Va. Gov Candidates Leave Out D.C. Connections

Va. Gov Candidates Leave Out D.C. Connections

By Kyle Trygstad - May 15, 2009

Surf onto Brian Moran's gubernatorial campaign website or see him at a campaign event, and you'd have trouble proving he has a brother at all -- let alone one who sits on the powerful House Appropriations Committee.

Hop over to Terry McAuliffe's online headquarters, watch his TV ads or catch him on his barnstorming tour of the state, and you wouldn't hear much about his role as a longtime fundraiser for Bill and Hillary Clinton -- just the fact that they really like him.

While it's nothing new for a candidate for office to gloss over his resume -- highlighting the highlights and skipping the rest -- these two, fighting for the Democratic nomination in this year's race for governor of Virginia, have done a particularly artful job of deflecting attention from certain aspects of their lives.

On his website biography page, Moran briefly mentions that he is one of seven siblings, but he fails to note that his big brother is Rep. Jim Moran (D-Va.) -- whose Northern Virginia congressional district encompasses Brian Moran's former State House district, and who's been a member of Congress since 1990.

A search for "Jim Moran" on the website gets a grand total of seven hits, just three of which are dated this year: one broken link to a St. Patrick's Day event; a second appears on the "Public Endorsements" page, though Jim's name is listed near the bottom; and the third is on the "Grassroots Endorsement" page, on which a supporter briefly mentions the congressman in a testimonial.

"Jim Moran can be very helpful to Brian Moran in fundraising and get-out-the-vote efforts in Northern Virginia, in his eighth district -- which has a disproportionate influence on a Democratic primary," said Larry J. Sabato, director of the Center for Politics at the University of Virginia. "But they don't want Jim to be too public because he would overshadow Brian, and his controversies would overshadow Brian, and they don't want Brian answering for Jim's problems."

While gubernatorial candidate Moran wants to win the election with as little visible help from Congressman Moran as possible, he accepted a $50,000 check from him -- making Jim Moran the campaign's biggest donor. Also, according to reports, defense contractors with business before Jim Moran's Appropriations subcommittee collectively gave some $80,000.

Of the issues Sabato mentioned, one is Jim Moran's affiliation with an FBI probe of the now-defunct PMA Group, a powerful lobbying firm that specialized in winning defense contracts for its clients. Moran sits on the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense and steered eight earmarks toward PMA clients last year. He also earned heat for his comments in 2003, when he said the Jewish community held a great deal of influence on the war in Iraq.

More recently, the congressman penned an op-ed in the Washington Post on Saturday endorsing a potential transfer of detainees from the Guantanamo Bay prison to a facility in his district, just outside of Washington, D.C. "Doing the right thing is neither popular nor convenient," he wrote. Stands such as these could prove detrimental in the general election, if Brian Moran isn't able to separate himself from them.

Illustrating the point was a recent Washington Post story, which included an anecdote from earlier this week when a Richmond TV station put Jim Moran's picture on screen above Brian Moran's name.

Instead of touting his brother's endorsement, Brian Moran and fellow longtime state legislator Creigh Deeds -- the third Democrat vying for the nomination -- have focused primarily on winning the endorsements of locally elected officials, including most of the State General Assembly. Deeds, though, is heavily touting Rep. Rick Boucher's (D-Va.) endorsement in southwest Virginia, and Moran announced today the endorsement of Rep. Patrick Kennedy (D-R.I.).

"McAuliffe could care less," Sabato said. "His whole campaign is based on the fact that he has far more staff, and raised far more money for far more television advertising than anyone else can afford. And in a primary, that's a recipe for success."

After making four campaign stops on Monday with Grammy-winning hip-hop artist, McAuliffe was joined by Bill Clinton at two campaign events on Wednesday -- Clinton's second stump tour in the last few weeks. At Frying Pan Farm Park in Herndon, the former president's mention of McAuliffe's work for him was one of the few times anyone on the McAuliffe team has brought it up.

"You know what he's done for me and what he did for Hillary, and so everybody said, ‘Oh, Bill Clinton's gotta be there.' That's true," Clinton said. "Everybody knows that this guy raised a lot of money for me."

If the average voter does know that, it's not because McAuliffe told them. While his website prominently features a picture of Clinton on the front page, his biography page fails to mention the former president or any of McAuliffe's work on behalf of him.

Just before Clinton stepped to the microphone, State Delegate Ken Plum introduced McAuliffe. Reading from talking points, he said McAuliffe "spent the last four decades building successful businesses."

McAuliffe's work for Clinton is directly linked to those filling his own campaign coffers. Seven of his leading donors stayed in the Lincoln Bedroom while Clinton was in office. While Moran's top donor is his brother, McAuliffe's largest individual donor is Haim Saban -- a Los Angeles-based billionaire, who had given $276,000 as of the end of March. The AFSCME labor union has given him more than half a million dollars.

As a longtime fundraiser helping others get elected, McAuliffe's candidacy caught many by surprise. It was the first time many political observers found out he even lived in Virginia.

"In the old Virginia, his candidacy wouldn't have been taken seriously. There's just no connection to the state in his background at all," said Sabato. "But he's got everything you need to win a primary."

Awaiting McAuliffe, Moran or Deeds on June 10 is Republican Bob McDonnell, the former state attorney general who just expanded his current TV advertising buy to the Washington media market -- a notable sign of fundraising affluence.

Kyle Trygstad is a Washington correspondent for RealClearPolitics. Email him at: Follow him on Twitter @KyleTrygstad.

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