Biscuit burden: Cuccinelli demands cash from Craig

In his response to a speculator's controversial lawsuit seeking nearly $20 million from taxpayers in the form of conservation tax credits, Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli has fired back by accusing Biscuit Run investor Hunter Craig of unmitigated gall and demanding that Craig's investors put up as much as $165,000 to cover allegedly underpaid recordation taxes.

"You guys have chutzpah," is the way Hook legal analyst David Heilberg restates the AG's response. "You want all this money in tax credits, but you wouldn't even pay the recordation tax on what you claim it was worth."

In a document that goes beyond merely fighting the suit, the AG makes the counterclaim that not only did the Biscuit Run backers seal their own legal fate by underpaying the tax, but that they need to pay the higher amount before the case can be heard.

"It was quite a clever pleading," says Heilberg, calling the tactic an example of the legal concept of estoppel, that the plaintiff's own action– penny-pinching, in this case– bars it from victory.

It turns out that in transferring the property nearly two years ago, Craig's team paid just $9,800 in recordation tax; yet Virginia code indicates that such tax should be paid on the full amount of the property's worth. And that's something Team Craig now controversially asserts was nine times what the state paid in December of 2009 when it handed over $9.8 million for the nearly 1,200-acre tract.

Already, the state has granted Craig's team nearly $11.7 million in tax credits. Yet Craig– who had hoped to reap millions on a private flip but who now could end up spending millions to shore up his once-delinquent loan– sued for $19.5 million more from the public.

Numbers that large are what makes an alleged $78,000 underpayment sound like the proverbial drop in the bucket. Nevertheless, the state, via the response penned by Senior Assistant Attorney General John Patrick Griffin, demands that Craig ante up that amount (which might eventually reach as high as $164,526 including interest and penalties) before the Albemarle Circuit Court even sniffs at his case.

Craig's group, Forest Lodge LLC, whose four lawyers listed on its lawsuit were unavailable for comment by presstime, has 21 days to respond to the state's November 21 demurrer and counterclaim.

This story is a part of the The Biscuit Run cash grab special.
Read more on: biscuit runHunter Craig


Finally something I can agree with Cuccinelli, is the global world warming up or what.

Maybe the Occupiers actually are being heard - no more handouts to the wealthy.

Bet his partners are ready to hang this guy. May be more difficult in the future to find willing investors.

Ken Cuccinelli rules.

TJ said: "May be more difficult in the future to find willing investors."

I don't think so. There are fools born everyday. 100% of the people I talk to say they would never do business again with certain auto dealerships in this area. Yet they have been in business how long. Greed trumps common sense it seems.

With the local elite always wanting to have their cake and eat it too, this is delicious for the 99%.

Let THEM eat cake for a change!

Finally, something good about Cuccinelli.

One of the few good moves Cuccinelli has made!

I am glad that the Attorney General has stepped up to the plate. To say enough is enough. I guess Hunter Craig could put his 6.5 million dollar 44 acre estate in Farmington Country Club under easement. Get it assessed for 12 million. Sell the tax credits and pay off his debts. Since the property joins 145 acres already under easement it could become a park.

This is a good use of Mr Cuccinelli's energies and agency. That's looking out for public interest while the earth gets warmer. Way to go Ken!!

Count me in as one more "finally, something good about Crazy Cooch". I'm sure he's only doing it because he thinks he can help his buddy Maccaca Allen by digging up some dirt to smear Tim Kaine with next November. Hilarious for poor old Hunter Craig (a solid Gooper if ever there was one, at least based on his donations) - I'm sure he's delighted to have his party loyalty so well repaid.

I'd love to hear more about the foreclosure Do Some Digging alludes to!

Don't be too quick to celebrate that the Cooch is finally doing the right thing. Indeed, when it comes to the power of the state, the Cooch seems to believe that his power is unlimited even as he condemns the "power" of the federal government. It's the state version of what conservatives argued about the unlimited "commander-in-chief" powers of the president when George W. Bush resided in the White House even as they claimed to believe in a restrictive interpretation of the Constitution.

Cooch really had little if any choice.

His first choice as a rabid conservative Republican (RedState calls him "the gold-standard of conservatism in Virginia"), and a disciple of nut-case Ayn Rand, is to just let the wealthy big dogs like Hunter Craig run. But the Cooch can't do that. He wants to be governor, and given all the evidence that the rich are getter richer through taxpayer subsidies, even a numbskull like Cooch sees that doing nothing to rein in fraud by the wealthy is a non-starter.

The Cooch could be really legally aggressive, like he's been with his frivolous efforts to get climatologist Michael Mann's e-mails, and like he's been with his lawsuit against the The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. Both of those cases resulted, essentially, in courts –– one state, the other federal –– smacking the Cooch down for bad lawyering. But if Cooch were aggressive in this case –– as he should be –– then the word would spread to wealthy donors. So, Cooch abandoned any pretext of principle in this case.

The Cooch took a middle ground, if it can be called that, in piggy-backing on the Virginia Department of Taxation's counter lawsuit that Biscuit Run's investors (Hunter Craig, etc.) do not deserve additional state tax credits and their lawsuit should be dismissed. This is not the first time that the Cooch has used the efforts of others to try and gain political cover and burnish his image. Nor will it be the last.

The Cooch still is what he's always been. A religious zealot and die-hard conservative who understands neither the Gospels he claims to believe in nor the Constitution he takes and oath to support.

In short, he's still very much a hypocrite.

No one is saying that the Cooch is a prince. Just saying he finally did the right thing.

Point is: the really Big Dogs, for once, are not going to get off easy this time

@ Big Dog The Cooch is doing the politically "right" thing for him....but as I pointed out, he is most assuredly NOT exercising the same aggressive legal push has he has with the Affordable Care Act and the witch hunt for climatologist Michael Mann's e-mails.

The Big Dogs have already seen their potential losses –– losses they incurred in the "free" market they make love to rhetorically –– diminished by taxpayer-subsidized tax credits.

The point is, the Cooch is taking the easy, expeditious way out of this mess.

I'm skeptical. If the paltry $89,000 is paid and accepted by the Commonwealth, will the judge rule that that constitutes an agreement by Forest Lodge and the state on the $88.7 million value?

It seems to me that the the fees should be paid on the $39 million appraisal and all say goodnight.

I would like to see a full scale investigation that includes getting the truth out of the county as to why they kept quiet and let this go through. The county LOST 400 acres of guaranteed parkland and 325K a year in property taxes. This project did not stop one single home from being built. If someone wants a home, builders will line up to build them one. It only prevented them from being built at Bisquit Run which was the most cost effective way for the county to allow growth. It is right off 64. A mile from major exisiting infrastucture and close to UVA and professional parks. Its demand on the schools would be offset by the proffers and the county would not have to spend the next 20 years playing catchup widening a bunch of country roads and bridges to accomodate the numerous smaller developments that will surely pop up when the economy recovers. The county really let us down. I wonder if they put friendship over their responsibility to the residents.

Democracy, You can hate the AG but you may have to eat your words about his intentions in the future. You think Mann is about climate change, and that may be part of it, but the more important issue is accountability to the taxpayers from Universities seeking grant money (tax money). The logic is that without transparency we do not know whether the results were skewed to insure further grant money. The OWS people are demanding this from the banks, why can we not expect it from Universities who get taxpayer money? It is no different than a tax audit.

As far as his stance on Healthcare he is trying to protect us from having to pay for healthcare we do not want and in the bigger picture keep the door shut from federal intrusion to make us buy whatever they say when they say it. Suppose the federal government decided that every single home must meet certain insulation standards and you have no money except your childs college fund to buy it. So the government GIVES your neighbor cash for their insulation because they didn't bother to save for college and makes you spend your kids college money insulating your house to save energy?(thet then increase your taxes so they have money to give to your neighbor) Are you OK with THAT? I wonder how people are going to feel in two years when the drunken bums on the mall get a medical card and go doctor shopping for "pain pills" to trade for booze? I wonder how high the costs will climb when Doctors (with degrees from the Carribean) open up "wellness" clinics where they simply confirm back pain with an expensvie MRI (that cannot prove that there isn't a problem) and dispense pain pills and constant repeat visits to "make sure" they are not additicted. These crooks will LEGALLY bankrupt the system one office visit at a time.

Will that be George Bushes fault too?

This is Virginia. This is Albemarle County.

Whatever _________ ________ wants, __________ _________ gets. Just start substituting some developer names.

Again, Tim Taylor engages in the most specious kind of "reasoning." Taylor asserts the Ken Cuccinelli's fishing expedition into climatologist Michael Mann's e-mails is really all about "accountability" and "transparency." Nothing could be further from the truth. And, it's clear that Taylor hasn't read anything about climate change or The Cooch's bad lawyering, so let me help.

For years, climate change deniers –– and The Cooch is one –– relied on the skeptical comments from U-Cal physicist Richard Muller. But then Muller and some colleagues conducted their own, detailed study. They concluded that (1) "Global warming is real," and (2) "Our results turned out to be close to those published by prior groups," and they even came up with a temperature increase graph that is virtually identical to Michael Mann's "hockey stick" graph. Time to start eating your words, Tim.


In the suit to get at Mann's e-,mails, the judge slapped The Cooch for bad lawyering. The Cooch said he "had reason to believe" that Mann's e-m,ails might reveal possibly illegal acts. But he offered up not a scintilla of evidence. The judge wrote that Cooch had to have "some objective basis to issue a civil investigative demand," and he didn't. The judge added, "What the Attorney General suspects that Dr. Mann did that was false or fraudulent in obtaining funds from the Commonwealth is simply not stated." It gets worse.

The Cooch's civil investigative demand was pursued under a Virginia law that became effective in January, 2003 and was specifically enacted to deal with fraud connected to state funds. But four of the five grants Cooch wanted to "investigate" were federal grants using federal, and not state, funds, and the fifth grant preceded the state law's enactment by two years. So, there was simply no legal basis for the Cooch's fishing expedition. None. But this was never about the law, or accountability or transparency. This was right-wing reactionism. And it was abuse of power. The judge's ruling is at the link below:

As to the Affordable Care Act, Taylor cites the same old discredited conservative talking points. The 4th circuit federal court of appeals threw out Cooch's lawsuit because, essentially it attempted to resurrect the theory of nullification. Under that old states' rights notion, any state might enact " a statute declaring its opposition to federal law" and thus avoid applying and enforcing it. Yet, Article VI of the Constitution makes clear that "the Laws of the United States...shall be the supreme Law of the Land." And the Cooch took an oath to support the Constitution. Again, some blatantly bad lawyering on the Cooch's part.

So eat up, Timmy boy.

Thanks democracy, for shedding light on the AG's motives. Although I agree that the Craig lawsuit is unjustified, I also see the AG's counter move as a way to appeal to voters. Any AG would be foolish not to do the same, if they were seeking higher office .

@ NancyDrew

There are plenty of politicians, conservatives and liberals, Republicans and Democrats, who use any opportunity to "appeal to voters." Some are even genuine about it.

That said, it's not uncommon for something that's "good" politics to result in something that's bad policy.

Democracy . THe AG has not yet failed. We shall see.

The point remains that UVA wants tax money without accountability and people like you are ok with that.

I wonder if you would feel the same if a study concluded that blacks are inferior, gays have a mental disorder, or that poor people don't WANT to work?

I would bet you would be the first to demand release of the emails.

The point remains that UVA wants tax money without accountability and people like you are ok with that.

Ha! You have to be kidding! UVa endures a truly ridiculous amount of oversight from Richmond - particularly given the paltry and constantly shrinking dollars sent from Richmond. Richmond wants to call the tune and micro-manage UVa - most egregiously by dictating tuition rates - and yet provides less than 10% of the UVa budget.

If Richmond really was "free market" they'd be happy to see UVa, W&M and Tech let the free market set tuition rates, instead of trying to legislate artificially low rates, starving the schools for revenue. UVa and the rest could simply wean themselves off the state altogether then.

You don't get to have it both ways Bill Marshall - do not pee on my leg and tell me it's raining.

Dear bill marshall,

Again, you've either misread or misunderstood or willfully misinterpreted what I said.

I never said that The Cooch had "failed." I merely pointed out that it seems apparent Cuccinelli has taken a politically expedient middle course in the Biscuit Run case. He HAS to do something. But Cooch has been nowhere near as aggressive in this case as he's been in chasing the climate change and health care ghosts.
Climate change is real, and the Affordable Care Act will benefit millions of people and the nation. But Cooch's narrow, flawed ideology gets in his way.

bill marshall, YOU may believe that "blacks are inferior, gays have a mental disorder, or that poor people don't WANT to work," but I do not. Many, many conservatives share these views. And, these views get promoted by right-wing talk radio ranters. But they are unsupported by scientific study. Michael Mann's study results have been replicated by others, including, as I pointed out, by U-Cal physicist and former climate change skeptic, Richard Muller. Muller and his colleagues have found that "Global warming is real."

I provided the link to Muller's Wall Street Journal article above. Read it.

Hey guys, the 1% around here love for us to fight amongst ourselves. It keeps us from noticing what they're doing until it's too late. We should be doing something about all their sweetheart deals BEFORE they happen.

Quit giving them what THEY want. We are not the enemy. THEY are!!!

non resident tax payer.. you are sort of correct... if UVA had its way it would jack up rates until they were such an elite school that all they served were ultra rich snots instead of a mix of rich snots and regular people. Richmond NEEDS to control it. It is a state school that is supposed to be for the middle class.

That does not change that fact that they want money without having to account for it.

@democracy, you need to go back to American Government 101 if you're seriously criticizing AG Cuccinelli of hypocrisy in his approach to state power and federal power. Note that this is NOT a political statement -- people can disagree on what the proper boundaries of federal power are, but the fact is (as any textbook, professor, or conscientious student could tell you) that the state governments possess a general police power, while the federal government is a government of limited (in theory) powers.

Democracy, I for the record do not belive that blacks are inferior or gays have a mental defect etc,,, the point I was TRYING to make is that if someone GIVES you money then show them the reciepts to make sure you spent it on what you said you did. Contractors have to prove that they used the right strength of concrete when they build a bridge. If UVA wants grant money than let them accept an audit.

That Federal government you love so much would be happy to crawl up your backside if they thought you stole a nickel...