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Bennett-Parker says Levine mailer on Commonwealth of Virginia letterhead is ethics breach

An annual mailer from Del. Mark Levine to Democratic voters in the 45th District has his opponent, Alexandria Vice Mayor Elizabeth Bennett-Parker, raising concerns of an ethical breach of conduct.

Levine is running for lieutenant governor and his seat in the 45th District. The 17-page annual update is written on Commonwealth of Virginia letterhead, and asks for support in the upcoming June 8 Democratic primary. The letter also includes his campaign websites markfordelegate.com and levineforvirginia.com, but not a disclaimer stating that it was paid for by his campaign.

“I’m deeply disappointed in Del. Levine, and his decision to use taxpayer resources to campaign for two offices,” Bennett-Parker said. “The voters of this district deserve better. They deserve a delegate committed to a high ethical standard, and they deserve a delegate focused solely on this community – not someone who views our district as a backup plan. I look forward to getting to work in Richmond to expand access to health care, build our economy back better for all, provide equitable educational opportunities for all students, and fight the impacts of climate change.”

In the letter, Levine mentions both races he’s running for and asks for support.

“Early voting in the Democratic primary began on April 23rd and Primary Election Day is June 8th,” Levine wrote in the letter. “As noted, I am running for Lieutenant Governor and will be on the Democratic primary ballot for both the Lieutenant Governor position and the 45th District Delegate nominations. I’d appreciate your support.”

Levine continues, “Thank you for believing in me and supporting me. I hope you are as pleased as I am about the results of the historic 2020 and 2021 legisla(tive) sessions, even if you didn’t agree with every vote I cast and even if you, like me, wish we had gone a bit farther. I know who my boss is. It’s you. And that’s why my team and I work so hard.”

The Virginia Department of Elections has not yet received any complaints concerning constituent mailers from Levine. The VDOE said that suspected campaign violations should be reported to local authorities and commonwealth attorneys, and that ethics violations should be reported to the Virginia Conflict of Interest and Ethics Council.

“It’s not a campaign mailer at all,” Levine told ALXnow. “It’s about my delegate work, it’s about my bills. If you want to read my 20 page letter from last year, it also mentions my website. My website has a lot of information on it. It’s got coronavirus information, and, yeah, it also has a donate button on it. I think every delegate mentioned their website, and I don’t know anyone who hasn’t in their (annual constituent) letter.”

State Sen. Adam Ebbin (D-30th), who has endorsed Bennett-Parker, said that Levine’s mailer crosses an ethical boundary. He also said that he’s inquiring about a potential ethics breach with the legal counsel on the Senate Privileges and Elections Committee, a body on which he is a member.

“If it’s not illegal, it should be,” Ebbin said. “It just doesn’t look right. It doesn’t feel right to be putting on official state letterhead, a message that says that you’re on the ballot twice and that you’re appreciating people’s votes for two offices, you know, even though he put on that first page it says this is not a political mailer and then he says, You can vote for me twice and explains why he wants people to vote for him twice in the circumstances that came to be. That’s just not appropriate.

Delegates receive $750 for constituent postage every year, and Levine said that he paid for the mailing and that many delegates include their campaign websites in annual letters to constituents. The House Clerk has invoiced Levine for the mailer.

“No taxpayers paid for it and I sent it to the same number I sent last year,” he said. “A lot of people in the 45th.”

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