CREDIT: Virginia Governor’s Office/Michaele White
Gov. Terry McAuliffe was inaugurated Saturday, succeeding now-former Gov. Bob McDonnell (R-VA). Over his tenure as a state Delegate, Virginia Attorney General, and Governor, he amassed a shockingly right-wing record.
Here are six of the biggest disappointments of his two decades as a public official:
1. He and his family took tens of thousands of dollars worth of gifts from a supporter — and helped his controversial business. In what Republican state legislator Bob Marshall called the “type of activity” that “undermines public confidence,” McDonnell and his family reportedly accepted $145,000 in gifts and/or loans from Jonnie R. Williams Sr., the CEO of Star Scientific Inc. The McDonnells then helped promote the scientifically-unproven dietary supplements line made by the controversial tobacco company-turned-supplements manufacturer. While Virginia’s lax gifts law allows elected officials to accept unlimited gifts — even from lobbyists and those with business before the state — McDonnell may still have broken the law by not fully disclosing what he and his wife received. A possible federal indictment was reportedly put on hold until after McDonnell elft office. This was not McDonnell’s first time under ethical fire: in 2005, he exploited a loophole to evade disclosure requirements, hiding corporate contributors to his attorney general campaign.
2. He consistently opposed LGBT equality. As a legislator, McDonnell launched a crusade against LGBT rights. In 2004, he authored a resolution calling on Congress to pass a federal marriage inequality amendment. A year later, he helped to write the state’s constitutional amendment which bans same-sex marriages, unions, and partnerships. He even voted against a proposal in 2000 that would have changed Virginia’s unconstitutional law banning consensual sodomy between two adults from a felony to a misdemeanor and used that antiquated ban to oust a state judge he believed might be a lesbian. Among his first acts as governor was rescinding protections for gay and lesbian state employees via executive order (though he later issued a less potent “executive directive” telling his appointees not to actually discriminate). McDonnell said that this decision was made because LGBT Virginians don’t face widespread discrimination. He has opposed adoption rights for same-sex couples and signed bill allowing child-placing agencies and clubs on public college and university campuses to discriminate based on sexual orientation if their “conscience” so dictates.
3. He worked tirelessly to block women’s reproductive rights. As a graduate student at Pat Robertson’s Christian Broadcasting Network University (now Regent), McDonnell wrote a thesis laying out a far-right agenda for the Republican Party that included significant restrictions on women’s reproductive health. He brought that agenda to the House of Delegates, where he voted for numerous abortion restrictions and actually voted against a bill to clarify that “abortion” was not defined to include “contraception.” As governor, he has backed a radical “personhood for fetuses” bill and signed TRAP restrictions aimed at closing abortion clinics and an unfunded mandate requiring women to receive a medically unnecessary ultrasound before having an abortion.
4. He dismissed climate science and pushed for more fossil-fuel use. Falsely claiming that the science showing that climate change is real and caused by humans is “mixed,” McDonnell eliminated his predecessor’s state climate change panel. He strongly supported the coal industry (for whom his wife worked as a consultant) and touted off-shore oil drilling at a BP-funded conference in Texas. He amended a 2010 bill to weaken state air pollution regulations.. And last year, he pushed for and signed a transportation bill that lowered the gasoline tax and shifted highway costs to bikers, pedestrians, and people with hybrid vehicles.
5. He rolled back voting rights. In 2012, McDonnell signed a voter ID law aimed at combating virtually non-existent voter impersonation fraud. The bill was cleared by the U.S. Department of Justice as it included enough options for types of valid identification as to not disproportionately disenfranchise minority voters. After the 2012 elections were marred by long lines, confusion about voter ID laws among poll workers, and insufficient staffing and equipment, McDonnell decided to respond by making it harder still to vote. Last March, he signed a strict photo ID law that will cost the state hundreds of thousands of dollars annually.
6. He rolled back gun violence legislation, while working to slash mental health funding. Despite Virginia’s history as a haven for gun trafficking, McDonnell signed a bill repealing the state’s one-gun-a-month law. He also signed a bill to allow guns in bars and another which he used to bring the National Rifle Association’s controversial “Eddie the Eagle” gun safety program into elementary school classrooms. As he rescinded gun violence prevention laws, he simultaneously proposed major cuts to mental health services. The NRA and many Congressional Republicans have often suggested that an improved mental health system, rather than gun laws, is the way to reduce gun violence.
In 2009, Virginia was rated the nation’s best state in which to do business. But thanks in no-small-part to his backwards-moving policies as governor, Virginia has dropped significantly and, in 2013, tied for fifth-best.