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What will be the legacy left by Virginia’s outgoing Governor McDonnell

During his four-year tenure as governor of the Commonwealth of Virginia, Bob McDonnell was able to bring major changes to economic development, education, the pension system and transportation. Those accomplishments would normally allow him to leave with an enviable resume and a bright political future.

One coming in (left); one going out (right)
Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images

Instead, McDonnell will be leaving office facing the possibility of criminal indictment for his involvement with Star Scientific. Inc. In particular, there has been a state and federal investigation as to whether McDonnell sought to improperly promote a Star Scientific, Inc. supplement after he and his family accepted more than $150,000 in gifts and loans from the company’s former chief executive, Jonnie Williams, Sr.

McDonnell insists neither Star nor Williams received special state benefits. He has also publicly apologized and said the gifts have been repaid.

“I believe in all my heart that I did not do anything wrong,” he said. “I followed the laws the best I understood them at the time.”

Even so, the scandal remains “a significant blot” on McDonnell’s record, said Old Dominion University political science professor Jesse Richman, because “it runs so contrary to the values McDonnell has articulated: The appearance is of service to special interests instead of public interests.”

McDonnell has not outlined his plans for the future, but has said he does not plan to return to practicing law. He did say he might write and take some time off.