Why does State Senate Majority Leader Tommy K. Norment Jr. (R-James City County) seem so ticked off with the state’s news media that he’s banished them from the floor of the Senate?
It’s not hard to trace the points of friction between the powerful Williamsburg legislator and the Fourth Estate. Here are several points:
1. The Lobbyist Affair: Norment was enraged last year when news media, led by The Virginian-Pilot, reported extensively about an affair he had with lobbyist Angela Bezik when he was estranged from his wife. The allegations stemmed from a law client of Norment’s, Christopher J. Burruss, who ended up in prison on extortion charges. The FBI interviewed Norment several times, but no charges were filed against him. He has since reconciled with his wife.
2. The McDonnells. Norment was irked with the media attention surrounding the corruption trials of former Gov. Robert F. McDonnell and his wife, Maureen, in 2014.Their convictions, which were the first ever in the state, brought on calls for stricter ethics reforms, which Norment opposed.
3. William & Mary Conflict. In 2011, Norment was criticized by media for taking $160,000 a year from the College of William & Mary to serve as both a legal adviser and part-time law professor. The media noted that Norment, who graduated from the W&M law school, also pushed for millions of dollars in appropriations for the school while being paid as its adviser. Norment was then dropped as legal adviser.
4. Corporate Connections. Norment, who has been in the senate since 1992, has been criticized as being especially well-bankrolled by Virginia’s corporate elites. In 2015, he received $1.9 million from big lobbies and corporations, according to the Virginia Public Access Project. He got $146,810 from a banking group and $116,305 from a realtor’s association. Dominion, whose policies he supports strongly in the senate, gave him $92,740. He also got $88,433 from cigarette maker Altria and $71,659 from Alpha Natural Resources, a bankrupt coal company.
5. For Political Theater. The 69-year-old graduate of the Virginia Military Institute enjoys playing the role of a jester, which in turn gets him more media attention. At one point, his office phone played the jingle from TV’s “Captain Kangaroo.”