Local Commentary

Editorial: ‘Dark Money’ in Tuesday’s Primary

What are we to make of a “reform” electoral campaign that is fueled by exactly that which has become so heinously corrupt in our political system today, the so-called “dark money” of billionaires bankrolling campaigns without accountability? What are we to make of an electoral campaign for Commonwealth’s Attorney in Arlington and Falls Church of an alleged reformist that attacks a strong incumbent Democrat with a seemingly endless cash flow from a dark money source, turning Democrat against Democrat in the name of unproven reform?

There are grounds for concern about why $523,544.97 has been pumped into the campaign of challenger Parisa Dehghani-Tafti, channeled through something called the Justice and Public Safety Political Action Committee located on 13th Street N.W. in Washington, D.C. Dehghani-Tafti is on the ballot in Falls Church’s Democratic primary next Tuesday running against two-term incumbent Theo Stamos. According to the Washington Post, the whopping dark money sum comes from billionaire George Soros. Apart from a couple far smaller PAC contributions, and $5,000 donations to Tafti from outside the area, all other donated sums, as anyone can read on the Virginia State Board of Elections website, have rarely approached $1,000.

What is reform, after all, and what is the kind of abuse of our democratic electoral system that needs real reform? The News-Press announced its endorsement of the incumbent Stamos last week, as it did the campaign of incumbent State Sen. Richard Saslaw, because these two proven, experienced and qualified Democrats have served our community well, and people know them. Are there issues that they may need to rethink and tackle differently? Surely. But are we to think of them as corrupt pariahs on the political process the way that someone paid to lob political grenades from across the Potomac may want us to?

No, and there is an even greater potential danger in candidates and their supporters countenancing attack mailings, like one paid for by the faceless Justice and Public Safety PAC, that showed up in mailboxes in Falls Church and Arlington last week. It assails our Commonwealth’s Attorney for being guilty of “Bad Judgement and Wrong Values,” with an image of handcuffs on what appears to be young hands and a reference to an alleged isolated 1999 juvenile prosecution. If Stamos continues as our Commonwealth’s Attorney, will a good share of our district henceforth consider her in such a hyped negative light? How can that help our political process?

The News-Press invited two respected members of our community — our State Del. Marcus Simon and our City Treasurer Jody Acosta — fellow Democrats and friends who have taken different sides in the Tuesday primary to offer dueling commentaries on why they’re supporting their respective choices. They’ve taken up the challenge in a way that will leave their friendship, and our community, intact no matter which way the vote goes June 11. That’s how it should be.

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