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Virginia Politics Blog: November 7, 2010 - November 13, 2010

Updated: Dem leader calls McDonnell liquor privatization study a waste of money

House Democratic Leader Ward Armstrong on Friday criticized Gov. Bob McDonnell (R) for "wasting taxpayers dollars" to hire a national financial management company to consider ways privatize the state's 332 retail stores. "At a time when people across the state are looking for leadership on jobs, education, transportation and a host of other issues, Governor McDonnell appears to be spending valuable time, and now valuable money, trying to resurrect a political priority that will not benefit the people of Virginia in any way,'' Armstrong said. The PFM Group began work last week. The company estimates its cost to be $76,900. Under proposals to privatize or partially privatize retail stores, the state would remain the wholesaler of distilled spirits and continue to apply markup and excise tax at the wholesale level. Current applicable state and local taxes on gross receipts and income apply, according to the company's contract. Updated, 6:30 p.m....

By Anita Kumar  | November 12, 2010; 5:28 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (2)
Categories:  Anita Kumar, House of Delegates, Liquor privatization, Robert F. McDonnell  
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FEC fines Va. Republican Party, ex-chairman's company

The Federal Elections Commission has fined the Republican Party of Virginia and the company owned by its former chairman, Jeff Frederick, for problems that arose when Frederick used his company, Gen-X Strategies, for party business, according to federal documents released Friday. The FEC fined the party $3,300 and Gen-X Strategies $2,500 as part of agreements with both entities. FEC documents indicate that Gen-X Strategies made a "prohibited in-kind contribution" to the party. Frederick said in an interview Friday that he had his own company do technology work to get the party ready before the critical 2009 election after several party officials and lawyers gave him approval. He said after he discovered an omission in the party's state filing he directed the controller to submit an amended report. "GXS made nothing (and in fact it lost money) on this work, because I wanted to avoid any appearance of a conflict of...

By Anita Kumar  | November 12, 2010; 3:12 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (2)
Categories:  Anita Kumar  
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Va. revenue grows over past year, still lags behind forecast

State revenue collections grew in October over the same month a year ago -- but collections for the fiscal year to date are lagging behind budget forecasts. State revenue grew by 3.7 percent in October over a year ago, Gov. Bob McDonnell (R) announced Friday, an increase driven largely by an uptick in sales and individual income tax withholding receipts. It's the seventh month out of the last eight that have seen better tax collections this year than last. But the news is not all rosy. After adjusting for an accelerated sales tax program that provided a boost to the state's collections in July, state revenues have grown by 3.6 percent this year. The General Assembly adopted a budget assuming revenues would grow by 4.2 percent this year. The Governor's Advisory Council on Revenue Estimates will review the forecast soon and provide updated figures, which McDonnell will use to recommend...

By Rosalind S. Helderman  | November 12, 2010; 11:40 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (0)
Categories:  Budget, General Assembly 2010, House of Delegates, Robert F. McDonnell, Rosalind Helderman, State Senate  
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McDonnell reached out to legislative auditors on retail-only liquor proposal

Here's yet another sign that Gov. Bob McDonnell (R) is considering scaling back his proposal to privatize the state's Alcoholic Beverage Control system to a plan that would privatize retail liquor sales but leave wholesale distribution under state control: State Sen. Edd Houck (D) says he received a call from a top McDonnell aide a few weeks ago to ask whether a legislative study of the proposal could be expanded to include a section on a retail-only privatization plan. Houck said that, after consultation with Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission Director Glen Tittermary, he told McDonnell policy adviser Eric Finkbeiner that the audit commission had almost completed its work -- which includes an analysis of a plan McDonnell unveiled Sept. 8 to end the state's wholesale and retail distribution of distilled spirits, as well as a revised plan McDonnell put forward Sept. 30. "They really had finished enough already...

By Rosalind S. Helderman  | November 12, 2010; 8:00 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (2)
Categories:  General Assembly 2010, House of Delegates, Liquor privatization, Rosalind Helderman, State Senate  
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Democrat enters state senate race in southside, says Saslaw's wrong on his chances

Pittsylvania Board of Supervisors Chairman Henry Davis Jr. said he's received an apology from the office of Senate Majority Leader Dick Saslaw (D) over comments Saslaw made indicating there'd be no Democratic candidate in an special election to fill a senate seat vacated by the election of Sen. Robert Hurt (R) to the U.S. Congress. Davis, a Chatham attorney who was elected as an independent to the board of supervisors, has scheduled a formal announcement of his campaign as a Democrat for the seat for Friday. "They apologized for not checking out what was going on, before telling you all what was not going on," Davis said. He rejected comments from Saslaw indicating that a Democrat has little chance of winning the conservative district and it would be a waste of party money to pursue the seat. ("I know what we can do and what we can't do,'' Saslaw said...

By Rosalind S. Helderman  | November 11, 2010; 4:21 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (0)
Categories:  Liquor privatization, Robert Hurt, Rosalind Helderman  
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McDonnell, Kaine to 'roast' Warner at health care benefit

Sen. Mark Warner's successors in the Virginia governor's mansion plan to have a laugh -- or two -- at his expense later this month. There will be some bipartisan ribbing when Gov. Bob McDonnell (R) and former Gov. Tim Kaine (D) roast Warner (D) at a benefit for the Virginia Health Care Foundation Nov. 22. Warner helped create the foundation, which provides grants to free clinics and community health centers and assists the uninsured with medical, dental and mental health care. Tickets for the event, to be held at the swanky Jefferson Hotel in downtown Richmond, are $250. Hosts include a who's who of the Virginia business and political world, including former Lt. Gov. John Hager; Dominion Resources CEO Tom Farrell; best-selling author John Grisham; John Wynne, rector of the University of Virginia; actors Tim and Daphne Reid; and former legislators Alan Diamonstein and Jean Cunningham. Check out the full...

By Anita Kumar  | November 11, 2010; 3:08 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (0)
Categories:  Anita Kumar, Mark Warner, Robert F. McDonnell, Timothy M. Kaine  
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Former finance secretary charged with defrauding tobacco commission

Del. Terry Kilgore (R-Scott), chairman of the Virginia Tobacco Commission, said Thursday that he was "very disappointed" to hear that John W. Forbes II, who served as Virginia's secretary of finance under former governor Jim Gilmore (R), has pleaded guilty to charges connected to defrauding the commission of $4 million.

By Rosalind S. Helderman  | November 11, 2010; 12:25 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (5)
Categories:  James Gilmore III, Rosalind Helderman  
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McDonnell: Palin 'qualified' to be president

Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell (R) said Wednesday on MSNBC that former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin (R) is qualified to be president of the United States. "Listen, I think Sarah Palin's been a mayor, she's been governor of a state. I happen to be partial and think governors make great chief executive officers and have the experience to be good chief executive officers of the United States,'' McDonnell told host Andrea Mitchell. "I think Sarah Palin is qualified. I think Republicans are going to have 10 or more people that are looking to run for president in 2012 . I look forward to talking to them, meeting with them and making a decision down the road." Watch the full interview:...

By Anita Kumar  | November 10, 2010; 4:59 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (8)
Categories:  Anita Kumar, Robert F. McDonnell, Sarah Palin  
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Allen, Marshall, Stewart to host suites at Republican shindig

Possible Republican candidates for U.S. Senate will be duking it out next week in that traditional way for Virginia politicians two long years before an election arrives...through competing hospitality suites at the annual Republican Advance. Former Governor and Senator George Allen, who is weighing a run for the job in 2012, will be hosting a suite during the annual gathering of Republican politicians and activists. So too will Prince William Board of County Supervisors Chairman Corey Stewart, who is also considering a run. And Del. Bob Marshall, who's also acknowledged he's thinking about the seat, will be sharing a suite with former Loudoun Del. Dick Black. Black has said he's running for the state Senate next year. Hosting a suite at the Advance has long been a way for Republicans to signal their intention to run for big offices, not to mention hob-nob with their fellow party members....

By Rosalind S. Helderman  | November 10, 2010; 4:16 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (0)
Categories:  Bob Marshall, Corey Stewart, Eric Cantor, George F. Allen, Rosalind Helderman, William Howell  
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McDonnell starts over on ABC privatization proposal, according to new consultant contract

A newly released contract with the PFM Group shows Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell (R) is back to square one as he tries to revamp his ABC privatization proposal to make it more palatable to legislators. The national financial management company has been hired to consider ways to privatize the state's 332 retail stores (similar to the way Iowa and West Virginia did) or partially privatize the state's retail stores (similar to the way Ohio did). The company estimates its cost to be $76,900. The McDonnell administration released the contract in response to a Freedom of Information Act request. Under proposals to privatize or partially privatize retail stores, the state would remain the wholesaler of distilled spirits and continue to apply markup and excise tax at the wholesale level. Current applicable state and local taxes on gross receipts and income apply, according to the contract. PFM also leaves the door open...

By Anita Kumar  | November 10, 2010; 12:00 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (5)
Categories:  Anita Kumar, Liquor privatization, Robert F. McDonnell  
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McAuliffe gets early boost from former Deeds, Moran supporters

As he contemplates a second bid for Virginia governor, Terry McAuliffe has gained some surprising support -- a full three years before Election Day. McAuliffe is being backed by two longtime supporters of his former Democratic rivals in the 2009 gubernatorial primary, Creigh Deeds and Brian Moran. Susan Swecker, a one-time campaign manager for Deeds, has hosted events for McAuliffe in Richmond and Highland County. Pixie Bell, a longtime Northern Virginia activist who strongly backed Moran, has been talking up McAuliffe. Both women praise McAuliffe for quietly traveling the state to meet people and build support among Democrats and Republicans -- something he did not do the last time around. (That's in addition to the speaking engagements you can find on a map of McAuliffe's travels on his Web site.) In 2009, McAuliffe, a close friend of Bill and Hillary Clinton, jumped into the race with unprecedented money, staff and...

By Anita Kumar  | November 10, 2010; 8:00 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (1)
Categories:  2009 Governor's Race, Anita Kumar, Brian J. Moran, Creigh Deeds, Terry McAuliffe  
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Saslaw: ABC privatization won't cover the cost of an overpass

Virginia Senate Majority Leader Richard Saslaw told the Alexandria City Council that the one-time transportation funds coming to Northern Virginia from Gov. Bob McDonnell's ABC privatization proposal would not even cover the cost of an overpass. Saslaw (D-Fairfax) said if the governor's original proposal to privatize ABC stores in the commonwealth managed to generate $500 million, about $110 million would come to Northern Virginia. The senator said if the governor kept the state's wholesale liquor industry, but sold the retail stores, that would generate an estimated $300 million, sending some $60 million to $65 million to Northern Virginia. That is "not even an overpass in Tysons Corner," Saslaw said. This week McDonnell (R) hired an outside vendor, PFM Group, to study the state's liquor system. Several legislators and lobbyists reported they have been speaking with the governor's office about keeping the wholesale side of the business. Saslaw's comments came at...

By Christy Goodman  | November 9, 2010; 8:43 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (1)
Categories:  Alexandria, Arlington County, Christy Goodman, Liquor privatization, Robert F. McDonnell  
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Four candidates and counting for Hurt's Senate seat

The field of candidates vying to replace state Sen. Robert Hurt (R) has suddenly become crowded. Four Republicans have now announced that they will compete in a firehouse primary for the GOP's nomination for a special election to fill the seat Hurt's election to Congress has created. And we hear a Democrat may also join the field -- despite Senate Majority Leader Dick Saslaw's comments Monday indicating the state party does not plan to get involved in the race. There's likely to be more to come on that score later in the week. For now, Pittsylvania Republican Committee Chairwoman Brenda Bowman announced Tuesday that she will seek the party's nomination. Bowman, 64, has been an active volunteer for Republican candidates, including Hurt. A retired school bookkeeper, she now works part-time as a legislative aide to Del. Charles D. Poindexter (R-Franklin)....

By Rosalind S. Helderman  | November 9, 2010; 5:13 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (0)
Categories:  General Assembly 2010, Robert F. McDonnell, Rosalind Helderman, State Senate  
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McDonnell begins to outline ways to spend $1.5 billion from VDOT audit

Gov. Bob McDonnell (R) began to lay out Tuesday how the state will spend almost $1.5 billion on transportation improvements over the next six years after an audit of the Virginia Department of Transportation found that hundreds of millions of dollars have been sitting unspent in various accounts for several years. McDonnell announced that: $200 million will be doled out by the Commonwealth Transportation Board $524 million will be allocated to specific projects by the board during a spring 2011 update to the six-year transportation improvement program $200 million will be provided to VDOT's nine districts to meet critical maintenance needs $130 million in inactive federal project balances already allocated to projects will be re-obligated to other active projects in coordination with localities $400 million in toll credits will be allocated to specific projects as a state match to federal projects. McDonnell also outlined a series of improvements to VDOT...

By Anita Kumar  | November 9, 2010; 3:35 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (0)
Categories:  Anita Kumar, Robert F. McDonnell, Transportation  
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Fimian concedes defeat to Connolly

Republican Keith Fimian has released a statement conceding defeat in the 11th Congressional District race against Rep. Gerald Connolly (D).

By Ben Pershing  | November 9, 2010; 11:57 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (28)
Categories:  2010 Virginia Congressional Races, Ben Pershing, Gerald E. Connolly, Keith Fimian, Winners and Losers  
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UPDATED: With harder edge, Democrats hit McDonnell on state retirement funding

With the annual legislative session just around the corner and a pretty sound thumping at the polls just behind them, Virginia's Democratic party is trying to adopt a new aggressive tone with Gov. Bob McDonnell (R). Activists have been concerned for some time that the official party structure hasn't been challenging McDonnell on a regular basis or in any organized fashion. But with a new communications director on board and a new chairman set to be elected next month, the party is promising a new, more pro-active approach. For instance, McDonnell has been on national television for months arguing that he successfully steered an austere budget through the General Assembly this year, allowing the state to end the fiscal year with a small surplus without raising taxes. The party Tuesday started fighting back against that notion in an organized way, pointing to a report in last week's Richmond Times Dispatch...

By Rosalind S. Helderman  | November 9, 2010; 11:08 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (0)
Categories:  Robert F. McDonnell, Rosalind Helderman  
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Updated: Environmental groups lobby McDonnell on Chesapeake Bay cleanup

Several environmental groups are calling on Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell (R) to support a cleaner Chesapeake Bay. Last week, the Chesapeake Bay Foundation took out an ad in the Richmond Times-Dispatch asking residents to "Tell Governor McDonnell to strengthen Virginia's clean-up plan." On Monday, the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, the Sierra Club and others delivered 7,000 letters to his administration. "Virginia has the opportunity, the legal obligation, the economic imperative, and the broad popular support to do something bold and significant for the Chesapeake Bay," said Ann F. Jennings, CBF Virginia executive director. "We trust Governor McDonnell will seize that opportunity for the sake of the Bay, the state's economy, those whose livelihoods depend upon clean water, and our children's future." In September, the Environmental Protection Agency threatened to punish five mid-Atlantic states, including Virginia, for "serious deficiencies'' in their clean-up plans. Virginia has until Nov. 29 to submit a credible...

By Anita Kumar  | November 9, 2010; 10:01 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (0)
Categories:  Anita Kumar, Robert F. McDonnell  
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Fimian will concede defeat to Connolly in 11th district

Republican Keith Fimian will concede defeat in Virginia's 11th congressional district contest Tuesday, paving the way for Rep. Gerald Connolly (D) to serve a second term in the seat.

By Ben Pershing  | November 8, 2010; 8:03 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (33)
Categories:  2010 Virginia Congressional Races, Ben Pershing, Election 2010, Gerald E. Connolly, Keith Fimian  
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Republican lawyer Habeeb to run for Griffith's House seat

Greg Habeeb, a Salem lawyer and former Salem Republican chairman, announced Monday that he will run to replace Del. Morgan Griffith, who was elected to Congress last week. Habeeb was joined at his announcement at the old Roanoke County courthouse by Griffith, Rep. Bob Goodlatte and Sen. Ralph Smith as well as other local officials and more than 100 residents. The self-described social conservative said the biggest issue in Richmond come January will be to fill Griffith's shoes -- both because the Roanoke Valley will be losing a 16-year incumbent and because the House will be losing its majority leader. The state Board of Elections will certify Tuesday's results Nov. 22. Griffith (R-Salem), who defeated Rep. Rick Boucher, and Hurt (R-Pittsylvania), who defeated Democratic Rep. Tom Perriello in the 5th district, are expected to resign soon after. Gov. Bob McDonnell (R) will then set a pair of special elections to...

By Anita Kumar  | November 8, 2010; 5:49 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (0)
Categories:  Anita Kumar, Election 2010, General Assembly 2010, House of Delegates, Morgan Griffith  
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Democrats will sit out the race for Robert Hurt's Senate seat

Senate Majority Leader Richard Saslaw said Monday that Democrats do not plan to field a candidate to replace state Sen. Robert Hurt in his largely Republican district because he doesn't want to "waste our money." "I know what we can do and what we can't do,'' said Saslaw (D-Fairfax)

By Anita Kumar  | November 8, 2010; 4:18 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (1)
Categories:  Anita Kumar, General Assembly 2010, State Senate  
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Democrats conclude federal lobbyist like Moran can lead state party

A lawyer for the Democratic Party of Virginia has concluded that a state law barring lobbyists from serving as chairmen of state political parties applies only to those registered to lobby state government and not to federal advocates, clearing the way for former Alexandria delegate Brian Moran to continue a campaign for the party's top job. In a letter to members of the Democratic State Central Committee, outgoing party Chairman Dick Cranwell said he would allow the legal advice to "guide my decision-making through this process," presumably meaning Moran's candidacy will be allowed to proceed. Former Arlington County Democratic Committee chairman Peter Rousselot is also seeking the job. The opinion was rendered by attorney Neil Reiff of the firm Sandler Reiff and Young. Cranwell indicates in his letter that he sought Reiff's opinion because Seth Stark, the party's usual general counsel, has contributed money to one of the candidates for...

By Rosalind S. Helderman  | November 8, 2010; 4:01 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (1)
Categories:  Brian J. Moran, Rosalind Helderman  
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Handful of companies receive most in corporate tax credits, JLARC report shows

More than half of the $58.6 million claimed in tax credits by Virginia corporations that pay the corporate income tax went to a handful of coal companies -- no more than four -- whose identities must be kept confidential by law, even from members of the General Assembly. That finding emerged from a report Monday by the Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission about Virginia's corporate income tax. The legislative staff found that Virginia's corporate income tax works similarly to that in other states. At 6 percent, the rate is lower than in most of Virginia's competitors. Most Virginia businesses don't pay the tax -- only the 71,000 that are structured as so-called C corporations. Limited liability corporations and limited liability partnerships, for instance, don't pay the tax. The staff concluded that eliminating the tax, as has been advocated by some lawmakers, would cause modest employment gains -- but not...

By Rosalind S. Helderman  | November 8, 2010; 2:49 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (0)
Categories:  General Assembly 2010, House of Delegates, Rosalind Helderman, State Senate  
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Moran lays out his case for Democratic chairman

Former gubernatorial candidate and Alexandria delegate Brian Moran sent a letter to supporters Monday morning outlining the reasons he thinks he should be elected chairman of the state Democratic Party next month. "As a former Caucus Chairman I have a proven record of successful fundraising, recruiting and supporting candidates throughout Virginia from Scott County to Virginia Beach,'' he wrote. "I have been traveling Virginia since 2002 working with local chairs, volunteers and grassroots activists, as well as donors. I know Southwest Virginia doesn't end in Roanoke and each community has their own unique challenges and strengths. Former Arlington County Democratic Committee chairman Peter Rousselot announced Thursday that he would challenge Moran, with the backing of grass-roots activists. Moran was urged to run for party chairman by Sen. Mark R. Warner (D) and former governor Timothy M. Kaine, now chairman of the Democratic National Committee. Moran has said he welcomed the...

By Anita Kumar  | November 8, 2010; 11:25 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (3)
Categories:  Anita Kumar, Brian J. Moran, Election 2010  
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McDonnell hires outside consultant to study ABC privatization

As he continues to revamp his ABC privatization proposal, Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell (R) has hired an outside vendor to study the state's 76-year-old liquor system, according to a source familar with the consultant. The PFM Group began work Tuesday. It bills itself as the nation's "leading provider of independent financial and investment advisory services,'' according to its Web site. McDonnell spokesman Tucker Martin confirmed on Friday that the company had been hired, but said he could not say how much it will be paid because the contract had not yet been signed. In recent weeks, some legislators and lobbyists say they have been talking to the governor's office about whether the state should give up only the retail stores while maintaining its monopoly on liquor wholesaling and distribution. Martin declined to discuss details of the work PFM is doing other than to say the purpose of its study is...

By Anita Kumar  | November 8, 2010; 7:00 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (3)
Categories:  Anita Kumar, Liquor privatization, Robert F. McDonnell  
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