Va. GOP Claimed It Had No Insurance, Democrats Allege

July 31, 2005

Virginia Democrats said last week that the state Republican Party misled them when the GOP claimed in response to the Democrats’ eavesdropping lawsuit it had no insurance to cover damages in the case.

The Republican Party of Virginia sued its insurer two weeks ago seeking nearly $1 million in reimbursement for lawyers fees and the $750,000 the party paid the Democrats to settle the lawsuit in December.

“It bothers me that an important entity like the Republican Party of Virginia would be willing to lie, both to us and to the court,” state Sen. Mary Margaret Whipple of Arlington said during a Democratic telephone news conference.

Federal court rules for civil cases seek the disclosure of any insurance companies that may have liability in a lawsuit.

Republicans, however, said that the evidentiary disclosure document the party filed July 2, 2004, reflected that the party had been denied coverage for the eavesdropping claim, not that the Republicans had no insurance.

In a letter dated April 2, 2004, the Union Insurance Co. had told the state GOP that it would not cover damages associated with the March 2002 intercepts of private Democratic conference calls by top GOP officers because it was caused by willful misconduct.

That refusal is why the GOP sued the Lincoln, Neb.-based insurance carrier in U.S. District Court this month.

“The party was informed by Union that we had been denied coverage. This is a contractual dispute,” said RPV’s executive director, Shawn M. Smith.

“As reflected in our court documents, the Republican Party of Virginia had been denied coverage specific to the originating lawsuit,” Smith said.

The party’s former executive director, using pass codes a former state Democratic Party staffer gave him, secretly logged on to two conference calls as Democratic lawmakers and, briefly, Gov. Mark R. Warner, discussed challenging the GOP-drawn 2001 reapportionment.

The party’s executive director and its chairman both resigned in the scandal and pleaded guilty to one federal criminal count each.

Some of the Democrats who were on those conference calls said they were outraged to learn from an Associated Press report on Wednesday that the Republicans were insured. Had they known it, the Democrats said, they might not have settled.

“Had we been told that there was an insurance company and that the insurance company was going to assume the responsibility and it would cost the Republican Party of Virginia nothing, I think we would have been much less likely to have settled,” Sen. Phillip Puckett of Russell County said.

Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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