Beware gifts from friends

As long time readers of this blog probably know, I worked for many years in Virginia state government and I grew up in Virginia politics.  OK, so the Virginia laws on accepting gifts may be a little murky, but every state employee I’ve ever known understands that one cannot accept anything of any value from anyone with whom one does business.  The constituent who sends Christmas candy, for example, to thank you for providing some information.  That candy can be accepted if shared with the office.  You can’t take it home.  Plus you should consult the assistant attorney general assigned to your office so there is a record.

A former governor and former state attorney general should know this.  Bob McDonnell likely did and decided he was above the law.  He isn’t.  At least he isn’t above indictment.  The Washington Post published a list of the most interesting of the counts.  Here are some of them.  It begins with shopping.

April 11-13, 2011: The dress and a seat next to the governor

Maureen McDonnell called Star Scientific chief executive Jonnie R. Williams Sr. on April 11 and asked him to take her on a shopping trip to New York to buy a dress by designer Oscar de la Renta. The first lady explained that she was attending a political event at the Union League Club in New York two days later and promised to get Williams seated next to McDonnell (R). On the shopping trip, Williams accompanied the first lady to numerous designer stores and spent $10,999 at Oscar de la Renta, more than $5,500 at Louis Vuitton and roughly $2,604 at Bergdorf Goodman for dresses and accessories that McDonnell said she needed for her daughter’s wedding and for her own anniversary party. Williams was seated next to the governor at the Union League Club event.

May 9-June 1, 2011: Receiving checks from Williams and promoting his company

A member of the governor’s staff indicated May 9 that the staff was considering plans to have McDonnell visit a Star Scientific promotional event on June 1 in Florida. “[T]he person inviting the Governor is a good friend so I would like to be as responsive as possible,” the staff member wrote. A staff member told the company that the McDonnells’ daughter’s wedding, the same week as the corporate event, would make the trip impossible.

“I’m so sorry this won’t work out! What else can we do to fix this?” the staff member wrote.

On May 17, Maureen McDonnell scheduled herself to attend the promotional event.

On May 23, Williams had his office assistant write two checks, for $50,000 and for $15,000 as a wedding gift, and delivered them in person to the governor’s mansion.

On June 1, Maureen McDonnell attended the company’s promotional event in Sarasota, Fla., which was also attended by numerous Star Scientific investors, and announced that she was offering the governor’s mansion for the official product launch of Anatabloc.

August 2011: The Rolex, free golf and a product launch

On Aug. 1, Maureen McDonnell met privately with Williams before the state health official’s briefing to discuss ways that the state could research Star Scientific’s Anatabloc product. The first lady asked about the Rolex watch that Williams was wearing and mentioned that she wanted to get one for her husband, but Williams expressed surprise that the governor would want to wear a luxury item, given his role as a public official. The first lady responded that she wanted Williams to buy her one to give to the governor. Soon afterward, he did buy the watch and called the first lady to ask what she wanted engraved on the Rolex. She replied: “71st Governor of Virginia.” The same day, the governor’s wife entered an electronic calendar event for herself to attend an Aug. 30 luncheon with Virginia state researchers.

On Aug. 12, Maureen McDonnell’s chief of staff arranged for the governor to attend the Aug. 30 luncheon.

On Aug. 30, the governor and his wife played host at a luncheon at the governor’s mansion for the launch of Anatabloc. Williams helped craft the guest list, which included some of the same University of Virginia and Virginia Commonwealth University research scientists whom Star Scientific was trying to persuade to conduct clinical trials of Anatabloc. The first lady and Williams placed Anatabloc samples at each table setting.

January-February 2012: Big loans to the McDonnells and a push for state research:

In late January, the governor’s brother-in-law e-mailed him to say that “the guy who is helping us” had contacted him about where to send the first check he planned to provide for MoBo, a real estate holding company that McDonnell owned with his sister.

On Feb. 9, the first lady e-mailed her husband and copied his senior policy adviser under the subject heading: “FW: Anatabine clinical studies – UVA, VCU, JHU.” In her message, she wrote: “Here’s the info from JW. He has calls in to VCU & UVA & no one will return his calls.”

The next day, she asked her husband’s policy adviser to please call Williams that same day and “get him to fill u in on where this is at. Gov wants to know why nothing has developed w studies after [JW] gave $200,000

Thanks, -mm.”

The McDonnells

Jeff Schapiro wrote in his column in the Richmond Times-Dispatch

In the indictment Tuesday, a picture emerges of McDonnell as a politician who rationalizes his behavior. This is a man who apparently told himself that — because Williams had become an intimate and because gifts from friends do not have to be disclosed under state law — he could conceal from the public beneficence that it would almost certainly deem indefensible.

And it was behind that screen, the indictment argues, that an elaborate scheme unfolded — one in which the government of Virginia, following enthusiastic assurances by Maureen McDonnell to Williams, pledged to support his money-losing company.

Was it the Governor’s wife who was the real driving force behind all of this?  Did they have financial problems all along?  Did they see election to Governor as a signal they needed to live the life of the rich?  Will Governor Bob “Ultrasound” McDonnell end up in federal prison?  I guess we will find out.

Photograph:  Bob Brown, Richmond Times Dispatch

The state rep and domestic violence

He was convicted of two counts of domestic violence resulting from a date – or a hook-up – gone very wrong.  State Representative Carlos Henriquez was sentenced to 2 and a half years and has to serve 6 months.  This happened on January 15 and I’ve been thinking about it ever since.  Much of the debate centers around his sentence since in Massachusetts most first time offenders are told to stay away from the victim and go to a batterer’s program.  Henriquez is planning to appeal.  The Boston Globe reported

State Representative Carlos Henriquez will spend six months in prison after a jury convicted him Wednesday of holding down a woman and punching her in the chest after she refused to have sex with him.

Jurors convicted Henriquez of some of the acts of violence he was accused of, but acquitted him of others.  The lawmaker was found guilty of two counts of assault and battery, but he was acquitted of a charge that he had struck the victim in her face. Jurors also found Henriquez not guilty of witness intimidation and larceny.

Dressed in a dark suit and tie, Henriquez was without expression as Cambridge District Court Judge Michele Hogan said she was sending him to prison in part because of the serious nature of his crime and because of his refusal to accept responsibility for his actions.

“When a woman tells you she doesn’t want to have sex, that means she does not want to have sex,” Hogan said. “You don’t hit her. You don’t punch her. . . . I’m very concerned that you’re not remorseful.”

State Representative Carlos Henriquez of Dorchester looked toward the jury Wednesday.

State Representative Carlos Henriquez of Dorchester looked toward the jury Wednesday.

I have to interject here that I worked for Carlos’ mother, Sandi, for a number of years and he occasionally stopped by the office.  She is now a high-ranking official at HUD.  His late father was a community activist and very involved in the Dudley Street Neighborhood Initiative not too far from where we live.  Carlos had a promising career ahead of him but something happened.  The incident for which he was convicted occurred not too long after his father’s death and with his mother mostly in Washington, perhaps he felt adrift.  The family always appeared to be close and he lived in an apartment connected to the family house. But this does not excuse what happened.

A few days after his conviction, Farah Stockman wrote a compelling piece published in the Globe opinion section.

You know your political career is on the rocks when the evidence that is produced in your assault trial is a fake fingernail. Bright pink.

What’s the jury going to think when they see that fingernail, found in the Zipcar you drove when you picked up the 23-year-old college student who accuses you of hitting her after she refused to have sex?

Are those jurors thinking: “A Zipcar! What an ecologically conscious elected official?” Probably not.

You know your reputation as an up-and-coming politician is bound to suffer when the most compelling evidence in your favor is a series of racy messages between you and said college student, sent from your VoteforCarlos e-mail. Katherine Gonsalves picks you out of the crowd at a community meeting, and asks to interview you for a class paper. Days later, she’s asking: “Are you still coming out to play tonight?” You’re a 35-year-old man. You’re Carlos Henriquez, representing the 5th Suffolk district. You’re the son of a well-known political family. A man whose endorsements are sought in mayoral campaigns. But you answer: “For Sure. I hope you are ready.” And you spell it F-O-S-H-O. Then you misspell her name in your phone.

Five months later, she’s begging you to come over. “Babe, I miss you,” she texts. You’re too busy, making the kind of neighborhood appearances that got you elected. Late into the night, she’s still trying to get you to pick her up. She describes partying with her sister and her sister’s friends, drinking. Your response: Send the address if you want to have sex.

Monica Lewinsky, anyone?  Anthony Weiner?  Elliot Spitzer?  Or even worse, Chandra Levy who ended up dead in Rock Creek Park.  Even though someone else was convicted of her murder, suspicion ruined the a California Congressman, Gary Condit with whom she had been having an affair.  Sex and politics are a lethal combination.  Elected officials seem never to learn and in the Henriquez case, there is not only political ruin but jail time.

More from Stockman

You pick her up. You both climb into the backseat of the car. What happens next defines both of you, maybe for the rest of your lives. She tells you she can’t go home with you as she had planned because her mother caught her sneaking out of the house. You complain that she dragged you all the way over here. You argue. She pulls out a cell phone and tells you she’s recording you. Do you struggle over the phone? Steal the SIM card? Do you backhand her, punch her, and choke her — and then climb into the driver’s seat and drive into Boston, without ever giving her a chance to get out of the car?

Or did everything happen differently? We don’t know your side of the story because you never take the stand. All we know is that your defense itself is unflattering: Your lawyer says you only wanted sex, but Gonsalves wanted more, and went “Fatal Attraction’’ when she didn’t get it.

I heard the evidence at the trial and I’m still not sure exactly what happened in the car that night. Justice, at its best, is an approximation. In the end, the jury — five women and three men — had an easier time picturing Carlos Henriquez beating a young woman than that young woman making it up, bruises and all.

Carlos Henriquez is clearly guilty: if not of assault, then of really poor judgment. In court, Gonsalves looked miserable in the witness box. Henriquez looked miserable at the defense table. Once, she stole an awkward glance at him. I felt sorry for them both.

So why sentence him to jail time?  On the surface, the only difference between Henriquez and other men who are convicted of domestic violence and get sent to a batterer’s program is that he is an elected official.  Unfortunately for him, the incident comes on the heels of the Jared Remy case.  Jared Remy was in court for beating up his girlfriend and mother of his child the most recent in a series of incidence with increasing violence.  He was released and, the next day, she was dead.  I think the trial is this summer.  The DA has said that releasing him was an error.

My question is this:  why have men been let off the hook so easily in the first place?  If I am right and the Remy case served as a wake-up call to the criminal justice system, the sentence of Henriquez to jail time was fallout.  When other men are also given jail time, we will know that things are finally changing for the better.

And a final word to Carlos:  Please resign.

Photograph:  Josh Reynolds for The Boston Globe

Robert Livingston: forgotten man of the Revolution

A couple of days ago, I read a story in the New York Times about the discovery of a draft of a letter written in July 1775 to the British people from the American revolutionaries that was a last ditch effort at reconciliation.  While the name Robert Livingston rang a faint bell, I did not remember learning anything about a letter back to England.

According to the Times story

It was lying in a drawer in the attic, a 12-page document that was not just forgotten but misfiled. Somehow it had made its way into a folder with colonial-era doctor’s bills that someone in the 1970s decreed was worthless and should be thrown away.

Luckily, no one did. For when Emilie Gruchow opened the folder last summer and separated it from the doctor’s bills, she recognized it as a one-of-a-kind document.

Ms. Gruchow, an archivist at the Morris-Jumel Mansion, was an intern at the museum in Upper Manhattan when she made her discovery. The mansion served as George Washington’s headquarters during the Revolutionary War. She realized the document was the draft of an urgent plea for reconciliation from the Continental Congress. It was addressed to the people of Britain, not King George III and his government, and began by mentioning “the tender ties which bind us to each other” and “the glorious achievements of our common ancestors.”

The letter, which Ms. Gruchow found last summer, was written in 1775 by the New York jurist Robert R. Livingston.

The letter, which Ms. Gruchow found last summer, was written in 1775 by the New York jurist Robert R. Livingston.

A little searching led me to Yale University’s Avalon Project and the discovery that there had been two letters:  one to the King and one to the “FRIENDS, COUNTRYMEN, AND BRETHREN!”.  Both were from the Continental Congress.  The letter to the King does not list all of the colonists grievances, but mentions them more generally.

We shall decline the ungrateful task of describing the irksome variety of artifices, practiced by many of your Majesty’s Ministers, the delusive presences, fruitless terrors, and unavailing severities, that have, from time to time, been dealt out by them, in their attempts to execute this impolitic plan, or of traceing, thro’a series of years past, the progress of the unhappy differences between Great Britain and these colonies, which have flowed from this fatal source.

The open letter to the British people is a precursor to the Declaration of Independence with a list of grievances.  For example this mention of Boston

We could wish to go no further, and, not to wound the Ear of Humanity, leave untold those rigorous Acts of Oppression, which are daily exercised in the Town of Boston, did we not hope, that by disclaiming their Deeds and punishing the Perpetrators, you would shortly vindicate the Honour of the British Name, and re-establish the violated Laws of Justice.

That once populous, nourishing and commercial Town is now garrisoned by an Army sent not to protect, but to enslave its Inhabitants. The civil (government is overturned, and a military Despotism erected upon its Ruins. Without Law, without Right, Powers are assumed unknown to the Constitution. Private Property is unjustly invaded. The Inhabitants, daily subjected to the Licentiousness of the Soldiery, are forbid to remove in Defiance of their natural Rights, in Violation of the most solemn Compacts. Or if, after long and wearisome Solicitation, a Pass is procured, their Edects are detained, and even those who are most favoured, have no Alternative but Poverty or Slavery. The Distress of many thousand People, wantonly deprived of the Necessaries of Life, is a Subject, on which we would not wish to enlarge.

Became

He has kept among us, in times of peace, Standing Armies without the Consent of our legislatures.

and

For Quartering large bodies of armed troops among us:

as well as

He has plundered our seas, ravaged our Coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.

Robert Livingston

Robert Livingston

Which brings us to Mr. Livingston.  According to the Times

Until Ms. Gruchow found it, only the final, printed version from July 1775 had been known to exist. She consulted with Michael D. Hattem, a teaching fellow and research assistant on The Papers of Benjamin Franklin at Yale. He analyzed the handwriting on the yellowed pages of the manuscript and did textual analysis that led to an unexpected conclusion: The document was written by Robert R. Livingston, a prominent New York jurist who had been on the fence about whether to support independence for the colonies.

The following year, Congress tapped Livingston to draft the Declaration of Independence along with Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, Benjamin Franklin and Roger Sherman.

Curiously, Mr. Livingston (1746-1813) did not actually sign the Declaration because he was recalled to New York before he could do so.  I’ve searched, but could find no reason for his recall.  He did go on to administer the oath of office to George Washington and, under the Jefferson administration, to help negotiate the Louisiana Purchase.  And now we know that it is his list in a letter to the British people which likely inspired the list in the Declaration of Independence.

Photograph of Document: Suzanne DeChillo/The New York Times

Predicting 2014

I don’t have a crystal ball and haven’t thrown the I Ching, so I can’t really say what will happen. but Mark Bittman had an amusing column in yesterday’s New York Times about years ending in four.  Bittman seems to be of the opinion that nothing much that is good happens during such years, but we can hope that he just has a selective memory.

Bittman begins with 1944, but I’ll add 1914.  That was the year Austria-Hungary declared war on Serbia to begin World War I. On the plus side, the Panama Canal opened and the Boston Braves won the World Series.
Bittman writes

1944 Those of us who don’t remember this year are lucky; a soldier cited in Rick Atkinson’s brilliantly horrifying saga of the last two years of the war in Europe, “The Guns at Last Light,” quotes King Lear: “The worst is not, So long as we can say, ‘This is the worst.’ ” The end of the war was in sight; getting there was the trick, and millions were killed in the interval. Things have not been this bad since.

1954 If there was a golden era of United States foreign policy, it ended here, as Eisenhower warned against involvement in Vietnam while espousing the domino theory. Good: Joe McCarthy’s power began to ebb. Not good: The words “under God” were added to the Pledge of Allegiance.

1964 The last year of the baby boom was mind-blowing. In the 28 months beginning that January, Bob Dylan made five of the best albums of the era — and there were the Beatles.

Nelson Mandela was sentenced to life in prison, and Lyndon Johnson single-handedly sent everyone into a tizzy by signing the Civil Rights Act, sending more “advisers” to Vietnam, talking about bombing North Vietnam and proposing the Great Society. Huh? The first anti-Vietnam War demonstrations and draft-card burnings took place. Pot smoking officially began. (Not really, but sorta.)

1964 was also the year my husband graduated from high school.  I’ll call that a plus.

Skipping to 1994

Whoa: Not only did Nelson Mandela not spend his life in jail, but he became president. The Brady Law went into effect, and Bill Clinton signed the assault weapons ban. (It expired in 2004.) O. J. Simpson spurred a national obsession. Four bombers were convicted of the 1993 attack on the World Trade Center.

Reagan was implicated in the Iran-contra cover-up, but it seemed more important to torture the Clintons over a bad real estate investment. (Still, Paula Jones wasn’t the Republicans’ fault, was she?) Clinton fired Joycelyn Elders for discussing masturbation.

The first credit default swap was created. Nearly everyone in Rwanda became either a killer or a victim, or so it seemed. And there was that messy thing in “the former Yugoslavia.”

Netscape Navigator was released.

1994 was an important year for me.  We got married and I moved to Boston.  Thomas Menino was mayor but not yet The Mayor.

Which brings us to 2004.

2004  Barack Obama spoke at the Democratic convention and there seemed reason for hope; then John Kerry went windsurfing and W., incredibly, became president again (what were 62 million of us thinking?) several months after endorsing a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage, which Massachusetts had already legalized. (By 2013, even Utah is on the right side of this issue.) W. also promised to improve education and access to health care; we all know how that worked out. Lance Armstrong won his sixth Tour de France; we all know how that worked out, too.

And also in 2004, the Red Sox won the World Series for the first time in 86 years ending the mythical curse of Babe Ruth.

So, 2014.  I know what I hope for:  the Democrats retain control of the Senate and, at a minimum, creep closer to a majority in the House. I hope the ACA enrolls so many people who like their benefits that we don’t have to listen to Ted Cruz reading “green eggs and ham” again.  I hope, though it seems unlikely, that we get tax and immigration reform.  I hope that President Obama has a better year. And I hope everyone comes home safely from Afghanistan.  I wish Marty Walsh all the best as he becomes mayor and I hope that Michelle Wu gives up her crazy idea of voting for Bill Linehan for City Council president and picks Tito Jackson instead.  Most of all, I hope that all of us have a safe and healthy year.

2014