Washington, D.C.—Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) called on the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia to investigate whether former Virginia State Senator Phillip P. Puckett violated federal and state anti-corruption laws by resigning from office in exchange for an appointment as the deputy director of the Virginia tobacco commission and his daughter’s appointment to a state judgeship.
CREW Executive Director Melanie Sloan stated, “Mr. Puckett’s surprise resignation, reportedly in exchange for a cushy job for himself and a judgeship for his daughter, isn’t just an outrage; it also may be a crime. As Virginia’s attorney general inexplicably already has taken a pass on this, it is incumbent on the U.S. Attorney’s office to investigate immediately.”
Separately, CREW asked the Virginia Senate’s Courts of Justice Committee to delay further consideration of the nomination of Mr. Puckett’s daughter, Martha Puckett Ketron, for a six-year appointment as a juvenile and domestic relations district judge until a full investigation of the circumstances of her father’s resignation has been conducted.
After serving 16 years, Mr. Puckett resigned abruptly on Sunday, June 8th, allowing Republicans to gain control of the Senate and dooming the expansion of the Affordable Health Care Act to cover poor and disabled residents. In exchange for his resignation, Mr. Puckett expected to be appointed the deputy director of the Virginia Tobacco Indemnification and Community Revitalization Commission, chaired by Republican State Delegate Terry G. Kilgore, and have his daughter reappointed to a state judgeship. Shortly after Mr. Puckett resigned, Del. Kilgore announced the committee would consider his appointment on June 11. Following the public uproar over the deal, Mr. Puckett withdrew his name from consideration for the post. Judge Ketron’s reappointment, however, remains pending.
By tendering his resignation in direct exchange for a position on the tobacco commission and a judgeship for his daughter, Mr. Puckett appears to have violated the federal Honest Services Fraud statute as well as Virginia’s bribery law.
Ms. Sloan continued, “Pending a thorough investigation into this whole rotten deal, the Virginia Senate should delay consideration of Judge Ketron’s reappointment. It would be the height of irony to allow a judge — whose job is premised upon upholding the law — to secure her position as a result of an illegal political deal.”