This is not a proud day for Virginia’s relatively corruption-light history. Despite his solid record at the actual job of governing, former Gov. McDonnell has pretty much assured that the thing that will be remembered most about him is that he was the first governor of the Old Dominion to be brought up on criminal charges, via the Richmond Times-Dispatch:
Former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell and his wife, Maureen, were indicted today by a federal grand jury on 14 counts stemming from the first couple’s acceptance and solicitation of thousands in gifts and loans from a wealthy businessman during McDonnell’s term.
The indictment, spelled out in an extensive document filed by the United States Attorney for the Eastern District, paints a detailed portrait of how the governor and his wife accepted more than $135,000 in direct payments as gifts and loans from then-Star Scientific CEO Jonnie Williams Sr., in addition to golf outings and other things of value, in exchange for the first couple’s assistance in promoting his struggling Henrico-based company’s dietary supplement, Anatabloc. …
According to the indictment, from April 2011 through March, 2013, the McDonnells “participated in a scheme to use the former governor’s official position to enrich themselves and their family members by soliciting and obtaining payments, loans gifts and other things of value from Star Scientific, a Virginia-based corporation and J.W.,” an apparent reference to Williams, then Star’s CEO.
If the McDonnells are convicted on all counts and given the maximum sentences, they could be looking at more than $1 million in fines and potential prison time. The list of the alleged offending items in the indictment reads like what I’d imagine a caricature of political gifts looks like, but unfortunately… it isn’t.
In their statement this afternoon, the former governor maintained that the DOJ is overreaching on this one, via WaPo:
A lawyer for McDonnell released a statement from the former governor denying his actions were illegal and promising to fight the charges in court.
“My fellow Virginians, earlier today federal prosecutors notified my attorneys that they have filed criminal charges against me and my wife Maureen, alleging that we violated federal law by accepting gifts and loans from Jonnie Williams, the former CEO of Star Scientific,” he said.
“I deeply regret accepting legal gifts and loans from Mr. Williams, all of which have been repaid with interest, and I have apologized for my poor judgment for which I take full responsibility. However, I repeat emphatically that I did nothing illegal for Mr. Williams in exchange for what I believed was his personal generosity and friendship.”
He promised to “use every available resource and advocate” to “fight these false allegations, and to prevail against this unjust overreach of the federal government.”
Innocent until proven guilty, of course, but regardless, if McDonnell had any future political ambitions — either in the realm of a return to Virginia’s governorship or even 2016 contention — well… Oof.