In today’s Roanoke Times, Laurence Hammack quotes from an internal Virginia Economic Development Partnership e-mail about “Project Goode” back in October of 2003:
Congressman [Goode] suggests/requests that Martinsville be allowed to stand for the [Governor’s Opportunity Fund grant money], and that they be allowed to accept responsibility for the performance agreement.
The notion that Goode established the terms of this agreement by working directly with the state and Martinsville is nothing new — in their exposé about Goode’s relationship with MZM, USA Today uncovered this via a FOIA request of VEDP e-mails back in November of 2005:
Goode later urged local and state officials to help MZM open the center in Martinsville, a down-on-its-luck former textile center in his district. Records released under Virginia’s open-records law show Goode contacted state economic development officials about the plans on Oct. 1, 2003, the first day of the fiscal year in which the FSAC was to be opened.
Goode says the negotiations were between MZM and Martinsville officials. But the records tell a different story.
The state records say Goode acted as a go-between during negotiations between Wade and MZM on one side and Martinsville and Virginia officials on the other.
The congressman was so involved that officials of the Virginia Economic Development Partnership referred to it in e-mails as “Project Goode.”
MZM demanded that it be exempt from property taxes for five years.
Throughout the process…Goode backed Wade and MZM, including when their requests fell “outside normal procedures.”
In response to today’s Times article, Rep. Goode said that “I never recall talking with…anyone in VEDP,” which the paper rebuts by pointing out that “documents related to the proposal contain numerous references to Goode’s involvement in discussions with both local and VEDP officials.”
Goode’s not necessarily lying, if his comment is taken literally — he may truly not remember it, he may not remember speaking with anybody at VEDP (as opposed to other state officials), or he may not remember “talking,” as opposed to other means of communications. (As with Martinsville’s weird denial that Goode had anything to do with “drafting [the] performance agreement,” a possibility that nobody had suggested.) Those are perhaps the kindest interpretations for his denials, because, taken at face value, they simply don’t jibe with the state’s own extensive records on the matter.
Finally, Hammack also points out that the figures are now in, and Martinsville owes the state $150k for MZM’s failure to perform as promised, as was forecast. This is the first time in state history that a locality has needed to pay back the state for a private corporation’s non-performance. City officials say they can pay back the money, but what with continued layoffs and the loss of employers — like MZM itself — this bill has come at a particularly bad time.
I’ll stipulate that corporate kickbacks, shifty campaign financing, and crooked land deals are the sine qua non of political corruption, but, man, are they boring. I don’t think this MZM/Martinville thing will ever get any traction for the same reason the Ken Starr’s Whitewater investigation (pre-Monica) didn’t: they’re hard to understand and they’re d-u-l-l.
I hasten to add that I’m not saying this isn’t worth looking into and writing about – it probably is. I just don’t think most people care, and absent some blockbuster revelation or titillating side issue, they probably never will.
That is one reason why the issue never gained traction with the voters in Martinsville- it simply could not be condense to a 30 second sound bite and/or talking point.
Virgil Goode and MZM: The gift that keeps on giving.
With this and Wilkes/Foggo going down, could we see some action on an investigation of Mr. Goode soon? Or is it already underway?
Time will tell.
I read somewhere that the city or maybe a neighboring county purchased the building that MZM had bought from Martinsville. MZM invested about $4M in the building, and the city bought it back for less than $1.5M. That should help set off the $150K.
I think I read that, too, Jon. I’m a little behind on the news, though, and my brain’s not functioning particularly well at the moment. I wrote this blog entry at 4am. The joys of flu.
Henry County bought it; sorry, no linky.
The purchase of that building will benefit the community writ large. The county practically stole it at that price, and both Martinsville & Henry Co. are better for it.
Plus, word from former MZM employees in Martinsville is that the city will get a different federal project this year or next – even with Virgil now in the minority. Apparently he’s working with conservative Democrats to get some kind of defense dept. work sent to that area. One thing is for sure, somebody down there is collecting a lot of resumes.
I always knew he was lying about that. Then again, I thought he was lying about most things, so I guess I had to be right sometime.
It’s been five days, and not a single one of Goode’s self-appointed defenders have had a word to say about this, despite many having claimed the opposite to be true just a week prior.
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