UPDATE: Ramadan under fire for trip to Taiwan
Del. David Ramadan (R-87th) announced Monday afternoon he'll amend his financial disclosure form in order to report a 2012 trip to Taiwan that has brought scrutiny to the first-term lawmaker who represents portions of Loudoun and Prince William counties.
Ramadan estimated he'll expense the trip, paid for by the Taiwanese government, at more than $7,500. He has repeatedly said the mission of the trip was to expand economic development opportunities within the state.
"As a co-founder and co-chairman of the Business Development Caucus in the Virginia House, job creation for our community is my top priority and will always be," Ramadan said. "Since learning that those accompanying me on the trip from other districts around Virginia have filed amendments to their financial disclosure reports reflecting the trip -- as recently as couple days ago -- I have decided out of an abundance of caution and my continuous belief in full transparency to voluntarily amend my statements as well."
Several of Ramadan's updates on Twitter during the trip include “had a great briefing by the deputy Director of the American Institute in Taiwan ...” and “On a 220 miles per hour train from Taiwan to Hsinchu for meetings at Hsinchu Science Park” on July 9 and “briefing at the U.S. Grains Council in Taipei then visiting with importers …” on July 11.
Ramadan is being challenged this November by Democrat John Bell. The Bell campaign questioned the sincerity of Ramadan's reconsideration.
"After first angrily refusing to disclose information about the trip it took multiple days of bad press and political fall out for Ramadan to report thousands of dollars in gifts from a foreign government- this is neither voluntary nor abundantly cautious," Joe Hamill, Bell's campaign manager, said.
Original story: May 17
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. Democrats have accused the officials of not properly disclosing gifts they 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 to 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?”