Nice work, if you can get it. It helps if you do as Bolling did and begin talking up the prospect of a job while sitting on the university’s governing board.
While it would be tempting to strip the bark off Bolling’s sanctimonious tree for such grasping after public dollars, it’s merely the latest — and hardly the worst — episode of honest graft we’ve come to expect from our elected officials.
Though one must admit that Bolling makes a particularly ripe target. Recall that in the Jonnie Williams/Star Scientific maelstrom that engulfed then-Gov. Robert F. McDonnell (R) in 2013, Bolling suggested — appropriately enough, through his political action committee — “sweeping changes to the state’s ethics laws, including a ban on gifts over a certain amount, additional disclosure and expanded reporting requirements.”
Good times, good times.
But again, Bolling’s James Madison University gig — rental agreement and public pension boost included — are just a continuation of a long, tawdry theme in Virginia politics.
Back in 2014, the Daily Press’ David Ress assembled a list of some of the more infamous episodes of Virginia pols looking to pad their state pensions.
It’s a stomach-turning and bipartisan list. It returns us to 1998, when then-Gov. Jim Gilmore (R) used the lure of a state job (with a six-figure salary) to flip control of the state Senate from Democratic to Republican.
A somewhat similar effort occurred in 2014, when then-Sen. Phil Puckett (D) suddenly resigned, allegedly in response to an offer for a judgeship for his daughter and a well-paying state job for him. The FBI looked into the matter and decided not to file charges.
Some legislators crossed the line from honest to dishonest graft — and paid a price.
Republican Del. Phil Hamilton was given a 9 ½-year prison sentence for public corruption. Hamilton was said to have steered state funding to Old Dominion University to create a “Center for Teacher Quality and Educational Leadership.” Old Dominion could get the money — $500,000 — if they hired Hamilton as the center’s director (for a paltry $40,000 per year).
We will give Virginia pols some credit. They aren’t chasing after millions of dollars and beach houses in St. Barth’s. Rather, they are looking for comfort in a secure job with no heavy lifting and a guaranteed pension.
There’s an argument that Bolling is worth every penny James Madison University is giving him, and that the former lieutenant governor is taking a pay cut to devote himself to the university (for three years, at least).
It’s also utterly beside the point.
As the Republican critics of JMU and Bolling note in the RTD piece, it stinks. The job offer may not have broken any laws, as former Virginia attorney general and McGuire Woods grandee Richard Cullen wrote to the RTD. And Bolling may be the very best advocate/teacher/campus housing occupant JMU could hope for.
But let’s not allow the gray eminences of Virginia politics to spin this as anything but what it is: the real Virginia Way.
Or to put it in more concrete terms: Bolling, like so many others before him, simply followed the famous maxim of Tammany Hall’s George Washington Plunkitt:
“I seen my opportunities and I took ’em.”