Va. Dems seek legal advice on possible Moran leadership bid
The Democratic Party of Virginia plans to obtain an independent legal opinion to determine whether a state law that bars lobbyists from serving as chairmen of state parties in Virginia applies to former Alexandria Del. Brian Moran.
On his blog Friday morning, party activist Ben Tribbett wrote that the law could end Moran's party chairmanship candidacy.
Moran is executive vice president for government affairs for the Career College Association, which represents for-profit colleges.
At issue will be whether the law applies to federal lobbyists, like Moran, or only to those registered to lobby at the state level in Virginia.
"There is some ambiguity as far as the statute goes," said DPV spokesman Brian Coy. "This was brought to our attention early on. We're in the process of securing an independent assessment of the situation in advance. We are in the process of getting it resolved in order to avoid any confusion before selection day."
Moran said Friday that he believes the statute applies to state lobbyists, not federal ones.
He also said he spent only eight percent of the last quarter lobbying, and the rest of the time managing his staff.
Would he give up lobbying if he became DPVA chair?
"I'll cross that bridge when I come to it,'' he said.
The law dates to the early 1990s, when there was a deep split in the Democratic party between loyalists of former Gov. Doug Wilder and former Sen. Chuck Robb.
Paul Goldman, a top Wilder strategist who served as party chairman from 1990 to 1993, drew criticism because he was hired as a lobbyist for a private company seeking to bid on state prison contracts shortly after becoming party chairman. That arrangement led to the new law.
Goldman said he thinks Moran could make a fair case that the letter of the law applies only to state lobbyists. But, he said he believes lobbying at the federal level violates the spirit of the law.
"I think the best interpretation is that it was aimed just at state lobbyists," he said. "But obviously, the intent was that they didn't want a lobbyist as a state party chairman."
Goldman also argued that the nature of Moran's professional work makes him a poor choice for party chairman. The Obama administration has been critical of some parts of the for-profit college industry and has proposed limiting the use of federal financial aid at some such institutions.
"If it turns out the party is saved from embarrassing the President of the United States by putting this person as chairman of the party by using this law that was aimed at me, well, it'll be one of the mysteries of politics," Goldman said.
Moran, meanwhile, said he continues to travel the state and talk to State Central Committee members about his candidacy. He will be speaking in Richmond, Petersburg and Chespeake in the coming weeks. He faces a challenge from Peter Rousselot, former chairman of the Arlington County Democratic Committee, for the state party chairmanship.
-Rosalind S. Helderman and Anita Kumar
Rosalind S. Helderman and Anita Kumar
| November 5, 2010; 11:12 AM ET
Categories: Brian J. Moran
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