New controversy in Va. gubernatorial campaign

Posted at 11:28 AM, Aug 05, 2013

(CNN) — It looks like the heat’s being turned up in a gubernatorial campaign that’s already very hot.

The campaign of Virginia Attorney General and Republican gubernatorial nominee Ken Cuccinelli said Monday that it’s going up with a new TV commercial titled “scandal” that slams Democratic rival Terry McAuliffe over federal investigations of an electric car company that McAuliffe co-founded.

The spot, which uses local television news clips of reports of allegations against GreenTech, includes the announcer saying “It’s time for Terry McAuliffe to tell us the truth.”

The Cuccinelli campaign declined to share details on where the ad will run and how much money they are spending to run the commercial.

And the Republican Governors Association is putting out a new spot that attacks McAuliffe, saying “he’s desperate to shift attention away from news of this federal investigation.”

The spot ends with the announcer saying “Terry McAuliffe, you just can’t trust him.”

The RGA characterizes their ad buy as “significant.”

McAuliffe issued a statement on Saturday saying he had no prior knowledge of a Securities and Exchange Commission investigation into the company.

“I left GreenTech in early December of 2012 to focus full time on running for Governor. The first I learned of this investigation was earlier this week when the Washington Post reached out to my campaign. I have no knowledge of the investigation other than what I have read in the papers.”

“If there are concerns as to whether procedures were properly followed, those concerns should be examined and I’m glad the company said it is cooperating fully,” added McAuliffe.

The Washington Post reported last week, after reviewing documents obtained by federal investigators, that the SEC is looking into the way in which the car company and a sister firm, Gulf Coast Funds Management, encouraged the participation of foreign investors, including Chinese citizens trying to enter the U.S. Both firms have pledged to cooperate with the investigation.

GreenTech, with the help of Gulf Coast, used a program through the Department of Homeland Security that grants permanent residency to foreign investors who contribute a half million dollars or more for ventures that create American jobs in areas in the U.S. that are struggling through tough economic times.

Gulf Coast is run by Anthony Rodham, brother of former secretary of state Hillary Clinton. It’s a further connection between McAuliffe, the former chairman of the Democratic National Committee who made an unsuccessful previous bid for Virginia governor in 2009, and Bill and Hillary Clinton. McAuliffe is a close adviser and fundraiser to the Clintons and some political pundits see his bid for Virginia governor as a campaign training ground for a possible second run for the White House in 2016 for Hillary Clinton.

Virginia and New Jersey are the only two states to hold elections for governor in the year after a presidential contest, resulting in outsized attention. And with the Garden State’s Republican governor, Chris Christie, holding a huge lead over his Democratic challenger in his re-election bid (and the Democrats expected to win the special Senate election in New Jersey scheduled for October), the Virginia race is considered the only competitive statewide contest this year.

The campaign has long been heated, with Cuccinelli and Republicans portraying the New York born McAuliffe as carpetbagger. And they’ve attacked McAuliffe for basing a GreenTech electric car start up plant in Mississippi rather than Virginia.

The McAuliffe campaign and Democrats have characterized Cuccinelli’s views on social issues and science as too extreme for mainstream Virginia voters, and remind voters of Cuccinelli’s connections and gifts from a political donor at the center of a gifts scandal hovering over the state’s current governor, Republican Bob McDonnell.

Recently a state investigation indicated the attorney general would not face charges for the failure to report the gifts, adding that there was no evidence Cuccinelli committed a crime.

Polls indicate the race for governor remains tight. There were two non-partisan live operator surveys conducted last month, with one indicating McAuliffe with a four point margin and the other giving Cuccinelli a six point advantage. Both had high levels of undecided voters.

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