- The Washington Times - Monday, December 13, 2004

RICHMOND — A longtime Republican loyalist said in a complaint he filed with the Justice Department that the federal prosecutor whose investigation into the state Republican Party’s eavesdropping yielded four guilty pleas went easy on party allies.

Richard F. Neel, the Republican Party of Virginia’s former treasurer, asked the Justice Department’s Office of Professional Responsibility to disqualify U.S. Attorney Paul J. McNulty from the criminal probe of the eavesdropping investigation.

The complaint, filed in July, contends that Mr. McNulty was looking out for the interests of Sen. George Allen, Virginia Republican, in a plea agreement he reached with the state Republican Party’s former chairman, Gary Thomson, and in pursuing the inquiry within state Attorney General Jerry W. Kilgore’s office.

“The process has been manipulated so that those closest to Senator Allen and [Attorney] General Kilgore would suffer only minimal consequences for their actions, or no consequences at all,” Mr. Neel wrote in an opening summary to a 190-page filing.

Mr. Neel said Sunday he was releasing the complaint because “I believe our party is best served by full disclosure.”

Mr. McNulty declined to comment about Mr. Neel’s complaint. His spokesman, however, said he believes that the Office of Professional Responsibility — the arm of the Justice Department that investigates conflict-of-interest claims — will find no merit in Mr. Neel’s complaint.

“Virginia has its share of political rivalries and agendas. But the U.S. attorney’s job is to ignore all of that and enforce the law without bias and according to the rules. We are confident that the Department of Justice will give this complaint the attention it warrants,” Frank Shults said in a telephone interview.

Mr. Neel contends that Mr. McNulty, Mr. Kilgore and Mr. Thomson are all political proteges of Mr. Allen.

Mr. Kilgore was secretary of public safety during Mr. Allen’s term as governor in the mid-1990s, and Mr. Allen vigorously campaigned for Mr. Kilgore in his successful 2001 race for attorney general.

Mr. Thomson was treasurer for Mr. Allen’s political action committee. Mr. McNulty was appointed federal prosecutor for Eastern Virginia by President Bush in 2001 on Mr. Allen’s recommendation.

“Paul McNulty is an independent prosecutor and a man of integrity, and it is unfortunate that someone would choose to register complaints against him,” said Tim Murtaugh, Mr. Kilgore’s press secretary.

Edmund A. Matricardi III pleaded guilty in 2003 in U.S. District Court to a single count of intercepting a wire communication for secretly monitoring Democratic conference calls on March 22 and 25, 2002, when he was the state party’s executive director. He is the only figure in the case thus far to receive a felony conviction.

Mr. Thomson pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor and stepped down as chairman. Mr. Neel argues in his complaint that Mr. Thomson was allowed to take a much lighter charge than Matricardi even though he listened with Matricardi to a portion of the second Democratic conference call.

Mr. Thomson declined to comment when contacted at his office yesterday.

Mr. Neel also claims that Mr. McNulty has not followed up on conflicts between Matricardi’s statements to federal investigators and that of Anne P. Petera, the most senior aide to Mr. Kilgore.

Miss Petera, a member of the Republican National Committee from Virginia, was a key supporter of Mr. Allen in his 1993 election as governor and was appointed chairwoman of the Virginia Alcoholic Beverage Control Board during his administration.

Miss Petera has said she warned Matricardi from the outset that his telephone spying on the Democrats was wrong, while Matricardi has said in sworn testimony that Miss Petera was eager to hear details of the Democrats’ confidential call and assured him he had done nothing wrong.

Miss Petera declined to comment for this article.

The complaint asserts no wrongdoing by Mr. Allen, but it is the first document to draw such explicit connections between Mr. McNulty, prominent figures in the eavesdropping case and the popular first-term senator and former governor.

Mr. Allen was surprised at the claims and said he has never communicated with Mr. McNulty throughout the 2 1/2-year investigation.

“Let him exercise his prosecutorial discretion. I will note there have been several convictions in the prosecution of the wrongdoers,” Mr. Allen said after addressing yesterday’s gathering of Virginia’s Electoral College at the state Capitol.

The complaint also exposes conflicting personal allegiances within the leadership of the state Republican Party that have been forever ripped apart by the eavesdropping scandal.

Mr. Neel is a close friend of Matricardi’s and contends that Matricardi became a scapegoat so that the role of others within the party — and their punishment — might be minimized or avoided.

After Mr. Thomson resigned as party chairman, Mr. Neel sought the position to which Kate Obenshain Griffin, an ally of Mr. Allen and Mr. Kilgore, was eventually appointed. Mr. Neel was the state party’s treasurer until this year.

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