This is from the Virginia Bureau of

Now Virginia you have elected Terry The Puck McAuliffe as

governor the taxpayer giveaways have only begun.

What would Patrick Henry, Thomas Jefferson, George Washington, and Robert E. Lee about their beloved Virginia? 


By Kathryn Watson |, Virginia Bureau


                              13 WONDERFUL GIFTS: As you celebrate the holiday season, don’t forget the top 13 generous gifts Virginia officials gave the Commonwealth in 2013.

ALEXANDRIA, Va. — As you finish Christmas shopping, using all those hard-earned dollars, take comfort in knowing Virginia politicians and bureaucrats have been spending your money just the same.

In 2013, Virginia leaders used taxpayer dollars and time to give back to the commonwealth and the people who put them in power. They’ve doled out millions to an NFL team with a losing record; millions on state equipment that’s gone missing; and hundreds of thousands on the governor’s legal bills, to name just a few.

Of the many ways Virginia officials gifted the commonwealth in 2013, here’s are our top 13 picks:

13. Doling out millions in taxpayer money to an NFL team with an atrocious record 

The Washington Redskins may be embarrassing all their NFL fans this season with a losing record, but don’t blame their malfunction on Virginia government. Richmond city taxpayers forked over $11.2 million to help build the team a new 17-acre practice facility, which it has been using since July. On top of that, Gov. Bob McDonnell handed the team a $4 million grant to keep its headquarters in Virginia. So much for all that taxpayer assistance.

                                                       GAME PLAN: With the Washington Redskins’ losing record this year, it looks like all those Virginia tax dollars for their facilities went to waste.

12. Borrowing money to fund pension liabilities it can’t afford

What does desperate look like? Taking on bonds to pay for unfunded city employee pensions. That’s what the Portsmouth City Council decided to do in April when it voted to borrow $175 million so it can have 80 cents for every dollar promised to its 1,200 members, instead of the roughly 30 cents per dollar it had before. The taxpayers, of course, will be footing that bill for years to come.

11. Only bungling $19 million in food stamps

This summer, the U.S. Department of Agriculture awarded Virginia a $2 million “high performance bonus” for over-issuing “just” $19 million of the $1.4 billion in food stamps it dispersed in fiscal 2012. Of course, all that is taxpayer money. How would you like a bonus at your job for such a small oversight?

10. Misplacing millions of dollars in taxpayer-funded property

What are state agencies doing with all the expensive assets they buy with taxpayer dollars? Nobody knows. From incinerators to grand pianos, Virginia public universities and agencies have lost track of about $8 million in fixed assets since 2010. Nice to know your money is being well spent, right?

9. Making taxpayers foot the PR bill for corruption charges, controversial projects

In 2013, politicians and bureaucrats managed to spend your taxpayer money to make themselves look good. In the wake of insider deals, cronyism and a lack of transparency within the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority in Northern Virginia, the maligned authority decided to pay $90,000 a year for a strategic communications firm to fix its image. Not to be outdone, this fall the Virginia Department of Transportationbudgeted nearly $300,000 to bolster its image and another state agency’s image, and to persuade the public the controversial Bi-County Parkway linking Prince William and Loudon Counties is a great idea.

8. Recording citizens’ license plates and keeping them in a database

There’s no need to fret — the Virginia State Police have your back. And possibly, your license plate information. From 2009 until early 2013, the state police randomly collected license plate data at events such as political rallies. But after Virginia’s attorney general earlier this year said that wasn’t quite legal, the police changed their practice. Now, they destroy any collected data within 24 hours, so long as it isn’t related to an ongoing criminal investigation.

IT’S A BIRD! Virginia is leading the way in drone research, like it or not.

7. Volunteering to pursue (more) drone research

Virginia isn’t only looking out for you on the roads, but from the sky, too. Virginia leaders have volunteered the commonwealth as frontrunners in drone research. Once a moratorium on drone research ends in July 2015, one expert says the technology will invade people’s privacy everywhere.

6. Sticking taxpayers with the legal bills for the governor’s many woes

The governor’s office assured taxpayers everywhere that they were covering Gov. Bob McDonnell’s legal bills only in the governor’s official capacity in the embezzlement case against former Executive Mansion chef Todd Schneider. But when that case finished, the bills continued to come. You can thank the governor for the hundreds of thousands of dollars he’s billing you, the taxpayer, to sort out his plethora of personal and professional legal woes.

5. One of the largest tax increases in memory — from a Republican governor and House

Before he was elected, Republican Gov. Bob McDonnell pledged not to raise taxes. But, with the winter 2013 transportation legislation, he has — by about $6 billion over the next five years — and he had plenty of Republican support to back him up. Your pocketbook will probably feel one of the largest tax increases in recent Virginia memory for years to come. PolitiFact gave the Republican governor a “full flop” ratingfor breaking that promise.

4. A state spending list with no real plan to fund it

Everyone wants to have nice things. So, while running for governor, Democrat Terry McAuliffe pledged those nice things. But, as debate moderators such as NBC’s Chuck Todd painfully pointed out, McAuliffe has no real way to pay for them. And Medicaid expansion — McAuliffe’s revenue plan — isn’t a reliable piggy bank for funding government, some experts say. The upshot of it all is that if McAuliffe goes forward with his 10-point plan as governor, taxpayers will get the bill someway, somehow.

3. The nastiest election maybe ever  

A NASTY RACE: The nasty race between Republican Ken Cuccinelli and Democrat Terry McAuliffe couldn’t be over soon enough for voters.

It’s bad enough that Virginia’s two major political parties had to pick gubernatorial candidates with larger unfavorable poll ratings than favorable ratings. But on top of that, largely out-of-state donors funneled millions into some of the nastiest TV ads the Old Dominion has seen. And throughout campaign season, Republican Ken Cuccinelli and Democrat Terry McAuliffe focused on attacking each other, rather than honing their own positions. It’s no wonder that 6.5 percent of Virginia voters picked Libertarian Robert Sarvis for governor. And it’s no wonder the most common reaction from people of all political persuasions the day after the election was something along the lines of, “I’m just glad it’s over.”

2. A governor-elect tied to not one, but two federal investigations

When governor-elect Terry McAuliffe takes his gubernatorial oath on Jan. 11, he’ll be sworn in against the backdrop of not one, but two federal investigations. The inspector general at the Department of Homeland Security and the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission are conducting separate inquiries into actions involving McAuliffe’s GreenTech Automotive company and its use of a federal investor-visa program. Time will tell how those investigations play out during McAuliffe’s term. But Virginians who voted for McAuliffe can’t complain on this one. They asked for this gift when they gave him 47.74 percent of the vote Nov. 5.

1. The stain Gov. Bob McDonnell’s ‘Gift-gate’ scandal leaves on Virginia’s noble name

Above perhaps all else, Virginians value honor. So when the story unraveled throughout early 2013 that Gov. Bob McDonnell and his wife had dubious ties to a wealthy businessman and accepted thousands upon thousands of dollars worth of gifts from him, Virginians everywhere lamented. And with that scandal, the “Virginia Way” — the term Virginians associate with the state’s history of honor, trust, mutual respect and compromise — was perhaps forever stained. The scandal isn’t just embarrassing to the governor and to the state’s lax gift and disclosure laws, but also to the entire commonwealth. Perhaps the best true gift Virginia politicians could offer in 2014 arestronger disclosure laws to help mend the state’s transparency for taxpayers and reputation to the rest of the country.

— Kathryn Watson is an investigative reporter for’s Virginia Bureau, and can be reached at