State Del. David Ramadan (R-87th) did not officially disclose a trip to Taiwan that two of his General Assembly colleagues deemed significant enough to report.
Ramadan described the 2012 trip to Asia as an economic development venture in which he marketed Virginia's business-friendly environment. He was accompanied by Republican state Sens. Williams Carrico and Bryce Reeves and Del. Kathy Byron.
Reeves and Carrico disclosed the trip, paid for by the Taiwanese government, as a gift worth $4,000 while Byron and Ramadan did not, The News and Advance in Lynchburg first reported this week.
Ramadan said the two lawmakers who included the overseas travel on their economic interest statements did so voluntarily to avoid the “political cheap” shots.
“This is a cheap political ploy my opponent is trying to make. Politicians today, they want to avoid the cheap shots, which is why my colleagues disclosed this trip when they didn't have to,” Ramadan told the Times-Mirror Thursday.
“We're no longer talking about issues – it's all about cheap shots. I haven't heard one issue yet from my opponent,” he continued.
Ramadan's presumed Democratic challenger in this November's election, retired Air Force Maj. John Bell, was quick Thursday to admonish Ramadan's decision not disclose the information.
"David Ramadan needs to come clean and explain why he's hiding special gifts he's received from foreign governments," Bell said in a prepared statement. "In the wake of the Star Scientific scandal this is becoming a disturbing trend … Virginians need to know we can trust our leaders.”
The news of Ramadan's decision not to report the trip comes after weeks of Democratic attacks against Gov. Bob McDonnell and Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli for, what Democrats claim, not properly disclosing gifts the two state officials received from political donor Jonnie Williams, the CEO of supplement manufacturer Star Scientific.
While admitting he didn't officially report the trip on an economic interest statement, Ramadan said “there was no hiding” the venture. The Loudoun and Prince William state delegate highlighted the trip through his Twitter account and public Facebook page and noted it in a constituent newsletter, he said.
Ramadan maintains he wasn't required to officially disclose on the trip, but the Virginia code appears to state otherwise.
A key point of the code pertaining to financial disclosures states "'gift'" means any gratuity, favor, discount, entertainment, hospitality, loan, forbearance or other item having monetary value. It includes services as well as gifts of transportation, local travel, lodgings and meals, whether provided in-kind, by purchase of a ticket, payment in advance or reimbursement after the expense has been incurred.”
Responding to Ramadan's charge that their campaign has been focused solely on attacks, Bell campaign manager Joe Hamill said “government transparency is a real and important issue.”
“We need to be able trust that our leaders are telling us the truth and the whole truth - especially when it involves large gifts from foreign governments,” Hamill said. “If he thinks $4,000 from the Taiwanese government doesn't count as a gift what else has he decided Virginians don't need to know about?”