Oh, the power of the press. The editor of the thrice-weekly Farmville Herald, circulation 8,600, chastised Lt. Gov. John H. Hager in print recently for an omission in Hager's speech to students attending the Girls State workshop at Longwood College in Farmville.
In his talk to the 600 high school leaders, Hager, who is likely to contend for the Republican gubernatorial nomination in 2001 with Attorney General Mark L. Earley, praised as "very wise" the state's settlement with the tobacco industry, which targets teen smoking while also providing money for tobacco-growing communities whose economies may be harmed by anti-moking campaigns. "Tobacco is important for Virginia," Hager added.
What Hager failed to mention, as Editor J. Kenneth Woodley pointed out in a story and accompanying editorial, was that before entering politics, the lieutenant governor was, for most of his adult life, employed in the tobacco industry.
Instead, Hager's biography called him "a business executive who started at the bottom of the career ladder, loading boxcars in 1961. Mr. Hager quickly rose within the ranks of his corporation to executive vice president." After overcoming a near-death encounter with polio, the biography continued, "Mr. Hager quickly returned to work--staring over as a department manager--and did not miss a day's work until his retirement, due to a corporate buy-out, in December, 1994."
The newspaper quoted an unnamed Hager spokesman as explaining that there was "no particular reason" for leaving out the name of Hager's employer, "just space purposes. . . . If you're asking if we're trying to hide it, absolutely not," the spokesman added.
In the editorial, titled "Did Hager Inhale His Career?" Woodley pointed out that "anyone reading [Hager's] biography would have no idea that Mr. Hager's three-decade business career had anything to do with tobacco."
The newspaper urged, "put tobacco back in your biography, Mr. Lieutenant Governor. I'm not inhaling your biography without it."
Asked for a copy of his current biography this week, Hager's office faxed a revised version, in which Hager's longtime employer is identified as the American Tobacco Co. and his final position there as senior vice president of leaf and speciality products.
New Chief of Staff
Former delgate-turned-lobbyist Arthur R. "Pete" Giesen Jr. is Hager's new chief of staff.
Giesen who represented the central Shenandoah Valley in the House for 30 years before his retirement two years ago, replaces Jim Dornan, who is returning to Washington as chief of staff for U.S. Rep. George Nethercutt (R-Wash.).
For the past couple of years, Giesen, a graduate of Yale and the Harvard Business School, lobbied the General Assembly in behalf of Augusta and Rockingham counties and two statewide aging organizations.
Dornan, who was deputy campaign manager for Republican Ellen R. Sauerbrey in her second run for governor of Maryland last year, faces the task of running a reelection campaign in 2000 for one of the original supporters of term limits. Nethercutt changed his mind after being elected and now faces the wrath of those still committed to that fading notion.
It may only be a coincidence that the biggest contributor to Hager's political action committee in the six-month report through June 30 was Richmond crime novelist Patricia Cornwell, who gave $10,000. But Cornwell and Hager share more than a belief in the Republican Party. They also share the same consultant, the peripatetic Dick Leggitt, who is on retainer from both.
Leggitt also is on the state payroll as a part-time consultant to Gov. James S. Gilmore III (R).
Leggitt's proteges include Dornan and Gilmore's press spokesman, Mark A. Miner.
Not bad for a guy who doesn't even live in the state. Leggitt, a former Virginia resident, now lives in St. Mary's County, Md., where last year--you guessed it--he was a consultant to Sauerbrey.
Oops. Wrong Number
Del. Robert D. Hull (D-Falls Church) was surprised to hear a message on his answering machine the other day from Earley's scheduler.
The woman said that her boss plans to be in Northern Virginia early next month and is eager "to help those who are running for the House whenever he is in the area."
Check your calendar, she suggested, and let Earley know "if there is anything we could do to help you out, if you are interested."
Hull, a three-term Democrat, laughed about the mix-up but also questioned whether "a person on the state payroll should be making a call that is essentially political in nature."
Told of the incident, Earley's spokesman, David B. Botkins, replied, "The attorney general is committed to electing a Republican majority in November. Maybe we can get some Democrats to switch parties."