The Virginia Education Association debate wasn't exactly the place for hot-button controversies - who is going to stand up in front of a crowded room full of teachers and go negative on an opponent?
But that didn't keep keep things from getting a little nasty between the Democrats running for governor. Brian Moran was launching into a short stump speech about the excesses on Wall Street and what that could mean to teachers retirement accounts.
Moran was rattling off familiar scapegoats when the list got interesting - Enron - AIG - Global Crossing. Enron is obvious - employees investments ravaged, company implodes on fudged accounting, close relationship between Ken Lay and George W. Bush. AIG is the villain of the day - the insurance giant that gambled on dangerous stocks and continues to need billions in federal bailouts to stay afloat.
So wait - who's Global Crossing?
Well most political insiders ave been waiting for this name to get out into the open - because of Terry McAuliffe's links to the company. And in what is becoming his "less-then-subtle" campaign technique - Moran pushed the company to the forefront.
Global Crossing was a telecommunicatons company that rose and fell on the Internet boom - eventually filling for bankruptcy that revealed major problems behind closed doors. Along for the early rise was McAuliffe, who reportedly invested $100,000 and checked out with
$18 million - UPDATE - that's an inflated figure - according to McAuliffe's campaign the correct number is $8.1 million. McAuliffe played no management role and was apparently long gone - about three years - when the place started to crumble and was cleared of any wrongdoing during his time running the Democratic National Committee.
But injecting the name Global Crossing into the debate was a calculated move. A move likely designed to send voters to Global Crossing's wikipedia page which mentions McAuliffe. Or to McAuliffe's page that gets into Global Crossing too.
That page includes snippets like this:
One New York Times reporter categorized the accusations against Global Crossing as "many of the same accusations that have made Enron into one of the largest corporate scandals in history." McAuliffe played no management role in Global Crossing and had no ties to Enron. Howard Kurtz of CNN reported that McAuliffe was free of any wrongdoing, having sold his shares years before there was "any hint of trouble with the company." On July 20, 2002, Marc Racicot, the chairman of the Republican National Committee told Fox News reporter Rita Cosby, "I haven't seen anything that was done that was wrong by Terry McAuliffe."
Just go to google and type in Global Crossing scandal - and you'll get plenty to chew on.
McAuliffe has addressed this situation before - and in much more unfriendly territory when he was running the DNC. But in this climate of populist pitchforks aimed at corporate folks - you wonder whether this could become a distraction.