Democratic Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe made a big deal of a new ethics law created after a gift scandal led to corruption convictions for his predecessor, but the law didn't stop his office from granting a top official permission to accept a luxury box invitation from the Washington Redskins.
A top official from McAuliffe's administration was granted permission by a state ethics council to accept tickets to the Redskins' playoff game earlier this year, a gift that critics say the public expected to be banned outright.
The Associated Press reports:
The gift cap has an exception for certain "widely attended" events of 25 or more under certain circumstances, and Coy said the luxury box tickets offered by the Redskins fit that exemption in this case.
But the lawmakers who have worked for two straight years on ethics legislation said the "widely attended" exemption was intended to let lawmakers accept tickets to things like Rotary Club dinners or NAACP banquets — not to watch games from suites that list online for $18,000 to $24,000 for regular season games.
"That is the kind of gift the public expected us to ban outright," said Del. Jennifer McClellan, a Democrat who had a lead role in crafting last year's ethics legislation.
Del. Todd Gilbert, a Republican who also helped write the ethics law, said it shows a lack of self-awareness on the McAuliffe administration's part that it would accept that kind of gift.
"It definitely cuts against the level of self-imposed responsibility that he's been trying to project this whole time," Gilbert said.
McAuliffe has strong political ties to Redskin ownership, which gave his political action committee $150,000 on election day last year. McAuliffe's PAC also held a fundraiser at a Redskins game in September which was attended by the governor.
McAuliffe also hosted the Redskins ownership at the governor's mansion in Richmond over the summer. He was spotted speaking with owner Dan Snyder on HBO's Hard Knocks.
McAuliffe has been actively lobbying the Redskins to build a new stadium in Virginia, which he says is "where they belong." The team currently plays in Landover, Maryland.