Bearing Drift broke the story earlier this week of a mailer hitting in the 28th House District from Susan Stimpson, attacking Bill Howell for daring to stand up for Governor Bob McDonnell:
Speaker Bill Howell has known Bob McDonnell for decades. They started a bible study and prayer group together that the Speaker still leads today. McDonnell attended one earlier this year. The House even awarded Howell and McDonnell the “BFF” award in one of their session-ending ceremonies. Speaker Bill Howell attended the appeals hearing and testified as a character witness for Bob McDonnell.
Howell released this statement then:
“I have known Bob McDonnell for a long time and consider him a close friend. I am heartbroken by the pain he and his family have suffered and by what this means for Virginia. Cessie and I offer our sincerest prayers for the McDonnell family during this difficult time.”
Stimpson’s reaction? She attacks McDonnell and Howell in an attempt to smear the Speaker while hiding the fact that she’s referring to McDonnell in her mudslinging.
Republican Primary voters in the 28th District most likely have an opinion on McDonnell. And even if Stimpson’s mailer doesn’t name him outright, they’ll know exactly who she’s talking about, which her campaign is banking on. Though one could hope for a bit more courage and the ability to name names from their delegate, what is most glaring about this mailer aren’t the charges: It’s that they’re outright lies.
The article these accusations are citing is “McDonnell asked top Va. lawmakers to call U.S. Attorney’s Office, attest to his character” from January 18, 2014. Typically tear out visuals like this are quotes from an article, but in both of these cases there is no quote. They’re theoretically summarizing portions of the article. Except in both cases, they aren’t at all.
Take the first accusation, that Howell called investigators to halt the investigation. That didn’t happen, even by their own citation.
Former Virginia governor Robert F. McDonnell asked the top Democrat in the state Senate and the speaker of the House of Delegates to call the U.S. Attorney’s Office last week to attest to his character, the senator and a spokesman for the speaker said Saturday.
Sen. Richard L. Saslaw (Fairfax) said he and House Speaker William J. Howell (R-Stafford) placed the call together, leaving a message. Howell later received a call indicating that the U.S. attorney had declined their offer.
“I didn’t see it as a big deal. He called up and asked if I would do it, and I did,” Saslaw said. “He’s not a criminal. He just is not.”
The call to investigators wasn’t to end any investigation, it was to offer to attest to the Governor’s character, a call also made by many more Republicans and Democrats alike, all saying that not only is Bob McDonnell a good guy, but that he did nothing wrong.
The second accusation, that Howell offered himself as a character witness for a convicted government official also fails the truth test given that in January of 2014 the case against Bob McDonnell had yet to even go to trial.
Eventually, yes, Howell was a character witness during the sentencing phase that came after the September conviction. And why wouldn’t he? Howell and McDonnell are close friends:
Howell and McDonnell are especially close. They have been friends at least since McDonnell was elected to the House of Delegates in 1991. Howell, McDonnell and two others started a Bible study group for legislators years ago, meeting at 7 a.m. every Wednesday during the legislative session. Now dozens come, and McDonnell continued to attend as governor.
At the end of the session last year, when House members traditionally give satirical awards to members deemed to be the most annoying or most talkative on the floor, McDonnell and Howell got a new award: “best friends forever.”
Howell’s actions have nothing to do with government and everything to do with friendship. But as of the writing of the Washington Post article Stimpson uses to hang Howell, that friend had not been found guilty of anything.
Susan Stimpson’s mailer shows a new low in the campaign, not just in trying to shame fellow Republicans beyond Howell and McDonnell (there are plenty of people in Richmond who stand with Bob McDonnell and she’d have to work with should she win) but in outright lying to do so.
The primary is on June 9th.