Editorial: Tarnished Legacy

Posted on Thursday, January 23, 2014 at 2:15 pm

Well, Virginia’s in the news again, and not for being the top state for business or having the most public universities atop the national rankings.

Tuesday, the boulder hanging over former Gov. Bob McDonnell and his wife Maureen finally dropped. The McDonnells each face 14 criminal charges alleging they violated federal anti-corruption laws by using their office and the power that comes with it to benefit themselves and the wealthy businessman lavishing them with gifts.

If convicted, the McDonnells face the reality of decades of prison time and millions of dollars of fines.

McDonnell contends he did nothing illegal. But during his farewell address, he apologized for pain caused by the scandal, which consumed his final year in office.

We don’t accept it.

Corruption, or in this case, “alleged corruption,” doesn’t belong in the commonwealth. We’re not New Jersey, which is enjoying its own time in the national spotlight for a recent scandal. Virginia is for Lovers, remember.

McDonnell’s case is sad for several reasons. First, before the Star Scientific scandal made headlines, he was a decent governor by many regards. The sweeping transportation bill took guts and should result in improved infrastructure across the state, though, we’re sure those contracts will get some increased scrutiny.

Regardless of how the court rules, this scandal is now McDonnell’s legacy and it will be hard, if not impossible for the beleaguered former governor to escape it.

The only positive thing to come out of the Star Scientific fiasco is hopefully reform of the state’s weak ethics laws. The 55th District’s new state delegate, Buddy Fowler, has promised to support ethics reforms and it’s an issue that’s been gaining traction in the legislature from other lawmakers.

Virginians need trust restored in our officeholders  and making sure they aren’t on the take for special interests is a good first step. But transparency shouldn’t be a one-session focus; it should be a continuing goal. That’s the Virginia we need.

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