITEWell, we need consistency in the schools...
SHERWOODWhat, is that a yes or a no.
WHITEWell, I'm willing to work with anybody who's in that seat but I do think that we have to have some consistency. And so if it's not Kaya Henderson then we have to have a plan for...
SHERWOODWe've had consistency. We've had bad schools consistently. And so we're trying to fix them. Kaya Henderson, you think, should stay on the job?
WHITEWell, the chancellor falls under the mayor. So I think, you know, we have to be looking at who's going to be mayor and are they going to be...
SHERWOODAre you for the marijuana initiative to legalize marijuana?
NNAMDIYou would be voting for the initiative to legalize marijuana in the district this fall.
WHITEI will. I will.
NNAMDIDo you support the framework of the deal that the city's pursuing for a new D.C. United stadium at Buzzard Point?
WHITEI think there is still too many details we have to work out. We have to be looking at, you know, first of all, if we move these employees from the Reeves Center to Ward 8, is it really going to spur growth in Ward 8? Is it really going to bring disposable income that's going to strengthen businesses and bring new housing.
NNAMDIYou sound skeptical.
WHITEI am somewhat skeptical. I mean, we unfortunately don't have a great reputation of execution in the city. And so the philosophy behind the stadium I like. It can create jobs for building the stadium. It can create jobs for operating the stadium. It's a new revenue stream for our city. But I have to be very careful about how things are going to play out in reality. And that's where we have to focus.
SHERWOODYeah, but this is not a philosophy class. You want to be one of 13 votes. You need the 7 votes to pass on the council maybe by the end of the year, so you may not even be there when they approve the stadium, if in fact they do it before the end of the year. But you don't like the idea of exchanging the Reeves Center for land in southwest? I mean, have you even looked at the project? I mean, that detail -- that's a huge...
WHITEVery much so. So I...
SHERWOOD...the mayor's proposal is a thick notebook.
WHITEYes, it is. And I haven't gone through every page of it but my background is very much in economic development and that type of policy. So I have looked at it very carefully. The problem is I think -- you know, and someone who is potentially a councilmember, we have to understand what the potential holes are. We don't do, I think, careful enough long term planning or oversight in our city. And so those are things that we have to ask.
NNAMDIYou've said you like to move to a public financing system for D.C. elections to eliminate the influence of all contributions. Why do you feel this is the best way forward and how do you think it squares with the kind of campaign you're running right now?
WHITEWell, I think it squares with what we're hearing around the city. And now we've seen some new public corruption issues creep up as well. And everybody wants to believe that they have a voice and that we are really putting ethical people with integrity in office. And the reality is that the ethics of our public officials starts and ends with who we put there. But I think if we're listening to the voices of people saying, you know, we want more choices in who we elect and we don't want to see outside influence then we have to look at a public financing system.
SHERWOODWell, outside influence. I mean, some...
WHITEI'm sorry. I mean, outsized.
SHERWOODOh, outsized influence. Okay, good. Well, some of the candidates -- I think it was Elissa Silverman's here, she was not taking corporate LLC donations. Are you taking them?
WHITEYes, I'm taking donations that are legal under D.C. law. But more specifically under the revised campaign finance laws that the council passed a few months ago.
NNAMDIWhat are the steps that you think the council needs to take when it comes to ethics? Where do things like contracts come into play for you?
WHITESo I don't think that the council should be approving large contracts as they do. If you look at it, the congress does not approve contracts, and there are a couple of reasons. First, I think it looks bad. The other is, legislators are not subject matter expertise -- experts rather that agency has armed (sp?) . And so I think that, you know, it creates some visual issues but also some practical issues when you have the council approving large contracts. That's not something that I'd prefer to be a part of.
SHERWOODWell, the city started that when John Wilson, for whom the building is named, who looked at Mayor Sharon Pratt Kelly's mishandling -- ham handling of contracts and said, we ought to have someone look at this. And so they set a million dollar threshold for contracts. But you have a staff of four or five people. You have committees. I mean, why wouldn't you want to look at the contract? That's where all the money goes in subcontracting. So people get contracts and then they pour money through subcontracts to people we don't even know and they waste millions if not billions of dollars. Why shouldn't the legislators have a committee -- a key committee to look at government contracts?
WHITEYou're exactly right, they should. That oversight is the responsibility of the council. And that's exactly what they should be doing.
SHERWOODAt least you know a million dollar -- when you know of a million dollar contract at least you're aware that, you know, the mayor's office has to report it to you so you at least know where the money's being spent.
WHITERight. I mean, I think that congress is a good model for the state...
SHERWOODOh, you -- you think congress is a good model?
WHITEFor this. Not for everything.
SHERWOODOh my. Oh my.
WHITENot for everything.
NNAMDIHere is Jason in Washington, D.C. Jason's question may be suggesting that you have an ulterior motive in running for this office. But I'll let Jason speak for himself. Jason, your turn.
JASONSure. Just curious if you'd like to comment on people saying that you are looking to run for Muriel Bowser's seat after she wins the mayoral election.
WHITEOkay. I'm not sure where anyone would've heard that. Certainly they never would have heard it from me. I look forward to supporting another strong candidate for that seat once I'm on the council. I do believe that I'll be there, I'll be successful in this run. But I'll tell you, you know, when I decided to run for the seat, I really went all in. I quit my job, I talked to my wife and I said, you know, can we pull this off financially? And we have run a very hard, very long campaign that we started a year ago.
WHITERealistically I don't know that it's in the cards for me to run for another seat. When I do something, I go all in. If I believe in it, I go all in. And that's what I've done in this race.
SHERWOODAnd you've been endorsed by which -- he said several council members.
NNAMDII know two of them.
NNAMDI...and Yvette Alexander.
WHITEYes. And also our former school board president Peggy Cooper Cafritz who looked at our campaign and said, you know, look, the hard work behind the campaign is backed up by significant policy experience.
SHERWOODWhy did Yvette Alexander endorse you? She's Ward 7 councilmember.
WHITERight. And so I've lived in Ward 7 for a number of years and so personally have dealt with a lot of the issues that...
SHERWOODThis is a personal endorsement. She knows you, she likes you...
WHITENo, not at all. Not at all. No. And so because I've lived in Ward 7, because I've lived east of the river, I think I have a particular understanding of the needs that we're hearing from residents over there. And Yvette Alexander understands my firm commitment...
SHERWOODYou have to live across the river to understand east of the river?
WHITEI think it helps. I think personal experience helps a lot.
NNAMDIHave you endorsed any of the candidates for mayor? Are you supporting any of the candidates for mayor?
WHITEI have my own very hard race to run.
SHERWOODIs that a no?
NNAMDIIt sounds like it to me.
SHERWOODI just -- I don't know why some people don't just say yes or no to some of these questions. It's so much easier and faster.
NNAMDIWell, it would get in the way of endorsing somebody later on. A lot of people are concerned about how expensive it is to live in the city. In your view are there things that a council could do so that the cost of living can come back down and make the city more affordable for everybody?
WHITEYes. So we actually...
NNAMDIWe have about a minute left.
WHITE...released a housing strategy, a five-year housing strategy today that really takes our housing affordability issue head-on. And specifically we asked for four things. First, that we have to commit $1 billion to affordable housing over the next five years focusing specifically on housing preservation. That'll help us really keep more housing than we are currently building. The second thing is looking at converting commercial office buildings into residential buildings.
WHITESo we have older buildings, particularly downtown, that just aren't occupied the way they used to be. That adds housing. Looking at rezoning our major corridors to add housing above the shops. And finally, redoing our tax system so that houses are taxed based on purchase price rather than housing values.
NNAMDIRobert White is an independent candidate for the D.C. Council running for an at-large seat. Thank you for joining us. Good luck to you.
WHITEThank you for having me.
NNAMDIDo have to say that in the broadcast we heard from G. W. lord professor -- law professor Randall Eliason who says that Quentin Kidd was wrong. The corruption charges could be brought in federal court with or without the bank fraud counts. We're talking about the McDonnell case. If you can't get enough of the Politics Hour on the radio, perhaps you'd like to see a broadcast live in the flesh Thursday October 2. We'll be convening a D.C. (word?) debate including Muriel Bowser, David Catania, Carol Schwartz at NPR's headquarters along North Capitol Street in that neighborhood now known as Noma.
NNAMDIIf you'd like to attend, we'll be making free tickets available starting this Monday through the WAMU-NPR events page. And if you can't make it in person, you can listen to it all on WAMU. Mark your calendars, October 2 7:00 to 9:00 pm. And check out our website on Monday.
NNAMDITom Sherwood is our resident analyst. He's a reporter for NBC 4 and a columnist for the Current Newspapers. Thank you all for listening. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.
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