By Anita Kumar
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, July 9, 2009
RICHMOND -- Timothy M. Kaine said he has been spending a day and a half of each workweek handling fundraising and policy matters for the Democratic National Committee, a departure from his pledge to conduct most of his national party work by phone and fax and restrict it largely to evenings and weekends while he is governor of Virginia.
In an interview in his office on Capitol Square, Kaine said he typically spends one day a week traveling as his party's national chairman and half a day working at the party's headquarters in Washington.
But Kaine said he remains in constant contact with staff from the governor's office by cellphone and e-mail when he is gone. To help, he said, he began carrying a BlackBerry.
"I'm an around-the-clock governor," he said as he prepared to fly to Minnesota on Friday on party business. "There is no state where the governor is just on cruise control. Doing the hard work and unglamorous work of governor in the toughest economy since the 1930s is enormously time-consuming and extremely difficult."
Kaine offered the new details about his scheduling in response to questions about how he is juggling his job as DNC chairman with his full-time duties as governor. He continued to defend his policy of keeping his schedule and out-of-state travel plans confidential.
Kaine's declining to share his schedule has become a source of tension in Richmond, with critics complaining that the governor has a duty to Virginia residents to explain how he is balancing two intensive jobs. Pat Mullins, chairman of the Republican Party of Virginia, accused Kaine of putting politics ahead of governing and of spending too little time in the state.
"We elected him three years ago to be governor of Virginia," Mullins said. "He seems to be more concerned with serving his role as chairman of the Democratic National Committee."
When he took the party job, Kaine said he would work part time as DNC chairman from Richmond until January 2010, when his four-year term ends. He said he would conduct DNC business on weekends and in the evenings and rely on aides, computers and phones to monitor party business. He said in November that to do otherwise would not be "consistent with being governor. . . . I would view it as taking my eye too much off the ball about things that need to happen here."
Since taking the DNC post, Kaine has repeatedly declined to release a schedule of his travels. Through interviews and a review of news reports, The Washington Post found that much of his party work was occurring on weekdays.
In his first six months as chairman, he has visited North Carolina, Florida, Illinois, Texas, Georgia, Missouri, Ohio, Pennsylvania and New York, among other states. This week, Kaine spent Wednesday afternoon at the DNC headquarters and will spend much of Friday in Minneapolis.
Kaine said he usually participates in three activities on each DNC trip: a fundraiser, an informal chat with a dozen or so key supporters and a large policy event. His topics have included the budget, stimulus package, climate change and health care.
Kaine also presides over two DNC meetings a year as well as other executive or committee meetings, and he speaks regularly on national talks shows and to the Spanish-language news media. In the next four months, he will campaign for Democrats running for governor in Virginia and New Jersey and for mayors in several large cities.
Kaine, who communicates regularly with President Obama, said he remains in almost daily contact with DNC staff while in Richmond. Three Virginia staffers now work for the DNC, including his longtime friend Larry Roberts, who serves as chief of staff.
The DNC pays for Kaine's travel on party business, but state taxpayers had been paying for his security no matter where he traveled. Two weeks ago, after questions surfaced, Kaine said the DNC would begin reimbursing the state for his security.
Kaine cites security and privacy concerns, as well as state law, court rulings and precedent, for declining to release his schedule.
Mame Reiley, a DNC member and consultant who used to work for Kaine, said Obama asked him to take the job knowing that in his first year his top priority would be the governorship. Kaine said he told Obama that he has and will continue to refuse to do DNC work when it interferes with his official duties.
Kaine said he originally turned down the DNC job late last year because he didn't want to spend his time attacking Republicans. But he said he reconsidered after long discussions with Obama and his staff about his role. Democratic control of the White House and Congress has allowed Kaine to take a different approach to the job.
"When you don't have the White House you're the loyal opposition, and that's not a good a role for me," Kaine said. "When you have the White House, you are the promoter of the president's agenda. Now that I can do."
Donna Brazile, a DNC member and political strategist in Washington, said that in some ways the chairman faces more pressure after a Democrat wins the White House, especially when a candidate rides a wave of change into office. "The expectations are so high after an election," she said. "They want everything yesterday."