Washington, D.C. — Virginia’s recent string of political scandals and lax ethics “reform” measures put it in competition with well-known corruption hot-spots like New York, New Jersey, and Louisiana. Nothing exemplifies the state’s ethical troubles like the recent scandal involving former state Sen. Phil Puckett. For his appalling attempt to barter his senate seat for jobs for himself and his daughter, CREW’s voters rewarded ex-Sen. Puckett with the title of June’s Scoundrel of the Month.
Last month, Sen. Puckett abruptly resigned his seat in the Virginia State Senate, handing control of the chamber to Republicans and effectively killing the proposal to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act. In exchange, Sen. Puckett expected an appointment to the state’s Tobacco Indemnification and Community Revitalization Commission and an appointment to a state judicial post for his daughter. Although Sen. Puckett withdrew his name from consideration for the tobacco post after an uproar, his backroom quid pro quo still violates federal and state anti-corruption laws.
“Virginia may be for lovers, but it seems Richmond is for corrupt politicians. Thankfully, the FBI is now reportedly investigating Sen. Puckett’s shady deal, so perhaps this abuse of the public trust will result in legal consequences,” CREW Executive Director Melanie Sloan said.
The Puckett deal emerged barely five months after federal prosecutors indicted former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell and his wife, Maureen McDonnell, on charges stemming from an elaborate gift scandal. While in office, Gov. McDonnell and his wife accepted hundreds of thousands of dollars in loans and luxury items from a favor-seeking donor, leading CREW to name Gov. McDonnell in its 2013 Worst Governors in America report. The state legislature’s response to the scandal, which the Washington Post’s editors derided as “so slack it would be disingenuous to refer to it as ‘reform,’” also received low marks from watchdog groups. This lackluster recent history, along with Sen. Puckett’s conduct, shows Virginia still has a long way to go.
Nominations are already being accepted for July’s Scoundrel of the Month. People, entities, and agencies are all eligible. Submit your choices by Friday, July 25th. Voting will begin the following week.