- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 29, 2009

DANVILLE, Va. | Three Democrats campaigning for governor aggressively challenged one another Tuesday night to reconcile their records with their rhetoric with the June primary just five weeks away.

Former Delegate Brian J. Moran confronted millionaire businessman and former national Democratic Party Chairman Terry McAuliffe about his lucrative involvement with bankrupt telecommunications giant Global Crossing.

Mr. McAuliffe retaliated by confronting Mr. Moran over his votes for bills supporting a coal-burning power plant and offshore oil and gas exploration. He also targeted Mr. Moran for his staunch opposition to offshore drilling and a coal-fired power plant as a gubernatorial candidate.

State Sen. R. Creigh Deeds asked Mr. McAuliffe why he backed the North American Free Trade Agreement - promoted and signed into law by President Clinton, his political patron. NAFTA has been blamed for ruining the once-thriving fabric mills of Danville, a city with high jobless rates.

The debate produced the sharpest clashes yet among the three. It was particularly critical for Mr. Deeds and Mr. Moran - both are struggling to keep up with Mr. McAuliffe, who has raised more than $5 million nationally.

It was the second straight encounter in which Mr. Moran brought up Global Crossing, linking it to the corporate failures of Enron and American International Group Inc. He asked Mr. McAuliffe why he didn’t follow the lead of a Florida bank executive who returned millions of bonus dollars from the sale of a bank to employees who lost their jobs.

“You made $18 million from Global Crossing, one of the largest corporate failures in American history, and thousands - thousands - of people lost their jobs,” Mr. Moran said. “Why didn’t you give the money back?”

Mr. McAuliffe disputes the $18 million figure widely reported for 10 years, saying he actually realized only about half as much profit. Most of Mr. McAuliffe’s shares were sold, and profits realized, by the end of 1999. Global Crossing collapsed in 2002.

“Well, if you’d have your facts correct,” he shot back. “I was a venture capitalist investor. I was never in their headquarters. I never worked for them.”

Mr. McAuliffe then went after Mr. Moran, accusing him of having a legislative voting record at odds with his newfound environmentalism.

Mr. Moran, a former chairman of the House of Delegates Democratic Caucus, opposes all drilling off Virginia’s Atlantic Coast, and he opposes a proposed coal-fired plant near Surry. Mr. McAuliffe said he supports drilling for natural gas but not oil.

Mr. McAuliffe said he wants to see environmental reports on the proposed plant before deciding whether to support it.

“You voted to open the Wise County coal [power] plant, which is one of the worst emitters of [carbon dioxide] in the nation, and now claim to be anti-coal. As a legislator, you voted to allow offshore drilling, and now say you are against it.”

Mr. Moran initially opposed the offshore drilling bill in 2006. After Gov. Tim Kaine, a Democrat, amended the bill to allow only for gas drilling, Mr. Moran supported it.

It was Mr. Deeds, however, who brought up the Clinton administration trade policy that he said cost Danville 3,000 jobs and sent many of Southside Virginia’s manufacturing jobs overseas. He cited a passage in Mr. McAuliffe’s book, “What a Party,” that recapped his years at the helm of the Democratic National Committee. In it, he thanks Mr. Clinton for NAFTA.

“You wrote this just two years ago, long after you knew the devastating impact this trade deal would have on places like Danville and before you were in this race,” Mr. Deeds said.

“I wouldn’t say NAFTA was a good deal. The implementation was all wrong,” Mr. McAuliffe said. He pivoted by saying his proposal to generate new jobs chiefly through environmentally friendly energy research and development would restore the jobs lost to global trade.

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