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Lawmaker: Hillary's campaign will smash McAuliffe's gift cap

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“Human connections” will prevent Virginia Gov.-elect Terry McAuliffe from adhering to his $100 limit on gifts, a veteran legislator says.

“Does anyone think he won’t go around the country helping Hillary (Clinton)? If he goes on one trip, does he think he won’t violate his own rule?” asks state Delegate Bob Marshall.

The Manassas Republican, addressing reporters during an ethics forum Wednesday, cited Hillary’s husband (and McAuliffe crony) as an example in several scenarios:

  • Bill Clinton likes to golf. If he gets tips from a pro who would otherwise charge for them, is that a gift?
  • “If he watches a lesson and learns from it, is that a gift?
  • “If he buys a (golf) club for less than its market value, is that a gift?”

Taking the high road of ethics, McAuliffe campaigned on a promise to sign an executive order imposing a $100 gift cap on himself and his family.

Marshall calls the pledge “a landmine” that blows a hole in accountability and transparency.

“You can’t stop (gift giving), but you can report it. See where the influence is — don’t bury it,” Watchdog.org reported the lawmaker as saying.

Marshall expects that any campaign trips McAuliffe takes on behalf of Hillary Clinton’s anticipated 2016 presidential run would be underwritten by the Democratic Party.

Such so-called “soft money” is difficult, if not impossible, to trace — and passes the buck on accountability, Marshall contended.

Marshall also pointed to the 4,000 board and commission positions the governor is empowered to fill.

“Does anyone believe there aren’t political connections there?”

“The public needs information to understand influence and to decide if that influence is ‘untoward,’” he concluded.

Rosalind Helderman, a Washington Post reporter who helped uncover Gov. Bob McDonnell’s “Gift Gate” scandal, said Virginia’s ethics laws are “vague” and “lack uniformity.”

But Helderman said Marshall’s example of a discounted golf club would be subject to disclosure as a gift.

On the other hand, Nicholas Kusnetz, who reports on ethics laws for the Center for Public Integrity, acknowledged, “You’re never going to have a law that lists every gift.”

Kusnetz’s comment reinforced Marshall’s skepticism about calls for a state ethics commission.

Branding ethics panels “commissions on moral sanitation,” the legislator said he could think of only three people qualified to judge: “Moses, Mother Teresa and St. Francis.”

McAuliffe, who spoke to reporters at the annual AP Day on Wednesday, supports creation of a Virginia ethics commission.

The Democrat said he has a “vision for transparency (to) prevent outside parties from unduly influencing elected officials.”

Read more here.

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