Cuccinelli under fire – again

Story by Chris Graham
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Are Democrats trying to create smoke around the latest controversy involving Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli to make people believe that there’s fire? Or is the issue with a sizable donation to the Cuccinelli campaign in 2009 from a veterans group that appears to be anything but the charity that it has claimed to be going to prove to be too hot for even the incendiary Cuccinelli to handle?

“The attorney general has been going after a professor at the University of Virginia over his research.  Here we’ve got a situation where Bobby Thompson and his organization are being investigated in other states. Where’s the press release that the attorney general is investigating this group? He can waste taxpayer dollars going after professors at universities but yet we can’t take a look at Mr. Thompson and this group.  At least he’s not constrained by petty consistency,” said Ward Armstrong, a Martinsville Democrat in the Virginia House of Delegates, in a conference call with reporters on Thursday.

Bobby Thompson is the head of the U.S. Navy Veterans Association, nominally a charity that raises money to benefit Navy veterans in distress that according to an investigation by the St. Petersburg Times has spent the vast majority of its dollars raised on overhead.

The group is now under investigation in three states, though interestingly not in Virginia, where Cuccinelli has made headlines recently for filing a lawsuit challenging the recently passed federal health-care reform and for filing a civil investigative demand of the University of Virginia for what his office has suggested is a fraud investigation of a former UVa. professor involved in research on climate change.

A Cuccinelli spokesman has said this week that the attorney general’s office will only get involved in the matter involving the U.S. Navy Veterans Association if it is requested to do so by the state Office of Consumer Affairs.

Thompson’s $55,500 in donations to the Cuccinelli attorney-general campaign made him the second-largest contributor to campaign.

“You have to wonder if there’s a connection there with the $50,000 contribution,” Armstrong said.

Democrats are pressuring Cuccinelli on the investigation issue and are asking the attorney general to donate the money received from Thompson to a veterans-focused charity. Gov. Bob McDonnell, who received a $5,000 donation from Thompson, has already done that, and three state legislators who had received contributions from Thompson have said this week that they plan to take a similar course of action.

As on the investigation issue, Cuccinelli is not giving in to the pressure to repurpose the campaign money.

The Cuccinelli response on both fronts could have political repercussions down the road, according to Isaac Wood at the University of Virginia Center for Politics.

“It could help to drive the narrative that this is a guy who is more concerned with his political future than anything else – that he cares more about his future than he does executing the duties of his job, that he cares more about his political future than he does about making sure that veterans get their fair shake. The two real dangers for Cuccinelli – number one, that this could be seen as fitting into the earlier narrative that this is a guy who can be focused on his political well-being and can be pretty radical, and then two, it could show that maybe he’s insensitive in certain ways to veterans groups. And on veterans issues in particular, anytime you’re seen as taking sides, you want to be seen as taking sides on behalf of veterans. So that could be a real issue for him down the line,” Wood said.

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