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Sledd accuses Senate Democrats of "double standard" on appointment

Anita Kumar

Bob Sledd, Gov. Bob McDonnell's first choice to be secretary of commerce and trade, said in an interview this afternoon that Senate Democrats were holding him to a different standard by not allowing him to remain on corporate boards and recuse himself if a conflict arose.

Sledd, a respected Richmond businessman, said legislators recuse themselves all the time and he should have been allowed to do the same. "It's a double standard,'' he said.

Sledd said McDonnell gave him a choice late last week to "fight the battle" in the Senate or take on a new position. He said they both agreed that he should take on the job of senior adviser, where he will have an office alongside McDonnell in the Patrick Heny Building and work with several agencies.

"I did not want to be disruptive to the new administration,'' he said.

Sledd serves on boards of three large, global companies: tobacco giant Universal Corp. and Owens & Minor, a medical supply company, both based in Virginia; and Pool Corp., a wholesaler of swimming pool and spa equipment, based in Louisiana.

McDonnell's office floated a deal to leading senators in which Sledd would resign from the boards of the two Virginia companies, but remain a director of the Louisiana company. Senators, however, turned down the offer, arguing any board service represented an ethical problem.

Sledd said that he refused to step down from Pool Corp. because the company does less than one percent of its business in Virginia, and he could see no conflict. "The chances of conflict are almost non-existent,'' he said. "I hope as we move forward we can put partisan politics last."

Cheng was sworn in as secretary this morning at the Capitol. McDonnell's staff was phoning legislative leaders this afternoon to let them know of the change, according to the governor's office. The decision was so last minute that the new governor's Website, which just went live this weekend, still lists Sledd as commerce secretary.

Sledd said he was not disappointed with the outome, and praised commerce secretary Jim Cheng, who he had picked to be his deputy, "I'm fine with the whole thing,'' he said.

Officials at the governor's office say they continue to be believe that service on corporate boards is legal and permissible, but that that all McDonnell's appointees have voluntarily stepped down from any directorships they held. That includes Cheng, who sat on two boards.

By Anita Kumar  |  January 17, 2010; 6:43 PM ET
Categories:  Anita Kumar , Robert F. McDonnell  
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Welcome to Virginia, Bought and paid for by corporate interests.

Where else in the USA would a man on Three corporate boards, nominated to be Secretary of Commerce And Trade, A cabinet level position complain that he's being treated unfairly? In a state who's motto is "Business Friendly" and who's Politicians want to eliminate the Corporate income tax?

In New York, they toss you out of office for doing business with a hooker -In Virginia they consider anything goes if it's corporate related.

Did the feds used to have an agency that looked at things like this? I mean who keeps state governments honest? In Virginia it's certainly not the voters!

Posted by: maxtor0 | January 18, 2010 6:01 AM | Report abuse

Doesn't Cheng have a first name?

Posted by: las100 | January 18, 2010 6:54 AM | Report abuse

Huge difference - legislators are elected by the people and answerable to the people. They legislate and represent the people on all sorts of others matters besides besides those dealing with business. Sledd was taking an appointed executive post - answerable to no one but the Governor - in which he would work on business matters full time. Yet he complains about a "double standard" as if the two posititions are exactly the same.

Typical deceitful Republican - he sees serving his personally business interests as much higher than serving the people.

Posted by: hohandy1 | January 18, 2010 8:51 AM | Report abuse

If this guy doesn't like the rules don't take the job. He's on the board of three major corporations and wants to Secretary of Commerce? Slugg, er I mean Sledd, is your typical Republican weasel - lets let the fox guard the hen house. What an SOP-GOP disgrace.

Posted by: Bushwhacked1 | January 18, 2010 10:17 AM | Report abuse

Good fix Governor, Jim Cheng is a small businessman and hopefully he will provide the right kind of assistance, as well as help Virginia be more competitive in the global economy by attracting investors from abroad.

However, this is a tough post because jobs and economy is an important benchmark of the Mcdonnell Administration and there is a lot of FIXING to do in the department.

Posted by: binghe | January 18, 2010 10:49 AM | Report abuse

Democrats accomplished nothing positive for Virginia.

They didn't persuade. They didn't compromise. They didn't forward a better ethical standard for everyone (i.e., like themselves).

What sort of company would want to move jobs or new business here when our commerce and trade effort has become sharply politicized?

Posted by: blasmaic | January 18, 2010 3:12 PM | Report abuse

If Mr. Sledd did not want to be disruptive as he said then he should have stepped down from the boards that he is on. He didn't and McDonnell didn't think that he should. Says something about McDonnell, doesn't it? Sledd wanted the money more than the job of Secretary of Commerce and thought he could have his cake and eat it to. Hmmm.

Posted by: mcdonalsherry | January 18, 2010 3:54 PM | Report abuse

Let's just sum it up.

REPS/CONS = Owners.
DEMS/LIBS = Employees.

Clear enough.

Posted by: askgees | January 18, 2010 4:46 PM | Report abuse

Sledd claims a "souble standard", but the never offers any proof or even completes his claim.

Which Democratic cabinet members refused to step down as board members at corporations and were still approved in Virginia?

Kudos to VA for trying to stay above baord and avoid even an appearance of impropriety. I still can't believe this Sledd guy really was that "into" serving the people of Viginia. He was very stubborn. Good riddance.

Posted by: free-donny | January 18, 2010 8:54 PM | Report abuse

Mr. Sledd, gone before we got to know you. Boo Hoo. We can all bet that Cheng rhymes with "kaching" will be just as "business friendly". Lot's of low paying jobs for the middle class. Republican and conservative Democratic leadership in Virginia have nothing to offer but more soul saving and gun toting with dreams of ever more privitization. Lest, the mention of those dirty words, we must raise taxes. As we negotiate our potholes and unsafe bridges just hum The Who singing The Old Boss, same as The New Boss and on and on it goes.

Posted by: fabricmaven1 | January 18, 2010 10:13 PM | Report abuse

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