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Rove: Relationship with Tom Davis "frosty" after Devolites appointment request

Rosalind Helderman

Our colleague Mike Shear is reporting that former Virginia Congressman Tom Davis gets called out harshly by former Bush operative Karl Rove for trying to get Jeanemarie Devolites (now Jeannemarie Devolites Davis) appointed to the board of student loan giant Sallie Mae.

According to Shear, Rove attacks Davis in his new book "Courage and Consequence." In the book, Rove writes that Davis was working to get Devolites appointed to the board of Sallie Mae, the student loan group before a romantic relationship between the two became public. A former state senator, Devolites Davis was defeated in her bid for reelection to in 2007 but has just been appointed by McDonnell to head the Virginia Liaison Office, which serves as the governor's representative in Washington.

Shear reports:

Rove writes that he finally gave in and recommended her appointment, only to discover through news reports that the pair were romantically involved -- even though Davis was married at the time.

"I decided I needed to ask Davis about it directly. Davis' answer was blunt, angry and dismissive about the allegations," Rove writes. "I told him I took him at his word. To this day, I have no idea whether Davis and Devolites were romantically involved at the time he proposed her for appointment....From then on, my relationship with Davis was frosty and difficult."

Devolites was ultimately appointed to the Sallie Mae board.

Tom Davis responded this afternoon that it was Sallie Mae executive Al Lord, a major Bush supporter, who had requested Devolites be appointed to be board. She was majority whip of the Virginia House of Delegates at the time and familiar with the company. Lord was eager to appoint someone who knew the company and the industry, Davis said.

The former congressman said he relayed Lord's request to White House officials and elevated his request when Lord called to say he'd received a list of potential appointees and Devolites' name was not on it.

"She earned this thing on her own rights, and I was happy to speak up for her. She was certainly qualified," Davis said. At the time, he said the two were friends and allies but "not an item."

He did not contest that the conversation to which Rove refers in his book was a difficult one. Davis said Rove spread out on a table "every negative thing I had ever said about Bush, every vote I had taken against them."

"He said, 'why should I do anything for you? I don't believe in rewarding bad behavior,'" Davis said.

But Davis said the two had had a difficult relationship even before the Sallie Mae incident, dating it to the 2000 election, when Davis was working to get Republicans elected to the House of Delegates and Rove was trying to get Bush elected president. "We've always had a different view of what the party should be. He's a conservative, into all the social poliziring issues. I wasn't."

Davis said Devolites Davis was ultimately appointed to the board. As for Rove's book, he said sarcastically, "I'm deeply honored to be part of Karl Rove's history of the great Bush administration."

By Rosalind Helderman  |  March 3, 2010; 12:28 PM ET
Categories:  Robert F. McDonnell , Rosalind Helderman , Thomas M. Davis III  
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Go Tom Davis! It must be fun to be out of office and be able to say what you like. I was always proud to have Tom represent us.

Posted by: fairfaxvoter | March 3, 2010 1:46 PM | Report abuse

Right. They weren't an "item." Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha.

Everyone in Northern Virginia politics knows the truth; don't kid yourself, Tom.

Posted by: dirtypinkpenguin | March 4, 2010 9:32 PM | Report abuse

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