VA U.S. Senate Race 2014 Pt. 2: Who is Ed Gillespie?


This image is a screen shot from Ed Gillespie’s campaign website

We attempted for a number of weeks to connect with Ed Gillespie at his convenience. Normally we do these interviews in person. Out of all the candidates we have interviewed he is the first who could only talk by phone. The process takes around two hours, but we had less that half that for this interview.

We always begin by asking where our rights come from. This is the first of what we consider to be the four core principles of American Civilization which are found in the second paragraph of the Declaration of Independence. To his credit, Ed answered correctly; he said our rights come from God. Other acceptable answers would be that we are born with them or that they come from our “creator”. Then he did an interesting thing. He combined the answer to our second question, “what is the primary responsibility of government?”, which had yet to be asked. Ed said it is the responsibility of government to protect those rights. He is the first person ever to do that and it was an exciting response.

Unfortunately, that excitement did not last. The third principle we question by asking, “where does government derive its power?” Most can answer as deriving from “the people”; all but a few understand it. The true test of this principle is checking to see if they understand that people cannot pass on or delegate an authority to government that people themselves do not possess. When asked, Ed fell silent for a period of time long enough for us to think our call had been cut off. It hadn’t. Ed said he was thinking about it. We offered an example to help- Consider it for a moment, does a person have the authority to approach another person, forcibly take their money and give it to another person? Even if we believe it is for a good cause, a person does not have that authority. So, how can a person give that authority to government? This example seemed to further confuse Ed. He said some authority is passed on “collectively”, like national defense for example. We tried to explain that self-defense is not a “collective” right. The right to protect one’s self is an individual right that we are born with. It is one of the natural rights we discussed above as coming from God or our “creator”, therefore we can empower government to protect us as well. Ed was still confused and we moved on.

Normally we ask about the fourth core principle which is, “what should be done when government fails or becomes an obstacle to protecting our rights?” The answer from the Declaration of Independence is, “That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government.” We do not know Ed’s thought on that.

Ed has been criticized by many as supporting an “individual mandate” where healthcare is concerned. On pages 245 and 246 of his book, Winning Right, you will find part five of his solution to health care issues titled “All Adults Participate”. This suggests to me that he believes the government should compel “all adults” to “participate” in his solution to healthcare. In this section, he gives a reasonable argument as to why the health care situation at the time was problematic. I don’t think anyone would disagree with some of those problems. The major disagreement comes when one tries to implement a solution that one group or another does not like or the Constitution does not allow. Where does the authority for the government to compel a person to purchase healthcare insurance come from? According to Ed, it comes from Article I section 8 of the US Constitution disguised as “taxing authority”. In section five of his book, Ed states, “A more rational approach is to ensure that every emancipated adult capable for providing for his or her healthcare do so. One way to accomplish this is to use the tax code to gain compliance.” Ed goes on to explain how that could be done in the tax code. We asked Ed about this issue and I even read the section from his book. Rather than discuss the language in his book that suggests he supports an individual mandate, he diverted the discussion to one we would likely agree on. We got a lengthy answer about personal responsibility that we do not disagree with. That tactic probably works with the average person. Of course we believe in personal responsibility, but we didn’t ask about that.

A lengthy back and forth ensued over the issue of using the tax code to manipulate people which brought us to the next problem we discovered with Ed’s beliefs. Evidently, he believes these types of actions are constitutional because the Supreme Court has allowed them to be or ruled as such. This is usually a position held by lawyers and one of the reasons why many people complain about lawyers being elected officials. It has been my experience that lawyers will defer to and uphold anything the courts do and that is not limited to one party or another. When the court is in opposition to the Constitution they tend to side with the court. This is not a surprise since lawyers are officers of the court and members of the “club”. Unfortunately, that position puts them in direct opposition to their oath to uphold and defend the Constitution. For the record, not all lawyers in politics are of this type. We were pleased to find that last year’s Republican nominee for Lt. Governor E.W. Jackson, who graduated from Harvard Law but no longer practices, was fully prepared to defend the Constitution from even the Judiciary if need be.

Based on that part of the discussion, we did not go into our normal line of questioning over whether a law is enforceable if the Constitution does not allow it. Nor did we inquire as to whether the States should interpose themselves and protect their citizens from unconstitutional activity by the Federal government. From the discussion we did have, it appears Ed disagrees with our founding fathers on the idea that a law is “null and void” from the start if it is not constitutional. Even in Marbury V. Madison, which Ed used to justify why the court has the authority make things Constitutional that are not says, “All laws which are repugnant to the Constitution are null and void.” U.S. Supreme Court in Marbury v. Madison, 5 US (2 Cranch) 137, 174, 176, (1803)

Next, we decided to move on to some practical issues. On the subject of Ed’s weakness with his own party on supporting an “individual mandate”, we asked how he would overcome it if attacked by Mark Warner in a general election. That line of attack could be quite effective in souring support for Ed from potential republican voters who would then see him as a “RINO”. Even if the effect was minimal, last year’s statewide elections showed us that the margin of victory can be slim and just a few votes may decide a statewide race in the current political climate. Ed told us he would combat the attack with the truth, but the truth appears to be Ed supports forcing people to participate. The truth would seem to hurt not help. For sake of argument, lets say that the truth were the opposite. With the resources Mark Warner has available and the regular media’s advocacy for Democrat politics, the truth will likely not matter very much. Warner will almost certainly hammer on the issue of Gillespie’s previous statements on healthcare and use them to blunt criticism of the Obamacare rollout. If Ed were the nominee, we feel his weakness on the one issue that has the potential to hurt Mark Warner, Obamacare, would be a serious problem for Republicans even if Ed doesn’t.

Another practical matter we discussed is how Ed would carry out some of the key responsibilities of a senator. One is voting on the ratification of treaties. A serious issue over treaties that has been argued over the last few years is whether a treaty can supersede provisions, protections or limitations in the Constitution. We were pleased to find out that Ed does not believe they do. Actions like disarming Americans by getting around the second amendment with a treaty agreement are not ones Ed says he would engage in. We also asked a question about a senator’s responsibility with respect to impeachment. The question was, “There are bills in the House to start impeachment of the president. If an impeachment passed the House that contained a charge that was in fact a high crime or misdemeanor, would you vote to convict?” Ed’s answer was that he was ”unfamiliar with the bills” in the House. As you can see, the question did not require familiarity with the bills to be answered with yes or no. We gave Ed the benefit of the doubt and asked a different question that gave him more to work with. “Ed, you have been paying attention to what’s been happening the last five years; in your opinion do you believe Barack has done anything that is impeachable?” Disappointingly, Ed said he would have to study that.

There are some other criticisms flying about with respect to Ed’s political activity. One is with respect to his lobbying firm. Voters have a negative opinion about lobbyists, which is an issue we would like to have had the time to ask about. In Ed’s case it is particularly problematic. A search of the internet will not only uncover that Ed is a lobbyist, but that his firm is connected to a number of anti-liberty or anti-conservative issues. Jen Kuznicki exposes in this article that Quinn Gillespie Associates Public Affairs, has a president named John Feehery who writes for The Hill and supports “comprehensive immigration reform”. According to the article, Feehery has ties to the “La Raza family of activism for citizenship”. Also, the Quinn in Quinn Gillespie is Jack Quinn who was a former White House council to who? Not Ronald Regan or George Bush, but Bill Clinton. This does not necessarily mean Ed Himself has worked on the wrong side of an issue. But these connections are potential negatives that if exploited by Warner could turn the votes of just enough liberty, conservative and tea party Republican voters away. In a close election, that could return Warner to the Senate.

I would think that Republicans might be concerned that at the very least these liaisons could cause electoral problems with the base voter. Personally, I think it is reasonable to question Ed’s commitment to conservative and constitutional principles based on who he is in business with and what he has been doing. We would like to have had the opportunity to ask about these things and more, but time ran out quickly. I’m not surprised. From the discussion we did have, it appears Ed is an establishment status quo politician marketing himself as a conservative that welcomes the “tea party”. If that’s the case, I can’t say I blame him. I wouldn’t want to continue to talk to us either. We got just over 45 minutes before “another commitment” stole Ed away.

These interviews have been conducted by Gregory Aldridge and Chip Tarbutton. For the last 5 years we have used the same interview process for every politician or candidate we meet with. For reference, the list of those who we feel understood their responsibility to the four core principles as our representatives in government from interviewing them includes Mike Powell, Col. Karen Kwiatkowski, Bishop E.W. Jackson among others. Among those who demonstrated they did not understand that responsibility are VA State Senator John Edwards, and former Senate candidate Tim Donner, just to name a few.