Kent Womack: Tossing sentence would make mockery of law
The March 10 edition of the Northern Virginia Daily included an Associated Press article by Larry O’Dell titled “Former AGs back ex-Va. governor’s appeal.” It reports that 44 former state attorneys general are calling for former Gov. Bob McDonnell’s public corruption conviction to be tossed out.
The attorneys general, in a friend of the court brief, said McDonnell “was convicted based upon an overly broad definition of an ‘official act’ in federal bribery laws,” according to the news story. It went on to quote the court brief, “At the very least, it empowers federal prosecutors to charge state officials with crimes for routine political pleasantries, casting a fog over every dinner with a constituent or appearance at a fundraiser.”
What McDonnell was convicted of was much more than “political pleasantries” or having dinner with a constituent. By taking this position, 44 former attorneys generals are telling us that what McDonnell did is a common practice and should be excused.
McDonnell’s trial and the position these former attorneys general have taken give us a brief look at the deplorable state of ethics in our state government. He was convicted of accepting $165,000 in gifts and loans. It is true that “political pleasantries” and dinners with customers are common practices in private business. The difference is that our elected officials are elected and paid by the taxpayers to serve all taxpayers, not just the ones who contribute gifts, dinners, and/or campaign money.
Tossing out or even reducing McDonnell’s sentence would make a mockery of the law and justify other lawmakers to start doing the same thing or continue doing the same thing. As a taxpayer I cannot abide that. Hopefully the federal appeals court can’t abide it either.
Kent Womack, Woodstock