Saturday, May 05, 2007

Julie Deserves a better defense.

Since Julie Lucas has not explained to the committee why they went to the Post instead of us, or provided any response to the description by the Committee Chair regarding the events of January, Greg over at BVBL made a misguided attempt to answer the charges for her.

His attempt reinforces my belief that she needs to provide her own response. She deserves better than his failed attempt. Lucas needs to step up and provide her own response, signed by her own hand, to the committee.

Here is my analysis of Greg's "rebuttal", as it were. The original post can be found in his bombastically titled "Kopko's Self-Inflicted Head Wound". I don't have Greg's every word here.

Tom Kopko, Chairman of the Prince William County Republican Committee, sent out a stunning email yesterday in response to a Washington Post article that appeared in today’s edition regarding his improper actions on behalf of the Faisal Gill campaign.

"improper actions" is Greg's opinion. Further, there is no charge he did anything improper "on behalf of" Gill, only that he improperly did WORK for Gill.

Several elected officials are uncomfortable, concerned and upset more because of Tom Kopko’s reaction to the criticism than the underlying issues, which still remain troubling.

I have no respect for elected officials who can't speak for themselves, and until they do this is just a baseless charge.

Committee members are talking about removing Kopko if he does not resign, as this situation has gone from bad to horrible as a result of this ill-advised entry by the chairman into open warfare with candidates seeking the Republican nomination.

The only talk I've heard is on Greg's own blog. But people have been talking about removing Kopko since the day he won the seat -- I may have even raised the issue once or twice myself.

Tom did not start this "open warfare", and it is not between Tom and a candidate, it's between a candidate and the Republican Committee. A candidate should not be taking committee grievances to the Washington Post, and if they do I expect my Chair to answer the charges. Tom did so in an e-mail to the committee; Julie should have put HER complaints likewise to the committee, not to the entire population of the Washington Metro area.

This situation went "bad" when a Republican candidate kept quiet at the meeting we held to discuss the matter, and then spoke instead with the Washington Post reporter.

Tom’s email starts out with a substantial broadside where he claims that Julie Lucas told him that she wanted to ensure Democrats participated in the nomination process.
Anyone who has even a passing familiarity with Julie Lucas knows this is utterly ridiculous.

Tom made a specific claim, and Greg presents no evidence to refute it. Tom's claim makes sense. Greg doesn't even say Julie refutes it, which means Greg hasn't confirmed with her what happened. So Greg is just speculating, while Tom was in the meeting.

Are we to believe that Julie Lucas, someone who currently holds elected office as a Republican, thinks that she would need help from Democrats in order to prevail over someone never elected to office who’s most recent claim to fame is that he was the press spokesman for the 2006 Steve Chapman campaign?

Julie Lucas is on the school board, a non-partisan office. So she does not hold elected office as a Republican. She did receive the Republican "endorsement" for the seat. She is also a member of the Republican committee -- that actually would be a better argument for Greg than the incorrect one he made.

She apparently thinks she needs help to beat Gill. A Convention allows each candidate equal opportunity to get Republicans to vote for them. If Gill is so easily defeated, what reason could she have to reject a convention of Republicans (who are the ones who endorsed her, and voted for her for school board), and instead wanting an open primary where anybody can vote?

Not only does Greg present NO facts or evidence that Tom misrepresents what Julie said, his argument suggests that Julie DOES think she needs help from democrats to beat Gill.

Outlandish statements like this might be expected from Eugene Delgaudio, but demonstrate a troubling decent by Tom Kopko, who as party chairman should at least be maintaining some appearance of impartiality and fairness, firmly into the mud as a bought and paid for negative campaign spokesman for Faisal Gill.

Julie has not denied saying this. Greg puts her in a bad position by claiming that her statement was "outlandish". I don't think the statement attributed to Julie is "outlandish". Tom reporting what she said is certainly not outlandish.

The charge that Tom is "bought and paid for" is absurd. Greg already refuted that claim as regards the January payment for services, and there is no evidence for any payments made at this time that would be for this "service". Further, Tom is only giving us this information because Julie charged him with malfeasance SPECIFICALLY regarding the work for Gill, a charge that Greg has rejected.

In fact, just two weeks ago, Greg said this about Tom Kopko: "I have always been convinced that Tom Kopko is an honorable and fair man", even though he followed with "this sequence of events is hard to explain in a way that will reassure committee members and the larger public."

Given what we’ve seen so far, asking for a primary given the current PWCRC leadership would seem to be a reasonable attempt to insulate the candidate selection process from Tom Kopko.

When Julie suggested a primary on January 4, she didn't know about the payment to Tom. In January, nobody suggested the candidate selection process needed to be insulated from the leadership. When the convention was chosen, the PWCRC leadership included a person now on Julie's campaign staff.

So the claim that Julie's request for a primary was "a reasonable attempt to insulate" the process from Kopko and the PWCRC leadership is baseless. There is no way that on January 4th, Julie requested a primary because she was concerned about the leadership, OR about Tom's fairness.

Greg's attempt to justify her request for a primary on that basis is senseless.

Next up is Kopko’s persistently claimed fantasy that he was unaware that Lucas would file:
The reason this fantasy persists is that Tom Kopko’s crowd tried as hard as possible to convince Julie to run against Senator Toddy Puller, and even recruited Ken Cuccinelli to plead with her to enter that race in order to clear a path for Faisal Gill in the 51st District.

Thus Greg dismisses the "fantasy" that Julie was considering other races by saying that she was being recruited for other races!!!. This in fact explains why she didn't commit to the 51st.

Convinced that this grand plan would work, Kopko signed onto the Faisal Gill payroll not for a moment believing that Julie’s intentions to run in the 51st District, which were clearly evident to myself and Jim Riley back in November, and reported in the Washington Post a year before that, would be fulfilled in the face of his grand plan.

Tom didn't "sign onto" the Gill payroll, he provided a specific service and got paid for it.

Hyperbole aside, Greg admits: Tom "not for a moment believing Julie's intentions to run", performed work for Gill. That's exactly what Tom said happened.

With the incumbent office holder Delegate Michele McQuigg publicly waffling about her intentions until very late in the game, seemingly making a 51st bid potentially troublesome, and the pressure to take on Toddy Puller, Kopko was convinced that Julie Lucas would take the easy route.

According to Greg, not only did Tom truly believe Julie wasn't running, the 51st seat wasn't even OPEN until "very late in the game", and so it was a "troublesome" bid. More reasons to believe Julie when she said she wasn't sure yet what she was going to do. Greg's making Tom's case for him.

And as for this conspiracy to get Julie elected to the Senate, that is actually a much better political position than delegate. Guess they really hated Julie didn't they?

Perhaps this helps readers understand why Michele McQuigg got involved in the Faisal Gill campaign when to everyone else this is a race she should have kept her distance from.

Greg argues that Michelle didn't think Julie was running for her seat, and therefore joined Gill. If Julie had decided to run for the seat, She'd have told Michelle so she could ask for an endorsement. Greg's argument reinforces Tom's claim that Julie was not making her intentions clear.

Lucas did not take the seemingly easy route laid out for her, although with the pressure to conform to the succession plan a public announcement of that decision was considerably delayed. With so many people asking Julie to run for so many different offices,

Greg admits that many people were asking Julie to run for many offices. Which supports Tom's claim that she was considering many offices.

Greg also admits Lucas delayed her own announcement, confirming Tom's claim that she only filed on the last day. Another point for Tom.

and the terrain of the 51st District being intentionally obfuscated in order to promote an established succession plan, no wonder it took until the last minute to announce her intentions.

Again, Greg acknowledges that all signs point, all logic points, her own actions point, to Julie being undecided about the 51st until the last minute. That's what Tom said.

As to the "terrain" "being intentionally obfuscated", that is a charge Greg throws in with no support, even in his own previous words. It SOUNDS like he is charging Michelle with delaying her announcement in order to help Gill -- but earlier he claimed Michelle was duped into supporting Gill by Julie's failure to tell her she was running.

Yet even as early as January 4th, Tom is recognizing a real possibility that Julie will run in the 51st House District and is discussing with her the nomination method to be used in the district.

First, nobody has claimed the discussion on the 4th was confined to the 51st House District race. Tom and Julie discussed nominating choices. That discussion would apply to ANY position Julie decided to run for, whether the 51st, the senate, or some other position.

Second, a possibility is not a commitment. Tom obviously knew there was a possibility Julie would choose to run for the 51st. His note in fact says that he held off arrangements for the 51st, waiting for her to decide. Nobody is saying there wasn't some possibility. Julie's statements in the Post suggest that she told Tom on the 4th she WAS RUNNING, and Tom is simply saying that on the 4th, Julie had NOT decided she was running.

Nothing Greg presents refutes that claim.

Although Julie probably never realized it, assuming that Kopko was dealing with her above-board, that conversation was all about pushing Julie into the 36th District Senate race.

Ignoring Greg's claim that Julie was an unwitting dupe in her own conversation, Greg has presented no evidence Tom wasn't above-board with her in that conversation, nor does he give any explanation as to how a discussion about her intentions was about "pushing her" into a race.

On the other hand, what is nefarious about trying to get Julie, a good republican, to run for a seat that had no republican, instead of against another republican running for the delegate seat? Julie was free to reject that, but that's exactly what I expect my County Chair to do, try to convince people to do what is best for the party. Having a candidate like Julie Lucas running for the Senate would be better than not having a candidate for that seat while two candidates waste time and money fighting each other for a house seat.

Now it’s turned into a weapon against her by the chairman whose job it is to ensure a fair candidate selection process.

The only thing "turned" against her is her claim to the Washington Post that Tom was "open" to the idea of an open primary, and that she told Tom she was running on the 4th.

Later on, Kopko tries to defend his status as a paid political consultant to the Faisal Gill campaign even before the candidate filing deadline has expired:
(Tom Kopko's email)
Of course, it isn’t mentioned there are plenty of examples of chairmen who run fair processes while doing contract work for or having a financial relationship with a candidate. One need look just a little north to Fairfax to find a large, prime example. Examination of almost every race shows how commonplace it is. The State Board of Elections and the Republican Party of Virginia concur there’s no problem. In other words, this is much ado about nothing.

This is a pretty interesting swipe at former FCRC Chairman Eric Lundberg, who has never been a paid political consultant to any campaign, either during a primary or in a general election campaign, according to the Virginia Public Access Project.

First, Tom is not a "paid political consultant", he was a contractor paid to provide a service, which he provided as a closed-ended job, arranging and composing the information on the web site.

Second, Tom never mentioned a name,or confined his argument to a committee. Maybe Tom was refering to the 11th congressional unit. The congressional units mostly have leads hand-picked by the incumbents. The opposition always complains about that but it's a fact of life. The State legislative districts are also often chaired by people associated with the incumbents.

Third, Tom did not limit his claim to being a paid consultant, he said "contract work or other financial arrangements with" one of the candidates. For example, if a legislative aide for a candidate is the chair of the district, that's a financial arrangement.

Fourth, Tom is not taking a "swipe" at ANYBODY, because Tom is not arguing that this is unethical. He is arguing that it is common for a committee chair who has responsibility for a nominating process to have financial or other arrangements with one of the candidates. And he's quite right, in many of the legislative districts the ties are much more obvious than some payment for services made before there is even a contest for an office.

IN fact, Greg seems to be arguing that candidates should not be allowed to pick people who work for them to be their district chairs, or to hand-pick those chairs. Were any of those elected officials Greg claims are "concerned" in districts where their own people are serving as committee chairs?

There’s been some debate about whether this is a common practice, as Tom puts it, but so far no one seems to have come up with an example of any unit chairman actually doing this, no matter how many races we look at.

Tom didn't confine his claim to a specific receipt of payment for a service, but to all financial arrangements, nor did he restrict it to county committees. And it is clear that he is correct that in some legislative districts, the chairs are tied financially or otherwise to a specific candidate.

Further, Tom acknowledges that HE would not have done this if there was an actual contest for nomination. So Tom agrees with Greg and others that we should avoid the appearance of favoritism. Greg provides no reason why Tom's one payment before there was a contest should lead to his resignation, while so many legislative districts are chaired by people with direct and continuing ties to candidates.

This claim appears to be an outright fabrication delivered to the members of the committee which he serves, although perhaps since Kopko mentioned widespread unethical practices among Fairfax County Republicans he will do us the service of specifying exactly who the LCRC needs to more closely inspect in order to more substantiate his claim. Otherwise this has all the appearances of an intentional lie.

Far from a fabrication it is a statement of fact in some districts. Tom doesn't call this unethical, Greg does. Tom didn't say "Fairfax County Republicans", Greg did.

Given the witch hunt Greg and others are on, I am happy Tom didn't specifically list all the good people we have serving for us throughout the state who have financial ties to the candidates we have in office.

Bringing Ed Gillespie into this discussion,

Tom Kopko did not mention "Ed Gillespie", he said RPV, and he didn't bring them in, Julie Lucas did, by complaining to the Washington Post so the Post went to the RPV to ask them for an opinion.

as if Kopko requested pre-clearance from RPV before he made the decision to accept money from Faisal Gill,

Tom saw no problem with performing work for a fee for a republican when there was no contest in progress, so why would he ask for "pre-clearance"?

puts RPV in a rather difficult situation. While RPV did come down in the aftermath of the disclosure of Kopko’s paid relationship with Gill, and did state that there was nothing in the Party Plan which prohibited such relationships, Kopko is trying to force RPV into a situation where they dismiss ethical concerns and strictly rely on whether something is specifically prohibited or not.

Again, Tom forced RPV into NOTHING. Tom didn't go to the RPV for a statement, the Washington Post went to the RPV after Julie complained to them about this. Tom is simply noting that RPV found nothing wrong with it, which was true. He's just quoting the Washington Post here.

If we are to remain consistent with our principles, the “it’s not against the law” excuse cannot stand. Putting Ed Gillespie in such a position by Tom Kopko is completely reckless. This is not the standard of behavior expected by a unit chairman.

The RPV doesn't make rulings on the law, the SBE does (and they said there was nothing wrong with this as well). Tom's argument is that this is common practice, and as support notes that neither the SBE or RPV found fault with it. That's not his entire argument, it's just strong evidence that he is right. The RPV is perfectly capable of issuing clarifying statements if they feel it necessary.

This entire "poor RPV, put out by Tom" argument is unsupported in fact as Tom didn't bring RPV in. And unlike Greg, I have respect for Ed Gillespie and I don't fear for his ability to handle a political question.

Then Tom lays out his plan for ensuring a fair process in the 51st District:
Kopko is still the chairman of the 51st District Committee, and the only member of that committee which exercises ultimate power over the selection process, and Kopko retains veto authority over everything that happens in this convention.

First, the "selection process" has already been chosen, and there is no more to be done about that. We the committee approved that process by a large majority, and it isn't going to change now, so the argument that he "controls" it is meaningles.

Second, it is incorrect that Tom has "veto authority" over everything that happens. Once the convention starts, and the convention chair is elected, the convention chair is responsible for everything that happens, subject to the vote of the convention delegates.

Third, the delegate selection process will be in the hands of the credentials committee, and there is no indication Tom will have any more to do with it. If he does, that will be something to then bring up to the committee, but absent any evidence for it the mere suggestion is meaningless as well.

And despite all the smoke blown about "unfair process", nobody has been able to articulate a SINGLE decision made by Tom that was not fair to both candidates.

Immediately after displaying anything other than “a spirit of agreement and accommodation” in every preceding part of this email, and his demonstrated bias, we are to expect that Kopko’s selection of O’Leary as chairman of the convention is supposed to allay our concerns?

His e-mail was in answer to specific charges made by the candidate to the Washington Post. Her charges invited rebuttal, and the chair of our committee was right to provide the facts about the situation where they differed from what the Washington Post reported. His comments show a bias only against misrepresentations.

Since Lucas attacked him personally, one could ask whether he will be "unbiased" after being attacked, but that is her own fault. We obviously can't disqualify people based on being attacked by those who want them removed.

It’s the chairman of the legislative district, who retains all the power to select those who set the rules, validate delegate filing forms, and manage the details of the convention which has the power to influence the outcome of the process.

The process is not done in secret. Both campaigns are involved in all the selections, and we would hear if any decisions were made that weren't "fair". In fact, it is clear that Julie now has the upper hand because of these charges. Kopko, in order to prove he is being fair, will bend over backwards for her, and Gill will likely do so as well, to refute these charges.

Selecting a good, albeit somewhat elderly man who is not likely prepared for what may await him at a convention, to man the gavel hardly alleviates well-justified concerns.

Is NOBODY safe from Greg's slanders and smears in pursuit of his prey? Greg questions Pat O’Leary's abilities, and throws in some age-ism as well ("elderly"). Since both candidates agreed to this man, he is also saying both campaigns were ignorant in choosing this man for the job, questioning their competence.

And for what? Even if his slander is true, it doesn't refute what Tom said in his e-mail, and certainly Greg is not suggesting Tom should be removed for allowing the candidates to pick Pat.

At this point Greg isn't "refuting" Tom's e-mail, he's setting up the inevitable challenge if the convention doesn't go the way he wants.

This email is an abomination. It harms the party, it harms the candidates, and the outright lies it contains tarnishes every member of the committee.

As I have demonstrated, Greg, for all his bluster, did not provide a SINGLE piece of evidence that ANYTHING in the e-mail was a lie. In fact, for Greg to unequivically state that there are "outright lies" when he provides none and admits to having no direct knowledge of the facts, is itself a slander and beneath the standards of civil conversation.

Harm WAS done to the party, by a candidate who took her concerns to the Washington Post instead of the committee, who stayed silent when the issue was discussed only to air her grievances to the world, leaving our Committee Chair no choice but to answer her charges by providing the complete facts as he knows them.

Tom Kopko must resign in order to restore any semblance of dignity that the committee can retain in the aftermath of his reprehensible behavior.

Having provided no evidence for any false claims, and having no leg to stand on, I suspect Tom will be Chair long after the 51st convention has been held without incident or actual examples of favoritism. The only thing "reprehensible" here is Greg's bombastic conclusions based on nothing but innuendo and speculation.

To do less than that demonstrates that we value politics over principle, which would be most detrimental to our worthiness as a political party in Prince William County.
I’ve cherished that when confronted by corruption within our ranks, we responsibly and rapidly excise the problem rather than try to gloss over it.

This entire thing is all about politics. There's no principle here. Lucas supporters fear she won't win a convention, so they are trying to swing the balance in her favor by raising questions about the process and drumming up support by charging "unfairness" when there is none presented.

Now is the test for the PWCRC to demonstrate it’s collective sense of honor, if that honor is not shown by it’s discredited chairman.

The only thing discredited here is Greg's argument.

Kopko must go. The only question should be how that is accomplished.

There is only one legal way to accomplish that. Coming from Greg, I actually DO fear for what other way HE may use to do so. Given the facts of the case, I'd be surprised if Greg will even make an attempt to remove Tom -- my guess is he'll use the same "logic" demonstrated in his post to try to destroy Tom Kopko personally, because that's what Greg does best.