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Shannon Calls for Reform in Response to Hamilton Scandal

Anita Kumar

Steve Shannon, the Democratic nominee for attorney general, was the first statewide candidate to call for Del. Phil Hamilton of Newport News to resign after e-mails showed he worked to get a job with Old Dominion University while securing state money for the school. He then aired ads on the topic.

And now today, he's back -- unveiling a plan to Virginia's government more transparent and accountable in the wake of the scandal.

"I was both shocked and outraged -- not only at Del. Hamilton's behavior but at the system that allowed this to occur,'' Shannon told reporters today. "This episode has left a stain of public corruption on the legislature and on one of our public universities."

Shannon hopes the Hamilton scandal can help, particularly since his Republican rival, Ken Cuccinelli, is the only statewide candidate not to call on Hamilton to step down, saying the voters should decide his fate. (Gov. Tim Kaine says the same thing.)

Shannon's policy proposal includes a five-point plan to reform conflict of interest laws, increase penalties for officials who violate them and encourage better public access to important information such as lobbyist and campaign finance disclosure forms.

Meanwhile, House Minority Leader Ward Armstrong called on Speaker Bill Howell to announce whether he will allow Hamilton to hold onto his coveted spots on the Appropriations Committee and as a budget conferee, if elected.

"Bill Howell needs to let the people of Virginia know who he wants handling their tax dollars," Armstrong said. "They can rest assured that in a House of Delegates controlled by Democrats, that won't include Phil Hamilton."

Paul Nardo, Howell's chief of staff to Howell, said he was "disappointed but not surprised that partisans in a campaign season are trying to use a serious issue for their own political gain."

"Speaker Howell is focused not on playing politics but on determining the facts and following the law,'' Nardo said. "The Speaker took the unprecedented step of initiating a House Ethics investigation to determine if Delegate Hamilton violated Virginia's Conflict of Interest Act. Once the five-member panel of impartial individuals completes their work and presents their findings, Speaker Howell will again ensure that appropriate actions are taken to uphold the institutional integrity of the House of Delegates."

By Anita Kumar  |  September 16, 2009; 4:15 PM ET
Categories:  2009 Attorney General's Race , Anita Kumar , Election 2009  
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Steve Shannon accepted $50,000 from Robin Abbott, Phil Hamilton's Democratic Challenger's Law Firm and then went after Hamilton. Deeds accepted $52,400 and Wagner $20,000. Now they are all helping Robin Abbott. Chicago style Pay for Play. Read the details here

Posted by: tom62 | September 16, 2009 10:57 PM | Report abuse

Tom62--you don't appear to have a scandal here. It's not exactly earth shattering when Shannon's donors share his same consideration for government ethics! Are you suggesting that this diminishes the severity of Hamilton's ethical transgression? Or are you suggesting that it is wrong to call for lax ethical rules to be tightened?

Posted by: ViennaBelle | September 17, 2009 10:51 AM | Report abuse

If you don't see taking $122,000 pay for play money as a problem, then you don't ubderstand ethics.

Posted by: tom62 | September 17, 2009 11:28 AM | Report abuse

Tom62 - The problem with your thinking is that Abbott's law firm was giving in similar amounts throughout the last two years to tons of Dems. Check VPAP and FEC. Including Dems up here. VPAP has more money going to Brian Moran than almost any other candidate. Plus - what's to explain McDonnell, Bolling and the House Speaker? Are you suggesting that they (and Shannon's call for Open Government) are wrong? Attack the merits?

Posted by: VADemsinNN | September 17, 2009 11:39 AM | Report abuse

The law is clear. This creates a question of impartiality. Plain and simple.

§ 30-103 – 10.
Accept a gift from a person who has interests that may be substantially affected by the performance of the legislator’s official duties under circumstances where the timing and nature of the gift would cause a reasonable person to question the legislator’s impartiality in the matter affecting the donor. Violations of this subdivision shall not be subject to criminal law penalties; or

Posted by: tom62 | September 17, 2009 11:49 AM | Report abuse

Tom62--the code section you reference makes it illegal to make quid-pro-quo agreements for legislative action AFTER the election that would benefit the donor. Since Shannon would be an attorney general (and not a legislator)--and since the election would be over at that point (since you contend that as the firm's interest)--it does not apply.

I can't help but wonder why, with your concern for campaign finance law, are you standing against the only candidate asking to make the rules tighter? It makes no sense. I would encourage you to write a letter or meet Delegate Shannon, asking for his take on campaign ethics. I think you might be surprised.

Posted by: ViennaBelle | September 17, 2009 6:04 PM | Report abuse

Steve Shannon, Creigh Deeds are current members of the General Assembly, are they not? And as such, subject to the Statutes quoted. I am not against tightening the rules, I just insist that they be followed.

Steve Shannon is a hypocrite, and once again he has been caught trying to make political points. Another Melendez-Diaz misstep.

I have met Shannon, on several occasions. He seems to be a nice boy, but AG is so out of his league. And he obviously does not get it on ethice. The only competent choice is Ken Cuccilelli.

You should meet him. You will be impressed.

Posted by: tom62 | September 17, 2009 6:19 PM | Report abuse

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