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Griffith: Politics behind probe
Of state senator's resignation
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U.S. Rep. Morgan Griffith (File photo)

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

By BULLETIN AND AP REPORTS -

RICHMOND — U.S. Rep. H. Morgan Griffith said Tuesday that the federal investigation into a state senator’s recent resignation is politically motivated, echoing the complaints of some fellow Republicans in the state legislature.

In a letter to U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, the 9th District Republican from Salem decried the ongoing inquiry into former Democratic state Sen. Phil Puckett’s June 9 resignation. Investigators are looking into a potential job offer at a GOP-controlled tobacco commission Puckett was considering at the time, and the commission’s interim executive director was ordered to appear before a grand jury last month.

However, Griffith stated in his letter, “Sen. Puckett has publicly stated that he is not accepting any position with the tobacco commission. That said, even if he had ... he would have been, by all accounts, well-qualified for the job given his experience with the Senate, the tobacco commission and in banking.”

Puckett’s departure gave Republicans control of the state Senate and dealt a blow to Gov. Terry McAuliffe’s bid to expand Medicaid. Expanding publicly financed health care for the poor is a key part of President Barack Obama’s health care overhaul plans.

Puckett said in a statement at the time of his departure that he was resigning so his daughter could be appointed to a state judgeship. The Senate had blocked her appointment because of a policy of not putting lawmakers’ immediate family members on the bench.

“ ... Sen. Puckett has not received any employment or personal enrichment in return for his resignation,” Griffith wrote.

“Did one political party stand to gain legislatively by Sen. Puckett’s resignation? Certainly. But that does not make it a crime.”

Griffith added that there are several similar cases of elected officials resigning or being offered jobs for political purposes both in state and the federal government that were not investigated. He cited examples involving Obama as well as former Virginia Govs. Mark Warner, Tim Kaine and Jim Gilmore.

Griffith said he “can draw no other conclusion that this is a politically motivated investigation intended to intimidate individuals who took perfectly legal actions that also happen to be unhelpful to the agenda of President Obama.

“And we wonder why people do not trust the government they elect to serve them,” Griffith concluded.

 

 
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