REPUBLICAN CONVENTION OUTLOOK: Leans Obenshain
DEMOCRATIC PRIMARY OUTLOOK: Leans Herring
Two interesting contests are taking place for Attorney General before the general election gets underway. On the Republican side Senator Mark Obenshain is facing Delegate Rob Bell at the GOP convention, while the Democratic Primary will feature Senator Mark Herring against Justin Fairfax, a former assistant U.S. attorney.
The Republican contest has been without much fireworks because it seems that Bell and Obenshain are actually friends. They have actually worked together to squash stories that are too negative about each other. Today I'm going to tell you about one that will shock even the casual political observer.
Last year an Obenshain staffer actually stole a cell phone at an event from a Bell staffer- and attempted to remove the SIM card in an effort to get the data from the Bell campaign. When Rob Bell learned about this he had a discussion with Mark Obenshain where they came to the agreement not take it to the media- if Obenshain would fire that staffer. Obenshain agreed, and that individual is now working for Corey Stewart, one of the GOP Lt. Governor candidates.
While showing the closeness of the candidates, this does raise some other interesting questions for me about two people that want to be the state's top cop. Do they believe they can just waive criminal charges because it would be bad for them politically? Did either one talk to Harrisonsburg Commonwealth's Attorney Marsha Garst or her assistant Delegate Ben Cline to make this go away as this incident occurred within the City of Harrisonburg?
A police report was filed that night in Harrisonburg, but the police were only given partial information. They thought it was a petty larceny case- because the value of the phone was under $200. However, federal law is very clear on the value of data for campaigns- and they have assigned values to things like email addresses and other data to prevent illegal in-kind contributions. The reality is this wasn't just any telephone- but the attempted break in to get the SIM card was an attempt to get something with tens of thousands of dollars of data value on it. Hence, this should have been discussed as a felony, not a misdemeanor.
That's important to note, because when the crime is a felony, what Obenshain and Bell did in discussing it appears to be something called "misprison of a felony". Both Obenshain and Bell have an obligation as candidates to know the value of these types of lists and report them to the State Board of Elections if one is donated to them. So there should be no misunderstanding from either of them that this was a potential felony case, not a misdemeanor. This additional information of a felony that was committed was not reported to the local police.
The story here isn't the crime itself with a really dumb campaign staffer thinking they could get away with it- but how two candidates who want to be the next Attorney General of Virginia handled the situation when they learned of it.