Former Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell and Wife Charged in Federal Corruption Case

Less than a month out of office, the Old Dominion's former chief executive is facing 14 counts.

Bob McDonnell

Bob McConnell, who just vacated the Virginia governor’s seat after finishing out his term-limited four year tenure, has been charged, along with his wife, in several counts of corruption by federal prosecutors.

WaPo (“Former Va. Gov. McDonnell and wife charged in gifts case“):

Former Virginia governor Robert F. McDonnell and his wife, Maureen, were charged Tuesday with illegally accepting gifts, luxury vacations and large loans from a wealthy Richmond-area businessman who sought special treatment from state government.

Authorities alleged that for nearly two years, the McDonnells hit up executive Jonnie R. Williams Sr. again and again, lodging near constant requests for large loans, clothes, trips, golf accessories and private plane rides.

In exchange, authorities allege, the McDonnells worked in concert to lend the prestige of the governorship to Williams’ struggling company, a small former cigarette manufacturer that now sells dietary supplements.

They said the first couple arranged access for the CEO to top state officials, allowed the historic governor’s mansion to be used for a launch party for his company’s new non-FDA approved pill and attended events designed to boost the company’s prestige with university scientists who might research the company’s product.

The two were charged with 14 felony counts, including wire fraud, conspiracy to commit wire fraud, obtaining property under color of their official office and conspiring to the do the same.

They were also charged with making false statements to a federal credit union.

McDonnell was also charged with making a false statement to another financial institution, and Maureen McDonnell was charged with obstructing the investigation.

Charges mean the couple could face a maximum of decades in prison, though would likely serve far less if convicted.

“We will continue to work tirelessly with our law enforcement partners to investigate and prosecute public corruption,” said U.S. Attorney Dana Boente in a statement.

A lawyer for McDonnell released a statement from the former governor denying his actions were illegal and promising to fight the charges in court.

Despite living in Virginia and reluctantly voting for McDonnell, I only followed the unraveling of charges half-heartedly, mostly from Doug’s coverage here at OTB. From what I could gather, Bob McDonnell’s actions in this matter wear unethical, if not downright sleazy, but probably not technically against Virginia law. Indeed, the dragging of his wife into this would seem to be a means of coercing a deal out of him.

Having lived in Alabama during a period when a whole string of governors were either ousted mid-term for petty crimes or chased down afterwards and prosecuted for various malfeasance, I’m dubious of the practice. In that case, the fact that attorney general was both a path to the governor’s office and elected independently—and thus often of the opposite political party—from the governor added to the appearance that it was all politically motivated. Here, at least, it’s the federal government, not the authorities of the new Democratic administration in Virginia, going after the man who was governor just a couple weeks ago. Still, given that the allegations were front page news in the Washington Post two years or more ago, one can’t help question the timing here.

FILED UNDER: Uncategorized, , , , ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Mark Ivey says:


    Never touch the money.. that´s what Super PACs are for. *sighs*

  2. Butch Bracknell says:

    James, I wouldn’t be so sure. First, it’s a federal indictment, so state law wouldn’t be relevant. They’ve charged wire fraud a couple different ways, some false statements, and obtaining property under color of official right (essentially using a public office for personal enrichment.) Even if McDonnell is acquitted or pleads to a much lower set of charges, his law license is history, as I’m sure the burden of proof in Virginia bar disciplinary proceedings is an evidentiary preponderance. This is a crash landing for the former Governor. From being mentioned as a rising GOP star and VP candidate two years ago, to this. What a disaster.

  3. Butch Bracknell says:
  4. Gustopher says:

    Stories like this are why I generally prefer federal solutions to most problems, rather than sending block grants down to the states, or something like that.

    State governments tend to operate with a higher level of corruption and petty vindictiveness than the federal government. There are a lot fewer journalists looking at them, so you get this, the FL governor pushing work to his drug testing company, Cristie cutting down the toll booth lanes in NJ, a perpetual culture of corruption in IL…

    Governors just cannot be trusted.

  5. Anonne says:

    Would you have preferred that they indict him while in office? Truthfully, it’s probably better that they let him serve out his term and take their time with the investigation.

  6. Ron Beasley says:

    Perhaps a good reason for having millionaires in office instead of individuals who are deeply in debt. I really don’t see any way that he and his wife are not going to get some time.

  7. Dave D says:

    Thankfully the abuse of power in office will get them a plea deal and allow them to keep all of the money they made through nefarious dealings, and end up in the end with a smaller sentence than a person arrested with possession of crack cocaine. The system works, the rich have access to a “justice” system most of us will never see. USA, USA, USA!!!!!!

  8. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Dave D: There is Justice (selling a rock on the street), than there is “Just us” (Auggie Busch IV) (seriously, think about it, how many people have a section titled “Run-ins with the law” on their Wiki page?) If you googled all the Busch’s you could probably come up with a rap sheet as long as your arm. We’ll see which one the McDonnell’s get.

  9. OzarkHillbilly says:

    Still, given that the allegations were front page news in the Washington Post two years or more ago, one can’t help question the timing here.

    James, what is it about the timing that troubles you? The fact that they did not charge a sitting Governor during a hotly contested campaign to be his successor which would have most likely swayed the campaign in favor of the person running for the opposite party? And even if it had had NO effect on the race, would certainly have led to accusations of using the Justice Department as a political tool in an attempt to sway the election?

    In truth James, the Justice Department has had a long standing policy of not going after indictments which would have political repercussions during election season. Of course, you could be forgiven for forgetting this fact after 8 years of George W Bush shenanigans. Especially coming from Alabama as you do.

    Sigh… the good old days.

  10. superdestroyer says:

    As I have said before, anyone who is planning to run for office as a Repubican needed to have started planning when they were in high school and would have needed to have the discipline to view every personal action through the eyes of their of their future opponents and the media.

    This also shows that there is not a single Republican politicians who has the skill set that will permit them to successful hold office as a conservative. Since no Republican can actually function as a conservative, the real question is then whether the U.S. needs two liberal political parties or will the U.S. continue down the road of becoming a one party state. Electing fixers like Terry McAuliffe is a good sign that the U.S. is headed to being a one party state where politics and governance will be about government goodies, who gets them, and who pays.

  11. Andre Kenji says:

    @Ron Beasley:

    Perhaps a good reason for having millionaires in office instead of individuals who are deeply in debt.

    Here in Brazil, there is a well known politician for his involvement on graft – he came from a very rich family. There is also Berlusconi in Italy. But there is a case for paying politicians more – paying pensions for them while banning them from working with Private companies would also be a good idea.

  12. OzarkHillbilly says:


    As I have said before, anyone who is planning to run for office as a Repubican

    (my em)

    And you prove once again, what a completely partisan dolt you are. In your first half-sentence even, and for that I thank you very much, as it saved me the trouble of delving too deeply into the stupid.

  13. C. Clavin says:


    no Republican can actually function as a conservative

    That’s because…Republicans are not at all Conservative. Today’s Republican party is pursuing a radical experimental agenda. There is no basis in history, or in fact, for the ideology they are trying to implement. Their ideas are nonsensical. Thus the party has become nonsensical.
    The only real question is; why would otherwise intelligent people support them in this quest?

  14. C. Clavin says:

    @C. Clavin:
    To be clear…I did not mean to include Super-Dooper in the “otherwise intelligent” category.

  15. Rafer Janders says:

    @Ron Beasley:

    Perhaps a good reason for having millionaires in office instead of individuals who are deeply in debt.

    You don’t think millionaires engage in financial self-dealing, or have any interest in lining their pockets at the public’s expense….?

  16. Rafer Janders says:

    @C. Clavin:

    That’s because…Republicans are not at all Conservative.

    Sure they are. Conservatism as a political practice is all about the worship of power and money, about protecting the status quo against the powerless and disenfranchised. In that sense Republicans are perfectly conservative.

  17. wr says:

    @Dave D: “Thankfully the abuse of power in office will get them a plea deal and allow them to keep all of the money they made through nefarious dealings, and end up in the end with a smaller sentence than a person arrested with possession of crack cocaine”

    Yes, but don’t worry — when this happens, HarvardLaw92 will explain to us all how this is the definition of justice.

  18. rudderpedals says:

    Virginia’s single term limit creates a miasmatic swamp of corruption that breeds a cash-out-while-you-can mentality.

  19. rudderpedals says:

    @Rafer Janders: Right. Ric Scott’s a great example of extreme wealth as no protection against public malfeasance.

  20. Rob in CT says:



  21. gVOR08 says:

    @Rafer Janders: Precisely. Whatever Burkian BS they throw around, conservatism always devolves to protection of the currently wealthy and powerful. To the extent the Tea Partiers don’t fit that mold, the party will eventually expel or co-opt them.

  22. Pinky says:

    @OzarkHillbilly: I’m not sure what’s suspicious about the timing, either. Too soon? Too late? It’s not as obvious as James seems to think.

  23. Pinky says:

    @superdestroyer: Super, you may have some interesting things to say, but you’ve got to stop making essentially the same comment every time.

  24. HarvardLaw92 says:


    I’m flattered by all the attention, but I’m already married. You need to find a new mancrush

  25. Tillman says:

    @Pinky: He’s been essentially making that same comment since November 2012, if I recall correctly.

  26. MarkedMan says:

    @Tillman: Could he be a bot?

  27. superdestroyer says:

    @C. Clavin:

    Maybe the Republicans have gone off the rails (or fill in your because there is not a single major Republican politician who has the skills and abilities that are required to be a successful conservative politicians. If one cnanot say “no” to your friends, then you are not going to succeed as a conservative politician.

    Look at how much easier it is to be a liberal politician than a conservative politician. A liberal/progressive can say yes to your friends, yes to more, and came just claim to solve any problem with more money. Also, progressives/liberals have a built-in excuse for any failure because they were just not allowed to spend enough. As I have said, the quickest way to revivie the Republican Party would be to raise taxes enough to close the current budget deficit (basically a doubling of income taxes) and let everyone know that the only way to get a tax cut is to cut spending.

  28. Tillman says:

    @MarkedMan: No. Worse. He is a man on the Internet with an opinion. You can reason with a bot. 🙂

  29. @Tillman: Longer than that, I think. It certainly seems like it,

  30. wr says:

    @Tillman: Speaking of which, has anyone noticed that since Doug took his leave to attend to his family issues — and may he get through them as easily as he can — Jenos has also completely vanished from the site?

    Is it possible that Jenos doesn’t actually exist, and he’s just Doug’s way of keeping us amused?

    A longshot, definitely, but if this turns out to be the case, my hat is off to the man!

  31. ernieyball says:

    @Rafer Janders: You don’t think millionaires engage in financial self-dealing, or have any interest in lining their pockets at the public’s expense….?

    Meet my neighbor Barrett Rochman and former Madison County (IL) Treasurer Fred Bathon.

    Rochman, one of the state’s most prominent tax buyers, is a longtime financial benefactor of Southern Illinois University Carbondale, where he graduated in 1964 with a sociology degree.

    Though Brother Barrett is not a public servant he is I don’t know how many times over a millionaire and by all accounts self made. Even though he got rich as one of many off campus slumlords for at least 40+ years he is sort of a local hero because he established one of the early Southern Illinois vineyards
    and by all accounts and I have heard many, a prick to work for.
    Now he is going to jail for a few months!
    The skunk that came up with this scheme, Bathon, is currently doing time at a federal minimum security prison camp in that Wasteland-on-the-Wabash,
    Terra Haute IN.

    “There is no fire like passion, there is no shark like hatred, there is no snare like folly, there is no torrent like greed.”
    Chapter 18, verse 251 of the Buddhist scripture The Dhammapada

  32. M.A. says:

    I have always believed that the proper thing to do when one takes public office is to let any visitors or visiting parties know that as part of your administration’s rules and regulations you will be recording each and every visit when they come to confer with you on any matter as no meeting should be considered truly private with an elected official. A sign should also be posted in a very obvious and prominent place in their office. Likewise, with telephone conversations if it is legal to do so in the state involved and with the consent of the other party to place the beep sound indicating recording is taking place. And of course, let them immediately know that you do not appreciate gifts or offers that can be considered to be questionable, under any circumstances. That way, they will not be so tempted to offer anything that could be construed as being an illegal gift. The politician should refrain from accepting such questionable “gifts” as that was not what they were elected to do. They need to serve honorably in order to truly deserve and carry the title given them as “The Honorable … ” When visitors and potential ‘gifters’ start realizing that they will be audited if they speak out of term and offer gifts and other things to their elected officials they would certainly refrain from doing so and that could effectively put an end to this menacing problem politicians seem to have and that the public so criticizes them for that at times can lead to a legal tangle with the law.