Wednesday, August 09, 2006

I Got Next -- I covered much of this material here before, but I've summed up those posts on the race in Virginia's 11th CD for my diary today on the DailyKos..I thought I'd post the diary entry here. Why? Because, I haven't had time to come up with fresh stuff tonight, and because it's worth repeating. Hey, if the networks can show re-runs all summer long...But seriously, I have a purpose in reposting here. Not everyone reads the DailyKos. For those who will find this info, for the first time, here, on my blog -- I'd like to replicate the kind of internet mobilization that got Ned Lamont the Democratic nomination for Senate. Can we do that to boot Rep. Tom Davis out of office?!?! I think so. Here we go (from the diary):

Now that Kossacks have helped tumble Joe Lieberman, I’d like to propose that the Kossacks dedicate themselves to beating actual Republicans. Sarcasm aside, I’d like to propose a new target: Representative Tom Davis (R-VA), of Virginia’s 11th Congressional District. Rep. Davis is chairman of the House Government Reform Committee. This may come as little surprise in this ethics-less Republican Congress, but it turns out that this is a classic example of the fox guarding the hen-house.

You may recall that Mr. Davis made his mark as chairman of this Committee earlier this year, when he decided that steroid use in baseball was a major part of his committee’s purview. Mr. Davis gave us the indelible images of Rafael Palmeiro lying to Congress, Mark McGwire refusing to say anything about “the past,” and Sammy Sosa’s lawyer testifying that he had never used steroids. Of course, anyone watching wondered whether Sosa’s attorney was speaking for himself or for Sluggin’ Sammy.

As it turns out, though, Mr. Davis was much busier behind the scenes, using his powerful committee chairmanship to enrich his best friend, and also Mr. Davis’ wife. Two months before Mr. Davis assumed the committee chair, his friend, Donald Upson, formed a consulting company to assist other companies bidding for government contracts – no doubt, purely a coincidence. And yet, according to the Washington Post, Mr. Davis’ office has been heavily invested in assisting Mr. Upton’s company and its clientele. In an article published two weeks ago, the Post reported that Mr. Davis had been using committee letterhead to threaten Pentagon contracting officers and otherwise lobby on behalf of clients of his friend’s government contract consulting company, ICG.

Coincidentally, when it was formed, ICG hired the woman who was to become Congressman Davis’ wife. She is a Virginia state legislator, and earns about $17,000 for her selfless public service. On the other hand, it seems that ICG has paid her handsomely for very little work. She receives a yearly wage from ICG of $78,000, allegedly for 10-20 hours of work a week, making calls from her home.

His wife’s position would appear to be in conflict with the opinion that the House Committee on Standards of Official Conduct gave Rep. Davis, regarding his wife’s side job. The Conduct Standards Committee told the congressman that "his wife can work for the consulting firm, as long as the couple does not personally benefit from any official acts by the congressman. The committee told them to take care to 'avoid a claim that you are allowing your official title to be used for private gain.'"

It’s hard to spin the wife's position and all the lobbying that Davis and his staff have done for ICG any other way – clearly, the congressman and his wife are using his position for personal gain.

I am even more exercised by some unseemly lobbying that Rep. Davis is doing on behalf of Bechtel. There is a plan to extend the Washington, D.C. Metro out to Dulles Airport. The plan will involve building 4 stops through the major commercial district of Tysons Corner. Everyone from smart growth planners to environmentalists to developers to politicians want to transform Tysons Corner from a purely shopping and business center, to a major downtown, with mixed use and residential development. Bechtel was given the project in a curious no-bid arrangement with the state government. The plan announced by Bechtel involved the construction of aboveground Metro stations through Tysons.

The problem was that everyone else believes that the major development goals would not be realized unless the stations are constructed underground. The new Virginia Governor, Tim Kaine started talking to a developer that offered a plan for a Metro tunnel through the area, with underground stations. The plan would involve using a Clark as the contractor, instead of Bechtel.

Despite the fact that almost everyone outside of Bechtel agreed that the plan needed to be reworked, to include a tunnel through Tysons, Rep. Davis cautioned Gov. Kaine against endorsing the tunnel proposal. Davis claimed that further delays would jeopardize the federal funding for the project. It seems hard to believe that the supposedly influential Mr. Davis could not deliver continued federal funding, if he wanted to do so.

The only logical explanation for Rep. Davis’ pressure on Gov. Kaine is that Davis is in Bechtel’s pocket. I am scandalized that Davis would canvass to spend nearly a billion federal dollars, on top of the state’s own commitment, for the benefit of a favored contractor, rather than use the funds in a truly transformational way. If Davis’ and Bechtel prevail, it will mean squandering a once-in-a-century opportunity to do some really intelligent development that would help ease traffic congestion, and greatly increase both housing stock and commercial development, all in one grand stroke.

Government Reform? The greatest Government reform will be replacing Rep. Davis. In this respect, the Dems have the perfect challenger. Since he began his campaign a year ago, Andrew Hurst has made ethics and campaign finance reform the centerpiece of his platform. To Hurst, this is job one. Nothing else that will be worth doing can get done, until something is done about the way policy follows the money these days. Get the money out of the system, and government can start working for all the people.

The Democratic Party hasn’t exactly targeted this race. With the disclosures about Mr. Davis’ unethical conduct and blatant corruption, I am hoping that will change. This may be the fastest growing district in the country. The demographics are also changing rapidly. I believe this is a district that can be turned, especially this year….for all the usual reasons, and because Rep. Davis has made himself very vulnerable.

Hurst may have begun his campaign talking about ethics and campaign finance reform when the Abramoff scandal was in full bloom. But, Mr. Davis has created his own personal scandal here. Even if the Delay-Abramoff scandal is already old news, Rep. Davis’ scandal is hot off the presses. This is the time to push for attention on this race – to shine the light on this rat’s little corner. A seat that seemed safe for the G.O.P. may now be in serious jeopardy.

I’d like to get busy organizing Kossacks -- and any other interested souls -- to help. I’m soliciting your help, and your advice in getting this effort off the ground. Who’s with me?

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