Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinellii II (R), the Republican nominee for governor, refused to endorse any specific limit on gifts for elected officials in his first debate against Democratic nominee Terry McAuliffe on Saturday. Cuccinelli has come under fire for accepting more than $69,000 worth of gifts, including tens of thousands from the same tobacco executive whose gifts to Gov. Bob McDonnell (R) and his family are currently being probed by a federal grand jury.
In the debate, McAuliffe reiterated his call for a $100 gift limit for Virginia officials and vowed to issue an executive order preventing any gifts to himself or his family over that amount. Moderator Judy Woodruff pushed Cuccinelli to respond to the proposals:
WOODRUFF: So, Mr. McAuliffe’s proposal to limit gifts to $100: would you go along with it?
CUCCINELLI: I have said I would support any cap or ban. Whatever it might be that the General Assembly would be agreeable to. I would also would support the kind of quick-turnaround disclosure that we have in the fall for our elections for gifts that remain above a certain threshold; pick your number, $100, $500. The real challenge here is going to be the General Assembly, I think. But we finally have the political pressure from the circumstances surrounding the governor, to be candid, that I believe are gonna drive people in the General Assembly to be willing to dramatically limit what we have here. And I believe that’s very appropriate, it’s long overdue, it’s certainly something I support.
Cuccinelli did not respond to McAuliffe’s challenge to issue a similar executive order and did not endorse any particular proposal, preferring to leave it up to the state legislature to take the lead.
It is noteworthy that he says reform is “overdue,” but over his nearly eight years as a State Senator, he never sponsored or co-sponsored any such measures. Also, if he felt a cap was important, it seems odd that he accepted four- and five-figure gifts from businesses and individuals with business before the state during his four years as Virginia Attorney General.
While the notion of “quick-turnaround disclosure” sounds good, it is also worth noting that Cuccinelli has admitted — and did so again in the debate — to having failed to disclose several of the large gifts he received on time, even under the weak existing rules. He said Saturday he “unwittingly” made “several mistakes.” Though Cuccinelli, the state’s top attorney, admittedly did not comply with the existing law, a prosecutor said this week there were nolegal consequences for his delayed transparency.