Rep. Stan Parris (R-Va.) launched a televised attack yesterday on his Democratic opponent, Alexandria Mayor James P. Moran Jr., airing a commercial that emphasizes Moran's conviction on a conflict-of-interest charge in 1984.
Parris's ad comes a day after Moran began his own offensive, charging in an ad that Parris "would rather put women in jail" than allow them to have abortions. Parris counterattacked on the abortion issue yesterday with a spot that calls Moran an "extremist" supporter of abortion rights.
The exchange joins a political advertising battle that is expected to be the toughest and most visible in the Washington area this year. Moran expects to spend $100,000 on his commericals this week; Parris plans to spend $120,000 on his first week of ads.
Parris's conflict-of-interest ad says that as a member of the Alexandria City Council, Moran "was a secret business partner with a developer who brought business before the council. Moran was found guilty of conflict of interest, sentenced, forced to resign."
Aides to Moran, who is challenging Parris for Northern Virginia's 8th District congressional seat, did not dispute the accuracy of the commercial. But they charged that it is incomplete, and that Parris has engaged in conduct no different than Moran's.
"The mistake Jim Moran made was not mortgaging his house to fight" the conflict-of-interest charge, to which he pleaded no contest, said Mame Reiley, Moran's campaign manager.
Moran was convicted of conflict of interest after an investigation of his dealings with Alexandria developer Peter Labovitz. Moran was working with Labovitz on a business deal to build a new parking facility in Alexandria at the same time that Labovitz was attempting to develop a piece of land owned by the city. Moran voted to approve Labovitz as the developer.
After he was charged, Moran pleaded no contest and agreed to resign from the council. He was elected mayor the next year in a stunning political comeback, and an Alexandria judge set aside the conviction.
Reiley said yesterday that no money changed hands between Moran and Labovitz, and Moran has said the parking project was not related to Labovitz's development proposal. Moran has also said he agreed at the time to plead no contest to avoid mounting an expensive legal defense, a decision he regrets.
Parris's commercial also links the 1984 incident to events this year, when Moran returned a $10,000 contribution from another Alexandria developer to a state political action committee Moran controls. At the time of the donation, the developer had several matters pending before City Council, which Moran chairs. The donation was legal, but when he returned it, Moran said it was inappropriate.
"Recently, Moran was found taking gifts from another developer who sought favors from the city," Parris's commercial says. "Won't Jim Moran ever learn?"
Parris's abortion ad accuses Moran of attempting to "mislead" voters about the two men's position on the issue. Moran favors abortion rights, while Parris opposes abortion except in cases of rape, incest or threat to the woman's life.
One of Moran's ads includes videotape of Parris promising to "abolish" abortion in Virginia. Parris's ad does not mention that statement, but says that Moran "supports abortion on demand for any reason . . . . Now, I ask you, who is the extremist on abortion?"
Moran has said he personally opposes abortion, but would not restrict abortions through the sixth month of pregnancy.