Category Archives: Courts and law

About Those School-to-Prison Pipeline Numbers…

Gerard Lawson

Two years ago the Center for Public Integrity (CPI) released a study reporting that Virginia led the nation in sending students from schools — 16 out or 1,000 — to police or the courts. That finding fueled demands to overhaul k-12 disciplinary practices to reduce the so-called “school-to-prison pipeline.”

Well, it turns out that those numbers were wildly inflated.

“When we look at the official Juvenile Justice records to see who actually went to court from the schools, the number is actually 2.4 per 1,000,” says Gerard Lawson, an associate professor at Virginia Tech’s school of education.

Lawson and his colleagues conducted the research to find what factors led to student involvement in the pipeline and how those factors could be mitigated, according to a Virginia Tech news story. Here’s what they found:

The researchers launched the study in January 2016, drawing data from several state agencies, including the departments of Juvenile Justice, Education, and Criminal Justice Services.

“At the very outset we realized the numbers weren’t matching up,” said Lawson, who is also president-elect of the American Counseling Association. “We scoured the data between the Departments of Education and Juvenile Justice, matching localities, dates of birth, dates of offensives, types of offenses, and we realized that the number of students actually ending up in court was much lower than that first impression.”

There is a checkbox on a Department of Education tool gathering data about suspensions and expulsions which asked, “Was this reported to law enforcement?”

“In most cases, when the box was checked, it appears that it represented an informal report to law enforcement — an administrator running into the school resource officer in the hallway, for example, and mentioning that a student had been suspended.” Lawson said. “The ‘report’ may have gone no further than the officer responding, ‘Thanks—good to know.’ With a bit of semantic imprecision, that checkbox elevated Virginia’s numbers dramatically.”

However, Lawson’s study did confirm two trends highlighted by the CPI study: students with disabilities were more likely to be suspended, and African-Americans, representing 23% of the student population in Virginia, accounted for 49.4% of the court referrals.

“We need to rethink discipline,” says Lawson. “Should a middle-schooler get arrested for flipping the bird at a teacher? The stakes are too high. A single suspension makes it less likely for a student to graduate from high school, and involvement with the Court system makes that less likely still. The repercussions can be lifelong.”

Bacon’s bottom line: Lawson should be commended for debunking the misinformation that Virginia is an outlier in the realm of school discipline. I always wondered about that claim — I never heard a logical explanation of why Virginia school officials supposedly referred so many more kids to law enforcement than their peers in other states. But when I wrote about the CPI research, I never thought to dispute it. Now we know why the numbers were so high.

However, I have to question one of Lawson’s insinuations. Middle-schoolers have been arrested for flipping the bird to their teachers? Really? If true, such actions are absolutely outrageous, and disciplinary procedures do need reform. But my “spidey sense” makes me suspicious. It would take a judge about two nano-seconds’ reflection to throw that out of court. I find it hard to believe that such a thing has ever happened. Perhaps Lawson was just using hyperbolic rhetoric, not to be taken literally. Or perhaps I’m just naive.

Returning to the main storyline… Let’s play a little parlor game, shall we? How much media attention will Lawson’s story get compared to the the Center for Public Integrity’s flawed report? Will the Center for Public Integrity ever correct its findings?

Update: The editors of the Center for Public Integrity offer an extended rebuttal of Lawson’s findings (and Bacon’s Rebellion’s reporting of those findings). You can read their comment here.

Update: Gerard Lawson has responded to my question about “flipping the bird,” defends his contention that it is very difficult to rank the states for law-enforcement referrals, and offers other observations. Read his comment here.

Virginia Needs a New Constitution, Part 2

1901 constitution flyer

by Donald J. Rippert

The Commonwealth’s Cornucopia of Constitutions. Virginia has written, scrapped and rewritten its state constitution many times. Virginia is presently operating under its seventh constitution. While that seems striking compared to the U.S. Constitution, it’s not that unusual for a state constitution. Florida and Pennsylvania have had five constitutions, South Carolina six, Georgia nine and Louisiana a whopping eleven different constitutions. Of the original 13 colonies only Massachusetts has yet to perform a constitutional rewrite.

The Spirit of ’76. Virginia’s first constitution was written in 1776. George Mason and James Madison are seen as primary authors. After the obligatory heckling of King George III the constitution got down to the basics of defining the state government – bicameral legislature, governor and so on. The accompanying Virginia Declaration of Rights was a strong point of this first constitution. That document would effectively become the predecessor to the U.S. Bill of Rights. Unfortunately, elitism has been a constant companion to Virginia politics and this constitution was no exception. Voting was reserved for owners of substantial property and men of wealth. The landowners of Southeastern Virginia would be in control of the state.

East vs West – 1830. By the 1820s Virginia was (predictably) one of only two states that restricted voting to landowners. The state constitutional convention of 1829 to 1830 tried to address this distorted concentration of power in the landed gentry. Suffrage requirements were reduced but not enough to address the concerns of the small farmers in the western parts of the state. Virginia kicked the can down the road.

The Reform Constitution, 1851. As the population of western Virginia continued to grow, the Richmond-to-Norfolk “corridor of evil” vainly tried to maintain control of the state through voting rights that required substantial property ownership and a bizarre county-based representation system. Talk from the west of abolishing slavery and / or secession from the state forced the eastern elites to change. The new constitution gave the vote to all white men of voting age and called for election of the governor, the lieutenant governor and all judges by popular vote.

Wartime Constitution, 1864. After years of political abuse by Virginia’s southeastern elite, a number of the counties in the western and northern part of the state decided they would not follow the Richmond-centric rebels into what can only be called an apocalyptic Civil War. The Constitution of 1864 could effectively be called the first state constitution for West Virginia. What remained of Virginia was too busy marching toward utter destruction and unconditional surrender to bother with constitutional niceties.

The Carpetbagger Constitution, 1870. The provisions of The South’s surrender included military occupation of states like Virginia. Given that slavery had been abolished the military commander of Virginia called for a constitutional convention to memorialize America’s new reality. However, the Richmond-based elite would have none of it. Many of the white conservative Virginians who developed the bright idea of a failed secession from the United States now refused to vote for delegates to the constitutional convention. This led the way for a Republican led convention headed by John C. Underwood. In what should come as a surprise to nobody, the “elite free” convention wrote one of Virginia’s best constitutions. The new constitution granted suffrage to all males over 21, established a public school system with mandatory funding and ended the disenfranchisement of former Confederate government members.

The Empire Strikes Back, 1902. Virginia’s short period of competent government was ended as the Democratic Party retook the state legislature. The usual band of elitists called for another constitution to be written. It was a doozy. Poll taxes and literacy tests were included to effectively remove African Americans from the voting booth. Segregation became the law of the land. Power was aggrandized in Richmond with the elimination of the county court system. The State Corporation Commission gave added weight to the centralized government. Since African Americans still could vote based on the 1870 Constitution The Imperial Clown Show in Richmond decided to pass this abomination without a popular vote. This was both Virginia’s worst constitution and its longest-lived.

Do we have to? 1971. While Virginia’s political elite moved smoothly from poll taxes to literacy tests to segregation to massive resistance, the rest of the country progressed. Mounting federal pressure in the form of U.S. Supreme Court decisions like Brown v. Board of Education and legislation like the Voting Rights Act of 1965 made it harder and harder for Virginia’s elite to persecute a large percentage of Virginia’s population. A new constitution was needed. The most heinous racist provisions of the 1901 Constitution were removed and Governor Mills Goodwin managed to convince the delegates to drop the “pay go” policy that had infected prior constitutions. However, the aggrandizement of power in Richmond generally and the General Assembly in particular remained.

The history of Virginia’s constitutions has been the story of a small elite eschewing true democracy in a sad effort to keep the lives of many under the thumbs of a few. To date, progress in Virginia has only come from the barrel of a gun (1870) or the threat of federal action (1971). The present state constitution continues to thwart democracy albeit more subtly than was the case with the 1902 travesty.

In the next section of this series the many flaws of Virginia’s existing constitution will be examined.

Jury Pool Reject

Yippee! I was struck from the Henrico County jury today, and I’m back to blogging. I was fully prepared to participate in the three-day jury trial of a man charged with heroin distribution, but someone — I’m betting it was the defense attorney — gave me the heave-ho.

I don’t know the reason, but I’m guessing it may be connected to when the prosecuting attorney, upon learning that I published a blog, asked me of my political leanings. I replied that I was a fiscal and free-market conservative. But conceivably, the defense attorney deemed it a mark against me when he asked if I regularly read the Metro section of the Richmond Times-Dispatch, and I replied that I had. Maybe it was the combination of the two — uh, oh, we’ve got a conservative, 64-year-old white guy here who faithfully reads the crime stories in the local newspaper!

What defense attorney in the world would want me on the jury?

This is only the second time in my life that I’d been called for jury duty, and it was interesting to view the process of jury selection from the inside. The jurors represented a broad cross-section of Henrico County society in terms of race/ethnicity, although the panel probably skewed to older citizens and middle-class occupations — no derelicts in this group. That may have something to do with the fact that felons are excluded from the jury pool.

When asked if any of us, or any of our close relatives, had been the victim of a crime. one woman said her father had been murdered, and one fellow said two of his friends had died of heroin overdoses. Another woman owned up to having worked for the Drug Enforcement Agency, although in an HR capacity. Needless to say, all three were struck.

After getting a look at the defendant — he looked somewhat elderly, with a scruffy, gray-white beard, not like the stereotypical street thug — I’ll be curious to know what happens to him. Maybe I can read about it in the Times-Dispatch.

Virginia Needs a New Constitution, Part 1

by Donald J. Rippert

Carved in stone.  America’s elite and their lap dogs within our political structure know that larceny is best accomplished within a vacuum of change. If the “little people” in a democracy ever figure out that they can force the politicians to change the laws then the elite find crony capitalism far more difficult to practice. For example, big money in politics favors the elite (who have the money). It also favors their political puppets who know they are better able to remain “politicians for life” if raising gobs of money remains more important than solving problems. So, the question of the excessive influence of money in American politics is simply answered with two words, “Citizens United.”  The U.S. Supreme Court found it unconstitutional to restrict money in politics, ergo it can’t be done. But, of course, it can be done. The U.S. Constitution can be amended. Yet as Americans across the political spectrum vent their rage against the influence of George Soros and the Koch Brothers nothing is done. Why?

The Big Lie. America’s political insiders have convinced many of us that the U.S. Constitution is, effectively, inviolate. The right tells us that the Constitution is the product of divine inspiration written by human hands. The left relies on stasis and judicial manipulation of “the living Constitution” to let unelected judges perform the duties that our elected representatives stubbornly refuse to undertake. The net result of this conspiracy between America’s vested interests and its political class is a polarized nation where economic stagnation is the order of the day for an ever increasing percentage of its people. Yet no matter how fundamental our problems become, the case for fundamental change is blocked by a bizarre belief that the U.S. Constitution cannot be changed.

Erasing history. One of the more insipid approaches taken to ossify the U.S. Constitution is to rely on the ignorance of many Americans by insisting that the framers knew they had created a near perfect document and, therefore, made it very hard to change. The fact that the framers wrote the first ten amendments before the ink dried on the U.S. Constitution somehow doesn’t dispel this recounting of history. Thomas Jefferson provides an interesting perspective both from his vantage as a founding father and from the long life he led after the American Revolution. Jefferson had the chance to observe the Constitution’s effect on America for decades after its ratification. In a letter to Samuel Kercheval in 1816 Jefferson had this to say:

“But I know also, that laws and institutions must go hand in hand with the progress of the human mind. As that becomes more developed, more enlightened, as new discoveries are made, new truths disclosed, and manners and opinions change with the change of circumstances, institutions must advance also, and keep pace with the times. We might as well require a man to wear still the coat which fitted him when a boy, as civilized society to remain ever under the regimen of their barbarous ancestors.

And lastly, let us provide in our constitution for its revision at stated periods. What these periods should be, nature herself indicates.”

 Jefferson knew the Constitution was imperfect. After 26 years of seeing the U.S. Constitution in action he was contemplating the merits of scheduled revisions.

Sic Semper Tyrannosaurus. Virginia has a much different constitutional history than the United States. The State Constitution of Virginia has been rewritten six times since it was first ratified in 1776. Not amended, not revised, rewritten. Much of what has gone into those constitutions was the predictably disgraceful and prejudiced thinking emblematic of Virginia’s political class. However, Jefferson’s home state has proven that it is willing to avoid being trapped under “the regimen of their barbarous ancestors.”

But what of today?  Would Virginia’s current political class consider following the Old Dominion’s longstanding history of “out with the old and in with the new”? Thinking optimistically I suppose that would depend on whether there were enough good ideas to justify yet another rewrite. Thinking pessimistically, our state politicians are as corrupt as their peers in Washington and know full well that mandated unchanging power keeps their political lives long and their personal pockets full.

Just this once, I am going to think optimistically about our current state government.

The remainder of this series will examine why it is time that we throw out the present Virginia constitution in favor of a new one that keeps pace with the times and improves the lot of all of us governed under that constitution.

Protecting Virginia’s Forgotten Constitutional Right

By Elwood Earl “Sandy” Sanders, Jr.

The Constitutional rights of Virginians are in danger every day. No, not the usual suspects like freedom of speech and the right to bear arms, but rather the Sixth Amendment Right to Counsel.

The Commonwealth has a crazy quilt of counties and cities. Many jurisdictions have a public defender office but many do not. In the Richmond metropolitan area, the cities of Richmond and Petersburg have public defenders, but Henrico, Hanover and Chesterfield counties do not. In Northern Virginia, every county and city surrounding Prince William County (and the cities and towns within) has a public defender office, but Prince William does not. Hampton and Newport News do, but York and Gloucester do not. This disparity verges on unequal justice under law.

Many court-appointed bars in the non-indigent-defense counties and cities do a yeoman’s job representing poor individuals accused and convicted of crimes. But public defenders enjoy immense institutional advantages. They have personnel such as sentencing specialists, appellate specialists, investigators and support staff. They mentor the newer lawyers. The training and accountability are more than adequate. The ordinary court-assigned attorney simply does not have these resources available.

These institutional advantages of public defenders over court-appointed attorneys raise serious questions of inequality.

The good news is that the Commonwealth already has the resources to establish a more equal system: The judiciary in 2012 brought in an astounding $280 million more than it spent in expenses and personnel. Now, that may be an indictment of the amount of court costs but the funds are there. The budget just passed this session includes this policy language:

Given the continued concern about providing adequate compensation levels for court-appointed attorneys providing criminal indigent defense in the Commonwealth, the Executive Secretary of the Supreme Court, in conjunction with the Governor, Attorney General, Indigent Defense Commission, representatives of the Indigent Defense Stakeholders Group and Chairmen of the House and Senate Courts of Justice Committees, shall continue to study and evaluate all available options to enhance Virginia’s Indigent Defense System.

Sen. Rosalyn Dance, D-Petersburg, introduced a bill to study a statewide indigent defense system in the 2016 General Assembly. The measure floundered in the Senate Rules Committee until that committee’s chair, Sen. Ryan McDougle, R-Mechanicsville, saved it with an amendment limiting the study to creating a statewide appellate defender’s office. The bill passed the Senate but died in the House. In 2017 session, the bill never made it out of the Senate Committee.

Other states have a statewide public defender system. Colorado is one example of a state with an integrated comprehensive system. There are issues with any delivery of legal services, mostly in attorney workloads, but the budget allocation for Colorado, a state of just over 5.3 million, is $86 million. Virginia’s indigent defense budget is about $46 million. Millions more are spent for court-appointed services, mostly in jurisdictions without a public defender office, and a fee waiver program.

Even if the statewide public defender system cost $120 million per year, the judicial branch could generate that sum without a tax increase. Funds could be drawn from split-recovery for punitive damages, or, to prevent the hint of a conflict, could be diverted from forfeiture to indigent defense services.

I am fully aware that excess funds raised by the judiciary in the Commonwealth are spent in the General Fund by the politicians in Richmond. However, resources to establish the statewide indigent defense system without directly invading the General Fund to do it.

We need to establish a constituency in favor of the Sixth Amendment Rights of every Virginian. I propose a umbrella coalition, primarily on social media and through resolutions of support, of organizations that will make indigent defense a priority. If you favor a right to reproductive freedom, or to own a gun, or to free speech, or to immigrant’s rights, if you are a Tea Partier who believes we should follow the WHOLE Constitution, than you need to join us.

Contact me at the email address below to start an umbrella organization to agitate for a more adequate indigent defense system in the Commonwealth.

Elwood Earl “Sandy” Sanders, Jr., is a licensed attorney in the Commonwealth of Virginia since 1985 and was the first Appellate Defender, conducting appeals for indigents in the Virginia Court of Appeals and Virginia Supreme Court.  He is also a blogger for Virginia Right (www.varight.com) and a political activist from Mechanicsville.  All Sandy’s views are Sandy’s views and no one else’s. You can contact him at ssanders[at]varight.com.

Author Files Suit to Spur Investigation of UVa Admissions

Jeff Thomas delved into UVa admissions practices in his book, 'Virginia Politics & Government in a New Century."

Jeff Thomas delved into UVa admissions practices in his book, ‘Virginia Politics & Government in a New Century.”

Jeff Thomas, author of “Virginia Politics & Government in a New Century: The Price of Power,” has filed a complaint asking the U.S. Attorney’s office for the Western District of Virginia to launch an independent investigation into admissions practices at the University of Virginia. Reports the Cavalier Daily:

Thomas said in an email to The Cavalier Daily he filed the federal complaint because the University and the state government are incapable of independently investigating what he called a “corruption scandal,” which could implicate political donors, legislators and members of the University Board of Visitors.

“If U.Va. will not release the complete, unredacted documents, then an investigating body with subpoena power must compel them to do so,” Thomas said.

Thomas brought public attention to the issue of favoritism in admissions when he passed along documents he obtained though a Freedom of Information Act to the Washington Post. The heavily redacted documents showed that the UVa department of university advancement maintained a “watch list” of applicants of interest to potential donors, and lobbied the president’s office on their behalf. The documents did not indicate whether the president’s office passed along the requests for preferential treatment or how the admissions office might have responded.

University spokesman Anthony de Bruyn said in an email to the Cavalier Daily that the university objects to Thomas’ allegations. “The University remains confident in the integrity of its rigorous admission process. There is no evidence to support this speculation.”

Thomas brushed off the university’s denials: “It is also imperative that U.Va., end this potentially illegal practice immediately and that President Sullivan issue an apology to the many deserving students in Virginia who have been denied admission under her watch because their parents could not or did not contribute money to the University.”

Bacon’s bottom line: Given the evidence I’ve seen, it seems clear that the advancement office sought preferential consideration of rich-kid applicants. The question in my mind is whether the advancement office went through the motions of appealing to the president’s office so they could go back and tell their donors, “Hey, we tried,” or whether advancement officials truly expected the president’s office to intervene. The ultimate question, of course, is whether the admissions office ever caved in to a special request.

When I was publisher of Virginia Business magazine, the sales guys frequently brought me special requests from advertisers asking for preferential editorial treatment. I’d say, “No,” and the sales guys would go back to their clients and say, “We gave it a shot.” Sometimes we’d lose an advertiser, but sometimes the client felt grateful that the sales guys made an effort on their behalf.

That’s the innocent explanation of what’s happening at UVa.

Denials from the university administration are to be expected, however, and no serious journalist would accept its word on the matter without vetting it thoroughly. After all, UVa would be the exception if it didn’t play favorites. On the other hand, while giving preferential treatment to rich kids might be bad optics, it’s not clear from the Cavalier Daily article upon what grounds the practice would be illegal, even if proven to be true. I would be astonished if the U.S. Attorney picked up the case.

Suspended Licenses in Virginia a Social Scourge

Suspended licenses have created a major social problem in Virginia.

Virginia suspended licenses at the rate of 160,000 per year in the first quarter of fiscal 2017. Image credit: novacriminalattorney.com.

In the fiscal year ending June 2015, the Old Dominion suspended licenses of nearly 39,000 Virginians for drug convictions unrelated to driving. The practice is a relic dating back to 1991 and the war on drugs, and all but 12 states have abandoned it.

Suspending licenses for drug possession is just one facet of a widespread abuse, which we have highlighted on this blog, of depriving Virginians of their driving privileges. In just the first quarter of the current fiscal year, 10,900 Virginians lost their licenses for drug-related offenses, 20,700 for failure to pay court fines, and 8,000 for failure to pay child support, reports Frank Green in the Richmond Times-Dispatch today.

The irony of the suspended-licenses policy is that depriving Virginians of their right to drive narrows their options for getting to work and makes it more difficult to maintain the employment they need to pay the fines and child support. Estimates show that nearly three-quarters continue to drive illegally. Many get caught, and their court-related troubles compound. The practice has created a treadmill of indebtedness that keep hundreds of thousands of Virginians trapped in poverty.

A new rule quietly adopted by the Virginia Supreme Court, effective February, will require all courts to offer more flexible terms for paying off court fines.  One option is to pay on a deferred or installment plan. Another is to assign people to community service.

Meanwhile, Sen. Adam P. Ebbin, D-Alexandria, has introduced a bill to the General Assembly that would halt the automatic stripping of drug offenders’ driver’s licenses — contingent upon written assurance from the U.S. Department of Transportation that Virginia would not lose any federal transportation funds. (In 1991, Green explains, Congress had threatened states with the loss of federal highway funds if they did not automatically suspend the licenses of drug offenders.)

Bacon’s bottom line: There is no rational nexus between committing a drug-related crime and having a driver’s license suspended or revoked. Ebbin is right, Virginia should reverse the policy. The appropriate way to punish drug dealers — I’m side-stepping here the debate over whether we should decriminalize marijuana — is through sentencing and parole, not depriving offenders of the means to earn a livelihood.

While Ebbin’s legislation is reasonable, we need to go further. Any system that deprives Virginians of drivers’ licenses for non traffic-related offenses at the rate of 160,000 a year creates an enormous social problem. Virginia’s courts have become an engine of oppression and immiseration, perpetuating poverty. We need to find a better way.

Virginians Should Watch “Loving”

If you haven’t seen “Loving” yet, you need to. The movie tells the story of Mildred and Richard Loving, a white man and “colored” woman living in Caroline County in the 1950s, who married in violation of the law against mixed-race wedlock. Their case famously went to the U.S. Supreme Court, resulting in the dismemberment of anti-miscegenation laws across the country.

While the movie touches upon the legal issues stemming from their predicament, it is first and foremost a love story of two people who build a life and family together. Refraining from overt moralizing, “Loving” is all the more powerful for its understatement. In the most moving scene in the movie, the ACLU attorney asks the laconic Loving if he has any words he wishes to convey to the justices of the Supreme Court. Replies the bricklayer: “Just tell the judges that I love my wife.”

Although the movie portrays a dark page from the Old Dominion’s history, Virginians will appreciate the beautiful photography of the Tidewater countryside and the evocation of a rural community in which whites, blacks and (unmentioned in the movie) Indians mixed socially despite the strictures of segregation.

“Loving” is a beautiful expression of natural libertarianism, the philosophy expressed by the phrase “live and let live.” The Lovings were not social crusaders. Like many Americans, they just wanted to be left alone. It was their misfortune to run afoul of laws designed to maintain the “purity” of the white race. Thankfully, legally enforced segregation is a thing of the past. But, sadly, there is no shortage of social engineers who would harness the power of the state in other ways to impose their values and obsessions upon others.

Great Moments in Virginia Governance: Norfolk Edition

burfoot under indictment for corruptionFrom the Virginian-Pilot: An employee of Norfolk Treasurer Anthony Burfoot testified in U.S. District Court Monday that she waived penalties and fees for local developers at the direction of her boss.

Prosecutors allege that Dwight Etheridge, Tommy Arney, Ronnie Boone Sr. and others paid Burfoot more than $400,000 in kickbacks and bribes between 2005 and early 2011. In exchange, prosecutors say, Burfoot helped, or at least promised to help, their various projects through the city bureaucracy.

The office of Treasurer is not one I think of as influencing development decisions. Treasurers don’t even influence real estate assessments — that’s the job in Virginia of commissioners of revenue. It will be interesting to see, as this trial unfolds, what kind of favors are within the purview of a city or county treasurer to grant. If Burfoot turns out to be guilty, other jurisdictions might think of turning over the same rock to see what kind of nastiness resides beneath.

mccabeUpdate: Oh, brother, now accusations of corruption extend to Norfolk Sheriff Bob McCabe. Quoth the Virginian-Pilot: “Businessman Ronnie Boone Sr. told federal investigators he bribed longtime Sheriff Bob McCabe in addition to Treasurer Anthony Burfoot, according to two sources familiar with the interview.”

The McAuliffe-Clinton Email Nothingburger

andrew_mccabe

Andrew McCabe

by James A. Bacon

So, what do we make of the front-page revelation in today’s Wall Street Journal that Governor Terry McAuliffe, a long-time ally of Bill and Hillary Clinton, gave $475,000 through his Common Good VA PAC to Jill McCabe, a Democratic candidate in 20015 for a Northern Virginia state senate seat, who … was married to Andrew McCabe, then the chief of the FBI’s Washington field office… who later ran the investigation into the Hillary Clinton email scandal?

Trust me, I am not one to minimize the significance of the Clinton email scandal. I believe that former Secretary Clinton set up a personal email server to avoid public scrutiny of the tangled conflicts engendered by the Clinton Foundation and her state department service, that she put national security at risk by transmitting classified documents over that server, that her communications were likely hacked by foreign intelligence services, that she obstructed justice by deleting the infamous 30,000+ “private” emails, and that she should have been prosecuted on multiple accounts. Her actions, lying and cover-up disqualify her from the presidency every bit as much as Donald Trump’s history of predatory groping, kissing and sexual advances disqualify him. (Yes, I am totally disgusted with the choices we have for president this year.)

However, as much as it would satisfy me to see confirmation of my jaundiced view of Clinton and her emails, I don’t think there’s much to the WSJ story. There certainly isn’t anything in the article that discredits McAuliffe.

Here are the facts presented. In a bid to regain Democratic control of the state senate, McAuliffe urged Jill McCabe, a hospital physician, to run against Sen. Dick Black, R-Leesburg, for the 13th senatorial district. McAuliffe’s PAC contributed $475,000 to her campaign, and the Virginia Democratic Party kicked in another $208,000, accounting for about a third of all the funds she raised.

A spokesman for the governor said McAuliffe “supported Jill McCabe because he believes she would be a good state senator. This is a customary practice for Virginia governors. Any insinuation that his support was tied to anything other than his desire to elect candidates who would help pass his agenda is ridiculous.”

McAuliffe met with Mr. and Mrs. McCabe on March 7, 2015 to urge her to run. That is the only time McAuliffe recalls ever meeting the FBI executive. As it happened, Clinton’s use of a private email server was just coming to public light in early March. The FBI announced its probe four months later.

The Journal article notes that Mr. McCabe played no role in his wife’s campaign; he appeared in no events and participated in no fund-raising. He sought ethics advice from the bureau, and followed it, avoiding involvement with public correction cases in Virginia. At the end of 2015, Mr. McCabe was promoted to FBI headquarters, where he assumed the No. 3 position. In February 2016, he became the second-in-command to FBI Director James Comey. His supervision of the Clinton email case in 2016 was not seen as a conflict because his wife’s unsuccessful senatorial bid was over by then, and McAuliffe was not part of the probe.

The article provides no evidence whatsoever that McAuliffe tried to influence the outcome of the Clinton email investigation. It did note that McAuliffe has been under investigation for months by the FBI’s Washington field office for donations made on behalf of a Chinese businessman, possibly in violation of a law requiring people to register as agents of a foreign entity. Stated the Journal: “It was unclear the extent to which Mr. McCabe may have recused himself from discussions involving Mr. McAuliffe.”

Bacon’s bottom line: The article presents not a scintilla of evidence to suggest that McAuliffe backed Mrs. McCabe for any reason other than what he stated, which was to win a Democratic majority in the senate. Unless concrete evidence surfaces, any insinuation to the contrary cannot be taken seriously.

What the article does illustrate, however, is how inbred and incestuous Washington government and politics are. We can infer by Mrs. McCabe’s allegiance to the Democratic Party that Mr. McCabe likely is a Democrat as well — although even that cannot be assumed. (Politically mixed marriages do occur.) If it can be documented that Mr. McCabe is a Democrat, one might be justified in asking whether his partisan leanings had anything to do with his ascent through the Obama administration FBI or if they affected his oversight of the Clinton investigation. Those are not idle questions given the controversial decisions that someone in the FBI hierarchy made (a) to tightly limit the scope of the investigation and (b) to grant immunity agreements to five Clinton insiders, including Secretary Clinton’s chief of staff Cheryl Mills. (Google “clinton email investigation fix” for more concerns.)

If the Journal had written an article focusing on the role Mr. McCabe played in the FBI’s questionable decisions, then it would have been reasonable to ask if he was motivated by partisan considerations. But the Journal didn’t write that article. It wrote an article that emphasized McAuliffe’s connection. And, based upon what we know, there just isn’t any “there” there.

Update: The Republican Party of Virginia is jumping on the story. “Today, at my direction, the Republican Party of Virginia is filing a Freedom of Information Act request with Governor McAuliffe’s office for any and all communications related to Dr. Jill McCabe’s 2015 campaign for state Senate,” said RPV Chairman John Whitbeck in a press release. “While the Governor’s PAC is not a public organization, we also call on Terry McAuliffe to release any and all emails to and from that organization related to Dr. McCabe’s campaign.”

Good luck with that.