McDonnell's public schedule omissions draw complaints

Gov. Robert F. McDonnell's office says it releases information about public events.
Gov. Robert F. McDonnell's office says it releases information about public events. (Steve Helber/associated Press)
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By Anita Kumar
Washington Post staff writer
Sunday, March 7, 2010

RICHMOND -- Virginia Gov. Robert F. McDonnell has not been releasing full lists of his activities during his two months in office, prompting complaints from critics that he is overly secretive about his whereabouts despite numerous pledges that he would be more transparent than his predecessor.

As a candidate, McDonnell (R) criticized Gov. Timothy M. Kaine (D) for failing to disclose his travel schedule to Virginians last summer while he was serving as his party's national leader. McDonnell promised that he would release more complete information.

"The citizens must be certain that the governor is attending to the duties for which he was elected,'' McDonnell told The Washington Post in June. "The governor is Virginia's chief executive and represents the commonwealth at all times."

McDonnell's office releases a public schedule of gubernatorial events that includes speeches and news conferences but not appointments in his office and only a limited number of in-state and out-of-state political activities. Several days go by sometimes with no events listed on his schedule.

Kaine had released a similar schedule but included his in-state political activities and later, after being pressured by the news media and others, his out-of-state political travel on behalf of the Democratic National Committee.

McDonnell, whose landslide win in November helped the beleaguered Republican Party start a comeback, has quickly become a national political figure. He is now getting some of the same questions Kaine was about his activities.

Sheila Krumholz, executive director of the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics in Washington, said it's "totally hypocritical" for McDonnell to have criticized Kaine last year, then not release a complete schedule himself.

"We want to know what Governor McDonnell is doing,'' she said. "The public deserves to know because they are paying his salary."

Tucker Martin, communications director for the governor's office, said McDonnell releases a full schedule of public events as he pledged during the campaign. "The governor's public events for each week are contained in the public schedule that goes out every Friday and in specific media advisories as necessary,'' Martin said. "It is what we pledged to do during last year's race."

McDonnell did not release any schedule of political activities for his first month in office and has since released only public events.

McDonnell's political schedule should have been released earlier, said Phil Cox, senior adviser to the governor and director of his in-state political action committee, Opportunity Virginia. He said he didn't realize that it wasn't being sent out by the governor's office. "Our intention is not to keep events from the press," he said.

Martin said McDonnell did not release a political schedule during the first four weeks because he did not have a full-time staff person running the day-to-day operations of Opportunity Virginia.

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