Clarke Hogan is quickly rising within the Republican Party. Elected in 2001, Clarke has quickly moved up. Why? He is known as the "Vice Speaker" or other nicknames that are not printable here within the Republican Caucus because of his close ties to Speaker Bill Howell. But why is Clarke, who was elected less than a year before Howell became Speaker so popular with Howell?
This has been a real sore point within the Republican Caucus, as senior members have been passed over for Clarke on some very plum assignments by the Speaker. For example the former Chairman of the House Republican Caucus, Steve Landes, is on the Appropriations Committee and is a much more senior member than Clarke, but he was passed over by the Speaker as a budget conferee. He has bitterly complained to his colleagues about this slight, as he has been a very loyal member of the Caucus. So again, why is Clarke Hogan so popular with Bill Howell? How did he become the "chosen one" by the Speaker.
As usual the answer is money, but this is time it is not as traceable. The Speaker formed a group called the "Virginia Reform Institute", a 501 c(4) by tax law, which means it can not spend it's money on political campaigns, but also does not have to report its donors. In other words, the committee can raise unlimited money from groups to study "policy" and voters never get to see who funded the Speaker's pet group. Sources in the House Republican Caucus tell me that Clarke bragged about delivering a $50,000 check from a large southside donor to the group when it formed but there is no way to verify this because the Speaker does not release this information.
So all we can really rely on to guess here is who is funding Hogan himself. And that isn't a pretty picture.
Hogan's #1 individual donor of all time is a man named Bob Gluhareff. His donor history is bizarre, I've never seen anything like this before and I have seen a lot of campaign finance reports. He gave Hogan $800 every single WEEK for fourteen straight weeks in 2001, for a total of $11,200. It ended the week of the election. If he wanted to give that large of an amount, why not write one or two checks?
Then I found this. Those weekly payments for $800 are going to Ontario Hardwood, which is Clarke's company to pay the salary for "Bradley". Who is Bradley, why is Clarke not paying him directly through his campaign account and instead funneling it through his business? And why is Bob Gluhareff paying "Bradley's" salary? Something very strange is going on here.
Meanwhile who is Bob Gluhareff? I'll let the News and Observer take that question:
"Prosecutors claim Bob Gluhareff, 61, illegally padded Wellspring Academy accounts with more than $662,000 in bad checks -- including ones parents believed he would hold until they secured loans to cover them. Prosecutors also think he criminally misled parents into thinking they could claim some of the South Boston, Va., school's $49,000 tuition as a charitable donation.
Gluhareff called the 36-count federal indictment, unsealed Friday in Virginia, the result of a prosecutorial "witch hunt" stirred up by parents angered by his school's sudden closure three years ago. He is charged with tax, wire, mail and bank fraud; money laundering; and making false statements before a grand jury.
Prosecutors believe that between 1999 and 2003, Gluhareff tried a series of financial maneuvers to keep his school chugging, including writing bad checks and cashing tuition checks that parents thought he would hold until they notified him that they had the money.
"Mr. Gluhareff took advantage of parents who were desperate to help their children," John L. Brownlee, the U.S. Attorney for western Virginia, said in a statement. "He was dishonest in his dealings with parents, banks and corporations."
Prosecutors claim, among other things, that none of the school's counselors were licensed in Virginia -- even though Gluhareff told parents that their kids would receive help from licensed counselors.
Well everyone is innocent until proven guilty so I went to check the trial transcripts. Gluhareff was convicted and sentenced to 30 months in federal prison. Ouch. Even worse for Hogan was some of the allegations in the indictment come in the same time period he was accepting these huge amounts of cash from Gluhareff. Was this money given to Hogan stolen from a local school? Why has Hogan not donated the money to charity or to the families who were bilked out of their life savings?
I'd love to ask the question to Mr. Gluhareff in prison, but last month this story took another twist. From the Register Bee:
"Person County Sheriff Dewey Jones said the body of Robert S. Gluhareff, 63, of South Boston, was discovered by deputies Sunday morning in a wooded area off Edwin Robertson Road. Jones said deputies found the body at 7:37 a.m. while on patrol. The North Carolina State Medical Examiner was called to the scene and determined Gluhareff’s death was the result of a single gunshot wound, the sheriff said. The medical examiner said the wound was self-inflicted, Jones added."
That happened just last month as legislators were going back into session. Something is going on here. Clarke has a lot of questions to answer, and he needs to provide some proof in those answers since Mr. Gluhareff can not speak for himself anymore.
Let's review. A sudden surge of influence for no apparent reason (bumping loyal and more senior Republicans above him out of the way), a bizarre pattern of donations from someone who was stealing from a school at the same time and rumors of Clarke bragging about delivering big checks to a 501 c(4) controlled by Speaker Bill Howell that doesn't report contributions. Something is really foul here.
And we may have found out because of one incident on the floor last week...