A top campaign staffer for Virginia Democratic gubernatorial candidate Terry McAuliffe attempted to cover up mass property destruction committed by Democratic operatives in Wisconsin on Election Day 2004, public records show.
Levar Stoney, the deputy campaign manager for Terry McAuliffe’s campaign, admitted in 2006 that he lied to Milwaukee County interrogators to protect a handful of Democratic operatives who were later convicted of slashing the tires of Wisconsin Republican Party vans on Election Day.
"I wasn't going to try and get my friends, my colleagues, in trouble. Nor was I going to get the Democratic Party in trouble as well," Stoney, then a Democratic Party get-out-the-vote organizer in Wisconsin, told a Milwaukee County court.
The court would eventually convict Sowande Omokunde, the son of U.S. Rep. Gwen Moore (D., Wis.), and three others of criminal damage to property, a Class A misdemeanor. Omokunde was fined $1,000 and sentenced to four months in prison; the three other defendants were also fined $1,000 and sentenced to between five and six months in prison.
Stoney returned to Virginia after the 2004 election and took a position in the office of then-state Attorney General candidate Creigh Deeds. He would later work as the political director and executive director of the Virginia Democratic Party. Stoney also worked on Deeds’ unsuccessful 2009 gubernatorial campaign.
Attempts to reach Stoney through the McAuliffe campaign were unsuccessful. The campaign did not return requests for comment.
Stoney’s work with McAuliffe goes beyond the realm of Virginia Democratic politics. He was until December the director of public and government affairs for GreenTech Automotive, the hybrid and electric vehicle company that boasts McAuliffe as its chairman.
GreenTech did not return requests for comment and clarification of Stoney's work with the company.
McAuliffe has been criticized for blurring the lines between his political and business activities at GreenTech.
Milwaukee County police approached Stoney shortly after the Nov. 2, 2004, tire-slashing incident. He later testified that he had heard the perpetrators brag about it and had seen the weapon they used to slash the tires but lied to avoid implicating colleagues or the Democratic Party.
Stoney admitted his knowledge of the incident when FBI agents approached him months later, he said.
The tire slashing was damaging for Republicans’ Election Day efforts in Wisconsin, said Rick Wiley, then-executive director of the state Republican Party and currently the Republican National Committee’s political director.
Scores of rented vans were stored in a field next to the Republican office in question, Wiley said. The perpetrators slashed the tires of all of the vans on the perimeter, making it extremely difficult to move them and get access to the other vans.
The ordeal set back Republican get-out-the-vote efforts by "two or three hours," Wiley said. Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry went on to carry Wisconsin by less than half of a percentage point.
Wiley did not recall Stoney’s involvement in the incident but said it was troubling that he is now helping to run McAuliffe’s campaign.
The Virginia governor's race is expected to be a "long, vicious, costly, controversial, negative race," according to Larry Sabato, director of the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics.
Wiley said Stoney’s involvement affirms that expectation.
"If this is the type of individual that Terry McAuliffe and his campaign are going to associate themselves with, it should come as no surprise when the mud starts flying," he said.
According to defense attorneys in the Milwaukee case, Stoney was part of another plot to cover with Kerry signs the same Republican office where van tires were slashed.
Dubbed "Operation Elephant Takeover" by participants, the plan was abandoned when Republican staffers were spotted in the office.
Stoney was also convicted of misdemeanor reckless driving while working for Deeds.