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Culture of Slush-Fund Politics in Virginia

by Lewis Loflin

"Handouts corrupt even the best government officials."

So says Bart Hinkle in the Bristol Herald Courier September 3, 2014. I've been asking for the last year why was Gov. McDonnell prosecuted for something Virginia politicians do everyday?

The governor's defense in the case was "so what"? Mr. Hinkle noted hundreds of lucrative economic deals involving state politicians. This refers in particular to the Governors Opportunity Slush Fund concocted by former Gov. Doug Wilder in the 1990s.

That pales in comparison to the Virginia tobacco commission that has spent probably $700 million of which 90% can't even be accounted for. Mr. Hinkle noted the McDonald administration was a "geyser of corporate welfare."

Recipients of this largess includes Backcountry.com to the tune of $300,000. Other payouts and included a similar payout to $265 billion corporate conglomerate of General Electric, $7 million to wealthy Microsoft for a promised 50 jobs, and even millions thrown at fatcat movie mogul Steven Spielberg.

And it's not just outright cash gifts, but also costly tax credits have looted millions from taxpayer coffers into the pockets of the wealthy. For example he notes Richmond Virginia-based Genworth Financial pocketed $7 million corporate welfare tax breaks.

And green energy scams have been at the top of the list. The Virginia Tobacco Commission for example has wasted perhaps $130 million on green energy research centers producing nothing. Then we have the Green Jobs Tax Credit and Clean Energy Manufacturing Incentive grant. Mr. Hinkle noted there is nothing in the Virginia Constitution that authorizes this.

As I have reported on my website previously Democratic Gov. Terry McAuliffe has joined right in with the corrupt Republicans with pilfering public funds for private profit. I've already noted that he was instrumental in pilfering millions of Virginia tax dollars for The Falls stripmall development in Bristol Virginia.

Our good governor didn't waste any time pilfering $9.5 million in to lure some consulting business to locate an Arlington. He gave away $5 million to a Chinese paper plant, 300,000 for an engineering company, $350,000 for fitness equipment maker, etc. according to Mr. Hinkle.

While Mr. Hinkle correctly noted the funds could have been used better elsewhere, he fails to note the damage this crony capitalism does to legitimate businesses and workers. We have cases where companies will fire and displace their entire workforce to come to states like Virginia and Tennessee, rehire half the people, cut their wages, and the state literally pays for it.

As Mr. Hinkle points out all of this graft - and it is graft - has created a slush fund culture in Virginia politics just begging to be abused. I have documented this for almost 15 years on this website and while I was hoping that the Phil Puckett scandal with the Tobacco Commission would lead to changes our new Democratic governor has proven that will not be the case.