RICHMOND Political appointees working in the office of Virginia Gov. Mark R. Warner, including Cabinet and deputy Cabinet secretaries, may not actively campaign for candidates or be the headline attraction at fund-raisers under a new policy.
The policy still allows high- and low-ranking appointees to support political candidates through financial contributions or appear at political events, according to Warner spokeswoman Ellen Qualls.
“We want to respect Republicans’ and independents’ presence in the administration,” Miss Qualls said. “But there is a point where their partisan efforts could contradict the goals and message of the governor.”
The new policy applies to Democrats and Republicans alike, she said.
Miss Qualls said that Mr. Warner, a Democrat, wants to have an inclusive, bipartisan administration, but a line has to be drawn somewhere when it comes to stumping for political candidates or helping them raise millions of dollars.
“We don’t want to see their name on invitations, programs or other written materials,” Miss Qualls said. “People can attend things if it’s not taking away from their day-to-day responsibilities.”
The policy was prompted by a scheduled appearance at a Feb. 6 fund-raiser by former Lt. Gov. John Hager, a Republican who is now advises Mr. Warner on homeland defense and anti-terrorism.
Mr. Hager is listed along with other current and former Republican lieutenant governors in bold print as honored guests on the invitation to the 2002 Republican Lieutenant Governors Association (RLGA) annual fund-raising dinner.
One of President Bush’s closest advisers, Karl Rove, is the scheduled keynote speaker at the $2,500-per-person dinner in Washington.
Walter White, executive director of the RLGA, said he had not given Mr. Hager the invitation yet to the fund-raiser because of his new position in the Warner administration. Mr. Hager, he said, was “very supportive” of the association during his four-year term as governor.
“We fully recognize that it’s a different atmosphere, nonpartisan and we respect that,” Mr. White said.
Last week, Mr. Hager bowed out of a scheduled speaking appearance at Lee-Jackson Day, which honors Confederate heroes Robert E. Lee and Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson, after Mr. Warner reluctantly agreed to the appearance. Mr. Hager said his presence at the event would have caused unwanted media attention.
Mr. Hager said that he “didn’t have a clue” that his name was on an invitation for a fund-raiser.
“They took it a step too far because I never agreed to be at a fund-raiser,” he said. “If it’s a fund-raiser, I’m not going to attend.”
Instead, Mr. Hager said he had agreed to attend a forum on homeland security at the RLGA conference held that weekend.
Regardless of the invitation mix-up, Mr. Hager said the new policy suits him fine.
“I think it’s a pretty good policy. I don’t know how they are going to handle it, though,” he said, citing the congressional and state Senate races coming up this fall. “I’m not into partisan politics right now.”
While the new policy is applicable to all high-ranking Warner political appointees, Miss Qualls acknowledged that Mr. Hager’s activities draw more attention.
“Nobody else does stuff like this,” Miss Qualls said. “We just don’t want him campaigning or fund raising.”
The new policy is a positive step in Mr. Warner’s setting a new tone of bipartisanship, state Democratic Party Executive Director Alan Moore said.
“Serving in the Warner administration, they should respect the policies of the Warner administration,” Mr. Moore said.
As for any appearance by Mr. Hager at political events, Mr. Moore said Mr. Hager should concentrate on his duties to the governor.
“His priority should be working in the Warner administration on terrorism preparedness, not traipsing around the country raising money for Republican candidates,” Mr. Moore said.
Delegate Brian J. Moran, Alexandria Democrat and chairman of the party’s caucus in the House of Delegates, said Mr. Hager’s appearance at an event designed to raise money to beat Mr. Moran’s fellow Democrats makes him uncomfortable.
“There are some downsides to a bipartisan administration,” Mr. Moran said.