While the country’s attention has once again been drawn almost exclusively to economic-related issues, notwithstanding the attempt to draw in the Affordable Care Act into the economic debate, it’s only appropriate that legal fees related to a federal investigation into Gov. Bob McDonnell’s behavior in office is once again making headlines.
In the latest cost to Virginia’s taxpayers, the attorney general’s office hired a private attorney in August, Amy Austin, at a rate of $250/hour to “handle inquiries at Virginia Commonwealth University [VCU] from federal prosecutors examining McDonnell’s relationship with a wealthy donor.” For former students of VCU still paying down student loans such as myself, the irony is twofold: not only are my state tax dollars going towards the fees of a private attorney representing VCU, I’m still paying a significant portion of my paycheck towards my time at VCU. There’s your “Golden Alumni” contribution, VCU.
Austin’s appointment as private counsel for VCU has added yet another attorney to the docket of counselors that Virginia taxpayers have had to foot the bill for. In addition to Austin, legal counsel has been hired for the Virginia State Police, the police investigator that is working on the McDonnell case with federal officials, and two different law firms that are representing/defending Gov. McDonnell and his staff.
According to the Washington Post, Virginia’s taxpayers had been billed $244,000 since the end of July for all of the combined legal services mentioned above (excluding Austin’s representation of VCU). More recent bills have not yet been released.
According to VCU’s counsel, Virginia’s Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli was not given the green light to defend the university because “the university’s counsel did not feel he had the resources or expertise to handle the federal inquiry.” So the question then becomes, what resources or expertise does Cuccinelli actually possess as Virginia’s highest attorney?
The investigation and the accompanying legal representation surrounding McDonnell has undoubtedly become a complex and economically draining affair that should have been downgraded in importance by McDonnell’s resignation. But in an era of American history where eluding responsibility for one’s actions in elected office is the rule rather than the exception, it’s little surprise that McDonnell has chosen to stay aboard the sinking ship that is his political career.
Unfortunately for Virginias’ taxpayers, we weren’t given an insurance policy to avoid the costs of McDonnell’s shipwreck.