Afternoon Read: Virginia AG Launches Investigation Into Gingrich Campaign

 Virginia officials confirmed today that the State Attorney General’s Office has launched an investigation into Newt Gingrich’s campaign over fake ballot petition signatures, The Brad Blog reported.

Gingrich failed to collect the necessary 10,000 petition signatures to get on the Virginia primary ballot.

The former GOP House speaker was heard saying on a video first aired on CNN that the reason he didn’t get enough signatures was because a campaign worker fraudulently collected 1,500 signatures.

"We turned in 11,100 --- we needed 10,000 --- 1,500 of them were by one guy who, frankly, committed fraud," Gingrich is heard saying in the video.

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Only Mitt Romney and Ron Paul qualified to be on the Republican primary ballot in Virginia.

The National Journal commented on the ballot quandary:

Perhaps the ultimate irony of the situation is that, of the remaining four major candidates for the GOP, the two who are not qualified for the ballot have the strongest ties to Virginia. Gingrich lives in the affluent northern Virginia community of McLean. Former U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum, R-Pa., was born in Winchester.

* D.C.’s Homeland Security Director Millicent West resigned Tuesday because of the ongoing investigation into former D.C. Council member Harry Thomas Jr., who pleaded guilty to using his non-profit to swindle more than $350,000 in city funds, Washington City Paper reported. 

West oversaw the Children & Youth Trust Investment Corp. during part of the time that Thomas used the organization to steal the money.

West denies any wrongdoing but was referred to in Thomas’ court records as playing a role in helping him steal taxpayer money.

* The National Republican Congressional Committee announced Tuesday that it put Rep. Roscoe Bartlett, R-Md., in its Patriot Program for the 2012 election cycle—a program that helps incumbents build strong campaigns through measured benchmarks and accountability.

Bartlett is expected to have a difficult race due to redistricting that put a swab of the more liberal leaning Montgomery County in his district. 

* Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley testified about his same-sex marriage bill before a senate committee this afternoon.

O'Malley said the bill will offer certain legal protections to children of gay couples. Read more here.

* A Maryland doctors’ group is advocating for legislation that would bolster the state’s child safety seat laws, according to The Baltimore Sun.

The Maryland State Medical Society recommend increasing the amount of time young children have to stay in seats facing the rear of the car and raising the age that children should have to sit in the back seat.

* The Baltimore Sun editorial board came out in favor of Gov. O’Malley’s proposed 6-cent gas tax, writing that while it will be a tough sell, it is the right thing for Maryland’s future.

What would motorists get in return? When the full gas tax increase is realized, about $613 million annually to spend on badly-needed transportation infrastructure. It means reduced congestion, upgraded mass transit service, safer roads and bridges and a more robust state economy (not to mention thousands of construction-related jobs). Household budgets may be hurting, but many will be suffering a whole lot less if Maryland businesses are thriving. Small wonder that the gas tax increase is a top priority for the Greater Baltimore Committee and many other business-related advocacy groups.

* A poll conducted in mid-January shows that in Virginia both parties are going to have to fight for office this election year.

The poll, according to The National Journal, says Virginia Senate frontrunners Sen. George Allen and former Gov. Tim Kaine are in a dead heat.

Similarly, the poll puts Obama and Romney head to head, with Obama leading by only one point.

Gingrich, however, trails the president by a double-digit margin in a one-on-one race.

The poll, conducted by Mason-Dixon Polling & Research, also found that 63 percent of likely voters rate Gov. McDonnell’s performance as “excellent” or “good.”

* Gov Bob. McDonnell, chairman of the Republican Governors Association, will headline a fundraiser for the Ohio Republican Party on Feb. 17.

A talked about vice presidential candidate, McDonnell will also speak in Missouri that weekend, The Washington Post reports.

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