UPDATED: Shannon connects Cuccinelli campaign promise, donation
Former attorney general candidate Steve Shannon is back, leveling a pretty serious charge at the man who defeated him in the November election in
a letter to the editor column published in this morning's Virginian-Pilot.
Shannon's letter is broadly about ethics in politics and he calls for the creation of an independent watchdog group or special prosecutor in state government to investigate possible cases of ethical lapses by politicians.
But he devotes much of his letter to reviewing Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli's interactions with major donor Bobby Thompson, a director of a charity now under investigation in Virginia and elsewhere and suggests that a major Cuccinelli campaign promise might have been motivated by his interactions with Thompson.
Shannon notes that during the campaign Cuccinelli called for moving the state's Office of Consumer Affairs, which regulates charities and oversees other consumer issues, from the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services to the Attorney General's Office. Cuccinelli's first call to do so came at a June debate, just four days after he received his first donation from Thompson, a $5,000 check.
At the time, Thompson and his group--the U.S. Navy Veterans Association--was tangling with that very office. The office had informed the group that it not longer qualifed for an exemption from Virginia's laws requiring charities to register yearly with the state, a decision the group was actively attempting to overturn, including by appealing to then Attorney General Bill Mims. (Mims sided with the Office of Consumer Affairs, agreeing the group did, indeed, need to register annually.)
Cuccinelli has said that Thompson's first check arrived without any solicitation. He later called Thompson and asked if the Florida man could donate more. Thompson then donated $50,000 to Cuccinelli's effort. Shannon points out that Cuccinelli three weeks later held a press conference to reiterate his call for the Office of Consumer Services to be moved into the attorney general's office.
Was Thompson's personal donations and his group's ongoing conflict with the charity-regulating office connected to Cuccinelli's call for that office to be moved into the Office of the Attorney General?
"I think the timing is devastating," Shannon said in an interview. "You receive huge contributions, and then you stake out policy positions. I'm not in government any more. I'm not a prosecutor any more. It's not for me to say if something illegal happened. But I'm just stating the facts."
Cuccinelli has said that Thompson never asked for anything in exchange for his donation. Cuccinelli also recently announced that he was putting $55,500--an amount equal to Thompson's donations--in a special account and freezing them until investigations of the charity are complete. Cuccinelli political director Noah Wall did not immediately respond to Shannon's letter. We'll bring that response to you when he does so.
Shannon is clearly back in politics to stay--he also recently launched a new political action committee and was elected chairman of the Northern Virginia Democratic Business Council.
UPDATE 6:01 p.m.: Cuccinelli political director Noah Wall has responded with a two-word statement: "Sore loser," he said.
June 23, 2010; 4:45 PM ET
Categories: Ken Cuccinelli , Rosalind Helderman , Steve Shannon
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