GOLDMAN: Should McDonnell, McAuliffe make this deal?

Paul Goldman is a local lawyer who helped run Doug Wilder's historic campaign for governor of Virginia.

Paul Goldman is a local lawyer who helped run Doug Wilder's historic campaign for governor of Virginia.

RICHMOND, Va. (WTVR) – The art of governing is often knowing how to seize the moment to turn a bad situation into a good result.

In my view, outgoing Republican Governor Bob McDonnell – unfairly accused of criminal wrongdoing due to the clever maneuverings of a con man – and incoming Governor-elect Terry McAuliffe – unfairly associated with criminal conduct by the AP and other news outlets during the campaign – could benefit greatly by joining together to propose ethics reforms for passage by the 2014 General Assembly (or possibly a Special Session at the start of the 2014 General Assembly, when McDonnell would still be technically in office).

On the other hand, one could say given that McDonnell is under investigation, and could get charged, why would McAuliffe not wait until he got sworn-in and then do the ethics reform himself? That is a fair question.

It certainly would not be wrong to do it that way, but would waiting produce the best result for the Commonwealth?

These types of decisions are “judgment” calls. There is often no way to later prove whether the most optimum choice had in fact been made.

But it seems to me that given what is needed – not merely ethical reforms to weak laws applying to the legislative [General Assembly] branch but the fact there are basically no rules applying to almost all lobbying of the executive branch – a bipartisan effort by Governor’s of both parties would produce the best overall result.

But you say McDonnell might still be indicted, what if that occurs?

In America, you are innocent until proven guilty. My article on the con man at the heart of the allegations against the Governor demonstrates that what a lot of people think they knew about the case from newspaper stories simply isn’t true.

However, as a practical matter, I understand prosecutors might not see it my way.

But all things considered, both men will always be able to use a great opening/closing WIN at the start/end their gubernatorial terms no matter how things go in the next few weeks. Moreover, tough, stop-influence-peddling-as-usual ethics reform package covering both branches is what the people want.

There is going to be fierce resistance to these types of measures with real teeth there always is. It is human nature, and the truth is Virginia, even with lax laws, has not had the kinds of corruption common place in other states with far tougher laws.

So yes, ethical government requires ethical men and women, laws alone don’t guarantee anything. But perception matters and the people of Virginia want to see real change, real reform. Having a GOP incumbent and his Democratic successor jointly get behind this kind of reform will produce the best result for the people.

In terms of process, my thought is that McDonnell and McAuliffe would jointly announce a bipartisan group of folks to draft a package of reform proposals by December 15. The two guys would meet and agree on what they want by December 22.

Then their key legal/legislative folks would get the bill drafters at the GA to write the new proposed laws. Thus, by the time the GA convenes, the heavy lifting would be done. The new bill would then be passed and ready for the new Governor to sign as his first piece of legislation.

Years ago, I had a fumble pop into my hands at our goal line.

I was playing defensive back, and I could run fast – which was good, since getting tackled was no fun for a little guy. One hundred and two yards later, I got me a TD, no Wrong Way Roy Riegels here, only one way to go, straight down the field. Never ran the 100 faster. No end zone dance though.

The point being, sometimes you get lucky and things pop into your hands. Given that you will fumble a lot too, then the easy scores simply have to be converted to make up for the turnovers. McDonnell and McAuliffe took a lot of knocks in 2013, and there may yet more be more coming. That’s life. But they can start off 2014 with a big partisan win, for themselves and for the rest of us, by simply picking up the ball and running to daylight as Coach Lombardi would say.

Given all the stories in 2013, ethics reform is coming in 2014. A bipartisan push over the holidays for a big New Year’s win makes all the political sense in the world for them.

The right group of people can produce the right result no matter what might happen that is out of everyone’s control in the coming weeks.

Paul Goldman is in no way affiliated with WTVR. His comments are his own, and do not reflect the views of WTVR or any related entity. Neither WTVR nor any of its employees or agents participated in any way with the preparation of Mr. Goldman’s comments.

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