Tom Sawyer at the Parole Board

It’s early June, so much of official Richmond has been focused on nomination contests. But there’s another major event lurking just over the horizon that could do just as much to shape the outcome of November — the Parole Board investigation.

Authorized earlier this year by a budget amendment, the Democratic-leaning law firm Nixon Peabody was hired to conduct “a third-party investigation of the Office of the State Inspector General’s policies, process, and procedures employed during its investigation of the Virginia Parole Board’s handling of the Vincent Martin matter.”

That report is due to be released no later than June 15th. Republicans have long said the report will be a “whitewash” of the whole affair, and based on the wording of the budget amendment and actions taken by the Northam administration, they’re not wrong.

Here’s a preview of what to expect when the report is released:

The actions of the Parole Board will not be examined in the slightest.

This one isn’t much of a shock. From the moment Governor Northam put forward his budget amendment, it was clear from the plain language that the investigation was not to look at the Parole Board’s actions, but the actions of the Office of State Inspector General.

As Secretary of Public Safety Brian Moran pointed out in the recorded meeting, the Northam administration wasn’t even convinced that OSIG had the power to investigate the Parole Board. The fact that the complaints came in from the Waste, Fraud, and Abuse tip line was a material difference as far as Democrats were concerned.

Gross violations of law and police weren’t any of those three things, ergo they shouldn’t be investigated by OSIG.

The Office of State Inspector General Will Be the Scapegoat.

There’s no other option here for Democrats. It’s abundantly clear that some wrongdoing was committed in relation to the Parole Board. By finding fault adjacent to the Board, Democrats can deflect criticism with vague agreement. “Yes, something was terribly wrong with the Parole Board investigation and I’m glad that we’ve finally had an independent look at it.”

That’s an artful way for any Democrat stuck in a tough situation to agree with the questioner but subtly change the subject. They’re acknowledging wrongdoing, which the questioner will interpret as being pointed at the Parole Board. But they’re actually faulting OSIG.

Democrats have to make this issue go away, and they’ve done their best to make it happen.

Complaints About Wrongdoing by the Parole Board Will Be Cast as Partisan Attacks.

As Secretary Moran alleged during the recorded meeting with theInspector General and his team, Democrats see the complaint against the Board as partisan weapons, not legitimate concerns about public safety or the rule of law.

As such, look for the report to cast OSIG as an office that has lost its way, been captured by partisans, weilded as a weapon to stop policy decisions that aren’t supported by others, etc. Remember, this is an investigation into OSIG, not the Parole Board, per the enabling language. A finding that OSIG acted correctly is untenable for Democrats, since it would affirm that the Parole Board did in fact commit wrongdoing.

While the report probably won’t go so far as to label all the complaints as partisan attacks, it will most likely imply it. Strongly.

Democrats Will Hail the Report as the Final Word, and Cite It to Shut Down Any Criticisms of Their Handling of the Entire Affair.

Letting killers run free isn’t a good look in an election year, and Democrats must deflect it lest suburban college educated women decide to vote for the other team. When Republicans challenge Democrats on their votes against transparency at the Parole Board or their unwillingness to conduct a legislative investigation of the matter, look for exasperated sighs of “We’ve already investigated this” and “The independent report found this was a partisan investigation” etc.

At the bottom line, this report will be just the whitewash Republicans suggested it will be. Because any other outcome is simply untenable for Democrats in an election year.