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FBI Probing Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell

Bob McDonnell

The FBI is looking into Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell’s relationship with a major donor.

WaPo (“FBI looking into relationship between McDonnells, donor“):

FBI agents are conducting interviews about the relationship between Virginia Gov. Robert F. McDonnell, his wife, Maureen, and a major campaign donor who paid for the food at the wedding of the governor’s daughter, according to four people familiar with the questioning.

The agents have been asking associates of the McDonnells about gifts provided to the family by Star Scientific chief executive Jonnie R. Williams Sr. and actions the Republican governor and his wife have taken that may have boosted the company, the people said.

[…]

The interviews, at which Virginia State Police investigators were present, began in recent months as an outgrowth of a federal investigation of securities transactions involving Star Scientific, which produces a dietary supplement called Anatabloc. The company disclosed that probe in a regulatory filing last month, saying it had received subpoenas from the U.S. attorney’s office for the Eastern District of Virginia.

Now, federal officials are trying to determine whether to expand that investigation into a broader look at whether McDonnell or his administration took any action to benefit Star Scientific in exchange for monetary or other benefits, according to the four people familiar with the interviews. It is unclear whether the probe will be broadened.

U.S. Attorney Neil H. MacBride declined to comment, as did spokesmen for the FBI’s Richmond division and the state police.

It’s plausible that the McDonnells are close friends with Williams and that he’s simply shelling out what to him are pittance amounts out of kindness. And one would think proving that any state action on behalf of Star Scientific were a quid-pro-quo beyond a reasonable doubt incredibly difficult.

Still, it doesn’t look good. McDonnell didn’t report the various gifts on his disclosure forms, arguing that they were given to his wife and daughter, not him, and therefore he wasn’t required to disclose them. That may well be the case but going beyond the minimum standard would seem the prudent course here. And, frankly, a state governor should generally decline large personal gifts, regardless, just to keep these sort of questions from coming up in the first place.

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About James Joyner
James Joyner is the publisher of Outside the Beltway, an associate professor of security studies at the Marine Corps Command and Staff College, and a nonresident senior fellow at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. He earned a PhD in political science from The University of Alabama. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter.

Comments

  1. legion says:

    They ought to be probing the state AG for being legally incompetent…

  2. DC Loser says:

    What are the odds, since Ken “the Kood” Cuccinelli also received the same vacation cottage stay gratis from the same GOP donor?

  3. DC Loser says:

    Oh, and Cuccinelli’s very timely sale of Star stocks for a large gain.

  4. wr says:

    I love the “I didn’t have to report the gifts since they were given to my wife, not me” line.

  5. Rafer Janders says:

    Hopefully it’s a trans-vaginal probe.

  6. OzarkHillbilly says:

    a major campaign donor who paid for the food at the wedding of the governor’s daughter

    My first thought was “maybe he is a good friend and wanted to give her a different kind of wedding present”. Then I thought, “Nahhhh. McDonnell has the kind of money that can afford the meals at his daughters wedding.”

    Still, it doesn’t look good. McDonnell didn’t report the various gifts on his disclosure forms, arguing that they were given to his wife and daughter, not him, and therefore he wasn’t required to disclose them.

    This doesn’t really pass the smell test, unless his wife works and she was going to pay for the wedding dinner. And if she does, and was, he was really stupid for not disclosing the gifts anyway because he can not argue (with a straight face) that those gifts did not benefit him too.

  7. stonetools says:

    And the number of 2016 Republican Presidential primary candidates goes down by one…

  8. Virginia law apparently doesn’t impute financial interests of a spouse to the principal in the same way that federal ethics statutes and regulations require. Of not is that AG Cuccinelli has been amending his financial disclosure forms recently at the cyclic rate, to correct “oversights.” http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/04/11/mcdonnell-cuccinelli-ope_n_3058446.html I hope McDonnell emerges from this OK, because he’s otherwise a responsible, competent GOP governor who could set a precedent for responsible governing from the center for the heir apparent, KC.

  9. OzarkHillbilly says:

    Oh, off topic but….

    A big Happy Birthday to Willie Nelson on his 80th.

  10. gVOR08 says:

    It’s plausible that the McDonnells are close friends with Williams and that he’s simply shelling out what to him are pittance amounts out of kindness.

    Please don’t say things like that when I have a slug of coffee in my mouth.

  11. stonetools says:

    @Butch Bracknell:

    I hope McDonnell emerges from this OK, because he’s otherwise a responsible, competent GOP governor.

    Well, if you happen not be female or gay or a scientist…

    who could set a precedent for responsible governing from the center for the heir apparent, KC.

    He won’t be the heir apparent if I have anything to do with it. Virginia can do better than an anti-gay, anti-science, wingnut as governor.

  12. Something that didn’t make it into the block quote: Jerry Kilgore, a former Attorney General and former Republican nominee for Governor (2005), is representing the Star CEO. Jerry Kilgore was also actively involved in Bob McDonnell’s 2009 Gubernatorial campaign.

  13. @stonetools: Butch Bracknell’s comment had to be satire…right?

  14. @wr:

    Under Virginia’s current disclosure laws, McDonnell is right. They don’t require disclosure of gifts to family members

  15. walt moffett says:

    One thing you have to hand to Holder and the DOJ is their work on political corruption cases. Lets see though where the rabbit hole goes.

  16. legion says:

    McDonnell didn’t report the various gifts on his disclosure forms, arguing that they were given to his wife and daughter, not him, and therefore he wasn’t required to disclose them.

    [cough]Bullshit[cough]
    I don’t know the details of Virginia’s state laws, but the feds don’t play that kinda game. Even if he can dodge charges on that technicality, it means his political career likely ends at the Governor’s mansion – he’ll be oppo research poison in a national race.

  17. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Doug Mataconis:

    Under Virginia’s current disclosure laws, McDonnell is right. They don’t require disclosure of gifts to family members

    Once again Doug proves that just because something is wrong, wrong, wrong on every level, doesn’t mean it is illegal. Bribing the Governor? No way! Bribing the Governor’s wife?

    Did somebody say something?

  18. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @OzarkHillbilly:

    he was really stupid for not disclosing the gifts anyway because he can not argue (with a straight face) that those gifts did not benefit him too.

    Who am I kidding? Of course he can argue it with a straight face. Was Bill Clinton smiling when he asked, “That depends upon what your definition of “is” is.”

  19. SKI says:

    @Doug Mataconis:

    Under Virginia’s current disclosure laws, McDonnell is right. They don’t require disclosure of gifts to family members

    That is ridiculous.

  20. pylon says:

    Probe….. I get it.

  21. pylon says:

    Damn – missed Rafer’s post.

  22. Scot says:

    Does the law say you don’t have to disclose family or does it not address it. If it does not address it, I would argue a spouse or an underage child is the same as giving it to them directly.

  23. C. Clavin says:

    Damn you Rafer…you beat me to it.

  24. EddieInCA says:

    Sorry Officer, that big satchel of cash doesn’t belong to me, it belongs to my wife.

    Sorry Judge, that $75K Cadillac Escalade doesn’t belong to me, it belongs to my wife.

    Sorry, District Attorney, that $50K country club membership wasn’t for me, it was for my wife.

  25. Jenos Idanian #13 says:

    @walt moffett: One thing you have to hand to Holder and the DOJ is their work on political corruption cases. Lets see though where the rabbit hole goes.

    Oh, really? Tell that to Charlie Rangel, Jon Corzine, Dianne Feinstein’s husband, or Eric Holder’s wife. And that’s just four off the top of my head.

    I think you meant “their work on selected political corruption cases.”

  26. Malloay says:

    Cuccinelli and mcdonnell — corrupt to the core. On the take from these crooked companies for big money.

  27. @Malloay: You really have to wonder about two politicians that are such bosom buddies with a dietary supplements seller.

    Doesn’t a big red flag come when you think of someone in that line of work?