Probe Of Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell Widens

Bob McDonnell

What started out as allegations of failure to properly report political gifts and other remuneration received by family members of Virginia’s Governor Bob McDonnell has turned into a wider ranging criminal investigation:

Federal authorities are asking Virginia Gov. Robert F. McDonnell’s associates about previously undisclosed gifts given by a campaign donor to McDonnell’s wife that total tens of thousands of dollars and include money and expensive designer clothing, according to people familiar with the inquiry.

The questions are part of broad federal and state investigations into gifts to the governor and his family and whether McDonnell (R) took official action on behalf of anyone who gave gifts, people with knowledge of the investigation have said.

The probe already involves a $15,000 gift from wealthy businessman Jonnie R. Williams Sr., chief executive of a major McDonnell campaign donor, for catering at the 2011 wedding of one of McDonnell’s daughters.

But the people with knowledge of the inquiry, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitive nature of the investigation, say the scope is wider than just the wedding gift. The value and nature of additional gifts from Williams, including money provided in several checks, suggest that authorities are exploring a more extensive relationship between Williams and the McDonnells than previously revealed.

McDonnell has said that Williams’s company, Star Scientific Inc., the maker of a dietary supplement, received no special benefits. But the gifts came as the McDonnells showcased the company and its new product.


Virginia law allows elected officials to accept gifts of any value, provided that they annually disclose those worth more than $50.

Since taking office in 2010, McDonnell has disclosed receiving $9,650 in personal gifts — including private plane rides and a s

Star Scientific also contributed $108,452 to McDonnell’s campaign and his political-action committee.

State law does not require officials to disclose gifts that have been given to members of their immediate family. McDonnell has said that is why he did not disclose the $15,000 check for his daughter’s wedding, which he said was a gift to his daughter.

As public scrutiny of his relationship with Williams has mounted, McDonnell has declined to provide a full accounting of other gifts Williams provided to members of the McDonnell family.

A local prosecutor in Richmond is conducting a parallel investigation to the federal probe to determine whether McDonnell complied with state law in his annual financial filings.

That investigation could explore whether the governor received enough benefit from gifts given to his wife — particularly loans or gifts of money — that he should have considered them gifts to himself as well.

Federal authorities are exploring whether McDonnell performed official acts to boost the company in exchange for gifts from Williams, people familiar with the inquiry have said.

Given how open ended Virginia’s disclosure laws are, it strikes me that it would be difficult developing a case that there were any violation there. On the Federal level, the situation becomes more complicated because there’s always the issue of the “Gift Tax,” which is really an element of the Estate Tax. This much is clear, though, this would be a major problem for McDonnell if Virginia law allowed him to run for re-election, and the investigation itself makes it highly unlikely we’ll ever see Bob McDonnell as a factor on the national political stage at any point in the foreseeable future.

FILED UNDER: US Politics, ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. Gromitt Gunn says:

    Is it a trans-vaginal probe?

  2. gVOR08 says:

    @Gromitt Gunn: In a just world it would be an anal probe. A very large one. Big enough to strain McDonnell, who is a large one.

  3. James in Silverdale, WA says:

    Dimming 2016 aspirations may have just grown a bit dimmer.

  4. Caj says:

    I know just the man to head this investigation. Darrell Issa, the man who has never met an investigation he doesn’t like! Is that Darrell I hear calling up a team of investigators? No, of course not. He doesn’t want anyone from his side of the isle being raked over the coals! That’s a privilege he saves for the Obama administration alone!

  5. Given how open ended Virginia’s disclosure laws are, it strikes me that it would be difficult developing a case that there were any violation there.

    I think it’s essentially a bribery investigation at this point since it was McDonnell’s wife that demanded that the Governor’s Office hold a public event for Star Scientific.

  6. You could also argue that McDonnell’s wife was receiving those “gifts” as payment for a job she was doing since she went to another public event specifically to promote Star Scientific. She already failed to properly disclose another job she had.

  7. JohnMcC says:

    One imagines that Gov McDonnell should have been disclosing these gifts to either the VA Secretary of State Ms Kelly or the Attorney General Mr Cuchinelli. It turns out that Mr Williams has put both these folks in his debt.

    And he should have been disclosing them on his taxes. Which is somewhat more to the point.
    It was the IRS that did in both Al Capone and Spiro Agnew.

  8. McDonnell will no doubt get a highly paid job in business when his term expires.

  9. David in KC says:

    Wonderful title, Doug, I need the chuckle today. (it’s too friggin hot here today)

  10. John Drutosk says:

    I wonder about the taxes too. Did Governor McDonnell’s daughter report the $15,000 wedding gift on her taxes? did anybody?

    I’m not an accountant but it seems to me it should be reported somewhere.

  11. David in KC says:

    @John Drutosk: The tax issues are going to be the thing that someone gets nailed for. Wonder how the giver accounted for the gift. Never dealt with that part of the tax code, most of my tax experience is with soldiers and large gifts didn’t pop up, but I seem to remember the giver has to report the gift. Or I could be too hot to think. Old house and the AC doesn’t seem to be winning the battle today.

  12. JWH says:

    Probe Of Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell Widens

    Among things you don’t want to hear from your doctor ….

  13. fred says:

    He’s just another GOP crook who has been paid into office by big business who now he has to repay. The good for Virginians and our country was never his goal. Americans are becoming very wise to GOP and TP elected officials objectives and will vote them out of office at the first opportunity to get our country moving forward again.

  14. superdestroyer says:

    When I saw the headline, I knew that the reference would be based on a Washington Post story. This was the same outlet that ran daily stories in 2009 on McDonnell’s college writings.

    Of course the Washington Post has written much more at Bob McDonnell than about the prison scandal in Baltimore that occurred during than Martin O’Malley Adminstration. Image what will happen to politics when the Democrats finally get campaign spending/speech regulations when the Washington Post will still have unlimited speech and most others will have to shut up.

  15. Caj says:


    We can only hope the people of Virginia wise up to this guy. Just as I hope people across the country wise up to other Republican governors. They are ALL bringing this country down and ALL are an embarrassment.

  16. Bob @ Youngstown says:

    @John Drutosk:

    The 2012 IRS limit for gifts was 13,000 with no documentation. Both parties should have reported gifts that exceed that amount.

  17. fred says:

    GOP governors across our country who got into office on the back of funding from Koch brothers and Sheldon Eccleston (?), etc should be investigated. Their gerrymandering actions and corruption are more than likely illegal and unconstitutional. Where are the ACLU and Southern Law Center in challenging these people and their actions in our courts?