In the latest news coming out of the Bob McDonnell camp, attorneys for Virginia’s governor met with federal prosecutors to plead their case for not pressing charges in connection with ‘gift gate’ between Star Scientifics’ CEO and Bob McDonnell. In particular, federal officials have been looking into whether or not Gov. McDonnell took official actions as governor to help Star Scientific while its CEO gave over a hundred-thousand dollars worth of money and gifts.
The meeting between federal prosecutors and Gov. McDonnell’s attorneys has been called a “critical phase in the investigation” because the discussions that take place could be the difference between files being charged or dropped against the governor.
According to the Washington Post, the governor’s attorneys argued that the governor’s wife, Maureen McDonnell, accepted Star Scientifics’ gifts without the upfront knowledge of Bob McDonnell. If so, his attorneys argue, Bob McDonnell couldn’t have been influenced by enormous gifts that he didn’t immediately know about.
Unfortunately for the governor, Jonnie Williams, the CEO of Star Scientific who forked over the gifts and money, has contradicted the argument that Bob McDonnell was in the dark about Mr. Williams’ largesse. In fact, Williams has argued that he and the governor discussed ways that McDonnell and the state of Virginia could “gain prestige and scientific endorsements for its [Star Scientific] new anti-inflammatory supplement.” In other words, ‘gift gate’ won’t be going away anytime soon.
While Bob McDonnell’s “gifts” case continues to be front and center in the public’s mind, there is no better time to reform Virginia’s lax laws for political gift giving; clearly, there is a gap between preserving public confidence and serving the people of Virginia and the ability of wealthy individuals, groups, or companies to disproportionately influence politics in the commonwealth.
Bob McDonnell may be the most prominent example of political corruption (even though we’ll assume his innocence for now!), but he is far from the only one. Witness Ken Cuccinelli, who may not have been given as much by Jonnie Williams, but who nonetheless may have transgressed the law he is supposed to uphold and protect.
It simply can’t be argued that large ‘gifts’ don’t and can’t buy political favors. If they didn’t, then political gifts wouldn’t be given, at least not in the thousands of dollars. It’s clear that if Virginia doesn’t reform its political gift laws, it’s only a matter of time before another ‘gift gate’ erupts and further undermines the confidence of Virginian’s in their elected representatives.