By Jackson Darr – Barbwire guest contributor
Throughout the race for the GOP nomination for Virginia’s 6 District congressional district, Delegate Ben Cline has tried to beat back the perception that he is the candidate of the Washington establishment. Due to his decade of leading Bob Goodlatte’s staff on Capitol Hill, not to mention his always cozy relationships with establishment Republican elements, this perception would seem to have merit. Many grassroots conservatives have been concerned about whether he would truly go to DC and do battle on their behalf, or be beholden to the same influences of his predecessor.
Well, there’s an old saying in politics; when you want to know where the influence is coming from, follow the money. And boy, does the money have a story to tell here.
There’s nothing that screams ‘swamp creature’ more than taking money from lobbyists and trial lawyers. How about a $500 luncheon with a lobbyist in February?
It seems “anti-establishment, ‘drain the swamp’” Delegate Ben Cline has been a favorite of the big-money, out-of-state lobbying crowd attempting to buy access to his potential Congressional office. A recent Federal Elections Committee (FEC) filing shows that Cline has met with and taken money from trial attorneys, high-powered DC lobbyists, out-of-state CEOs – including one with a large stake in legalizing marijuana, – special interest PACs, and that forever bastion of establishment support, McGuire/Woods. From his FEC filings, here are the numbers:
*It should be noted that a former chairman of RPV worked at McGuire/Woods.
Cline’s meetings included one with Elizabeth Frazee – whom the The Hill has named a “Top Lobbyist.” That meeting resulted in a $1,000 donation.
As equally concerning to the veracity of his claims are the meetings with out-of-state business executives. The GOP has been fighting a losing war on crony capitalism within our own party. Here we have the self-described head of the House Conservatives meeting with, courting, and taking money from corporate executives. – Goldman Sachs no less! – No doubt a quid pro quo of access was tacitly suggested.
Cline’s big money donations include $1,000 from Eric cantor’s former Chief of Staff and DC Lobbyist extraordinaire, Steve Stombres.
Perhaps the former establishment Majority Leader’s Chief of Staff had a change of political heart and supports grassroots conservatives. However, more likely he sees Cline in the mold of a Cantor “conservative” on paper and rhetoric, but moderate in action and deed.
Also of note in the deeply religiously conservative 6th District is Cline’s meeting with James Whitcomb, CFO of Surterra, a company that is waist deep in marijuana legalization efforts. Cline team members have already been caught showing their disdain for the faith and religious convictions of the people of the 6th District. See here.
It appears Cline shares his supporters’ disregard for the values of GOP primary voters in the 6th District. He took a $1,000 donation from Mr. Whitcomb.
The establishment apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, as former Goodlatte staffer Cline had a $1600+ fundraiser sponsored for him at the Capitol Hill Club in February. Capitol Hill Club rules require you to be a member or to have a member sponsor your fundraiser to use their facilities. It’s not much of a stretch to assume that access was provided by Cline’s former boss, Mr. Establishment himself, Rep. Bob Goodlatte.
Cline oozes with big money, and there is no doubt he will represent the interests of the swamp in Washington, D.C. over the grassroots in the 6th District. Clearly, the lobbyists and big money know who’s for sale in this race: the career politician and former congressional staffer Ben Cline.
By the way, these are only a few examples. A reasonable person might dismiss these as a few contributions that don’t mean much in the scheme of things. However, these are only a sample of his FEC filings. In total, Cline has taken contributions from 34 different lobbyists.
If you want to be a swamp creature, a card-carrying member of the establishment, then fine. If you want to legalize marijuana, and make sure that the government keeps rigging the system for some instead of getting out of the way of all, then fine. Run that way, and let the voters decide whether they want that or not. Don’t try to lie about it. Don’t try to hide it and pretend you’re ‘grassroots.’ Voters can smell the stink on that coming from a mile away.
Jackson Darr is a contributing editor at RRH Elections
To read our coverage of this race and those across the country visit: https://rrhelections.com
The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Barb Wire.