Right before Christmas, I decided it was time to play Scrooge. Governor Bob McDonnell had just requested budget amendments that would send a million taxpayer dollars to two private, nonprofit organizations.  Regardless of how much good work these organizations may do, the state’s constitution says such gifts aren’t allowed.  Now, Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli will give us his opinion on the matter.

It’s not an easy process. I first had to convince an elected official to make the request.  And that was tricky, because which state legislator, who in the past may have asked for such grants to his or her favorite nonprofit group, would be willing to buck the system? 

On Monday I found one in my own Delegate, Dr. John O’Bannon.

In my correspondence with O’Bannon, he made it clear that he would contact the AG’s office to expedite the request, but also noted that it would be better to ask for an informal opinion first. That way, if we “didn’t like the answer” no formal opinion would be written.

I still suspect a formal opinion may be required, but I’ll take what I can get.

Right after news of the request broke, I attended the Tuesday Morning Group meeting in Richmond, where, conveniently, Attorney General Cuccinelli was scheduled to speak. In small talk, he said he couldn’t comment on any pending decision. But later in the meeting, I asked what process he would go through in coming to a decision on the matter.

He said he would be involved in the process, but also made it clear that the decision would be based upon the law, and not upon his personal opinion.  He then gave a strong hint as to what his own opinion is by calling these requests “fraud waste and abuse” that’s neatly collected on a single sheet in the budget.

He also related a story from his time in the Senate, where he took on the issue directly.  Hidden amongst the many requests was one for a small nonprofit that, Cuccinelli said, appeared only to have a P.O. Box and a yearly garden party. It was slated to receive $100,000 in taxpayer funds – funds that were requested by the then-chairman of the powerful Senate Finance committee, John Chichester.

Cuccinelli engaged Chichester in a roughly 20 minute discussion to find out what sort of procedures were used to approve such grants. He found that in the Senate, they all went through a subcommittee with but a single member – Mr. Chichester. When Cuccinelli asked if Chichester could ever recall whether any request had been amended, or declined, at either the subcommittee or committee level, Chichester said “no.”

Cuccinelli then tried to amend, on the floor, this particular request of Chichester’s. It was defeated on a voice vote.

Chichester has since retired and Cuccinelli is now Attorney General. Thanks to my pestering, and Del. O’Bannon’s good offices, Ken may finally have the final word on the wasteful and borderline fraudulent practice of Virginia pols handing out your money to their pet charities.  Stay tuned…