Political pop quiz #314: Let’s say you’re a former governor of Virginia who has improbably clawed his way into the U.S. Senate race, besting a moderate (and moderately popular) congressional bigwig by relentlessly courting the party’s right-wing base, and then reaping the benefits when the Commonwealth’s conservative coronation is switched from the traditional general primary to a “cost-effective” nominating convention, where only party regulars (read: diehard Dittoheads) are allowed to voice their preference.
Add to this the fact that your general election opponent is a toothy, ruggedly handsome, extremely popular fellow named Mark Warner, who not only holds a 20-point lead in the polls, but also boasts a ridiculously commanding 44-1 fundraising advantage, reporting cash-on-hand of $5.1 million to your change-I-found-in-the-couch campaign piggy bank of $117,000.
Sure, Jim Gilmore made a “clerical error” that led to false information on a financial disclosure, but he should look on the bright side: At least he’s getting attention on the front page of the Post.
So here’s the question: Given all of that, when it came time to fill out your official campaign disclosure forms, what would you do? Meticulously document all of your pertinent financial and political dealings, as required by federal law, even if they might reflect poorly on your political judgment? Or just completely make some stuff up, and hope like hell that nobody takes the time to check your fictional filings for accuracy?
Well, if you’re James Stuart Gilmore III—the scrappiest, tax-hatin’est erstwhile chief executive in Virginia—you apparently go for option B, and damn the consequences!
Yes, as unbelievable as it may seem, Governor Gilmore not only included false information on two separate financial disclosure forms, submitted almost a year apart, but did it in such a ham-fisted, thuddingly obvious manner that you would swear he actually wanted to be caught.
Here’s how it all went down: Way back in June 2007, when it came time to file the required disclosure form for his short-lived presidential run, Gilmore was faced with a bit of a quandary. Seems that one of his associates, Douglas Combs—who ran a Virginia consulting and contracting company called Windmill International, and had previously donated $25,000 to Gilmore’s political action committee—was facing a federal lawsuit alleging that his company “knowingly conspired to defraud the government” while pursuing government contracts in Iraq. What’s worse, not only had Gilmore taken Combs’ campaign cashola, but Windmill International had even, at one point, listed Gilmore as vice chairman of the company, and attempted to give his presidential bid a boost by registering the “Gilmore4President” website.
And this is where it gets truly delicious. Apparently unwilling to disclose these tawdry ties, Gilmore—or one of his flunkies—just happened to list the completely wrong company when disclosing his duties as a Windmill board member. Oh, it was still called Windmill International, all right, but now it was a “veterans contract group” located in Nashua, New Hampshire (deceit, thy name is Google!). Of course, when The Washington Post, which broke the story, called Richard Manganello, founder and CEO of the not-being-sued Windmill International, he seemed utterly perplexed.
“I don’t recall ever hearing of Jim Gilmore,” Manganello told the Post. “He clearly made a mistake, or someone publishing on his behalf made a mistake.”
We’ll say! The only question now is how costly a mistake it will be. Gilmore’s camp, unsurprisingly, claims that the whole crazy mix-up was due to a “clerical error” by the accounting firm that prepared the report, and that Jimbo himself was completely unaware that the wrong (i.e., not allegedly corrupt) company was listed. (Of course, the fact that Gilmore had to scribble his John Hancock attesting that the information on both forms was “complete and correct” doesn’t exactly help his case.)
Although, considering how Gilmore’s campaign is going [for more on this, turn to page 9], maybe this is a blessing in disguise—after all, it got him a front page story in the Post, and more cable news chatter than he’s seen all year. Now, if he could only falsify the November ballot so that his name appears as “Mark Warner,” he might even have a chance of winning this thing!