February 19, 2016

Watchdog Demands McAuliffe Disclose “Mystery Guests” In Luxe Redskins Box

In the wake of a breaking report from The Richmond Times-Dispatch revealing that eleven of the fifteen individuals hosted by one of Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe’s cabinet officials in a luxury box at the Washington Redskins’ playoff game had no legitimate reason to be partaking in the taxpayer-funded party, a nonpartisan ethics watchdog group is calling on McAuliffe to release the names of thirteen undisclosed guests in the suite.

Matthew Whitaker, a former U.S. Attorney and executive director of the Foundation for Accountability & Civic Trust (FACT), demanded McAuliffe cease stonewalling information about the “mystery guests”:

“Governor McAuliffe’s stonewalling raises serious red flags, especially in the commonwealth of Virginia with its recent history of corruption in the governor’s mansion and McAuliffe’s own ethical lapses over the years as Hillary Clinton’s top moneyman. The Governor needs to immediately disclose the names of these mystery guests so that Virginia taxpayers can be confident that the luxury box was used for its stated purpose: growing Virginia’s economy. If Governor McAuliffe is truly committed to ethics reform, he’ll release these names immediately. Openness and transparency are the best friends of clean and good government.”

The Times-Dispatch reported late Wednesday:

Virginia taxpayers will pick up a $2,435 food and drink tab for a luxury box at last month’s Washington Redskins playoff game, despite a majority of the suite’s unidentified guests attending with no official public purpose, according to state records…

…Just four of the 15 attendees in the box for the Jan. 10 game represented businesses considering expansion in Virginia…

The records released by McAuliffe’s office in response to requests from reporters were heavily redacted.

McAuliffe’s office sarcastically acknowledged that private citizens with no business before the state likely partook of the taxpayer-funded food and drink:

McAuliffe spokesman Brian Coy said Wednesday that the food and drinks were pre-ordered while officials were expecting a larger crowd of business prospects. Coy said it was “widely understood” that the spread was intended for economic development purposes, but he did not dispute the possibility that public officials in the suite as private citizens ate and drank at public expense.

“To my knowledge, there was no audit of the guacamole or the hot dogs,” Coy said.

Prior reports by The Washington Post and the Associated Press revealed that multiple government officials were in the box, and called into question whether officials accepting free tickets to the game violated Virginia’s recently-adopted ethics law, which McAuliffe has frequently touted as a key accomplishment of his administration.