News4's Northern Virginia Bureau covers the races

McDonnell Facing New Allegations of Unreported Gifts

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    NEWSLETTERS

    Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell's next public appearance is scheduled for Saturday afternoon at the Grand Opening of Powhatan State Park. The governor had no public appearances Thursday, after canceling his schedule following more allegations this week that his family has accepted thousands of dollars in gifts without reporting them. Northern Virginia Bureau reporter David Culver talked to voters about the controversy. (Published Thursday, Jul 11, 2013)

    Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell is facing new allegations that he failed to report donations made to him and other family members.

    Jonnie R. Williams Sr., a businessman and prominent political donor, gave $70,000 to a real estate corporation owned by McDonnell and his sister last year. The governor failed to reported the money as a gift or a loan, The Washington Post reported. 

    Va. Governor on the Defensive Following New Revelations About Gifts & Loans

    [DC] Va. Governor on the Defensive Following New Revelations About Gifts & Loans
    Northern Virginia Bureau Chief Julie Carey reports concern from both political parties about the latest revelations about gifts and loans to Governor McDonnell and his family. (Published Wednesday, Jul 10, 2013)

    The governor is said to have considered the money a loan, and under state law, loans received for corporate interest do not have to be reported.

    Williams also gave the governor's wife, Maureen McDonnell, $50,000 in 2011. He has been promoting his company's nutritional supplement with her help.

    “That type of activity undermines public confidence,” Republican Delegate Bob Marshall said.

    Gov. McDonnell first came under scrutiny following reports Williams had given his daughter, Cailin, a $15,000 check to help pay the catering bill for her Executive Mansion wedding reception in June 2011. McDonnell justified not reporting it on the statement of economic interest filed in January 2012 by noting that state law requires only gifts directly to officeholders to be disclosed.

    Another daughter received $10,000 to offset costs of her wedding in May.

    “We have a first family that's really being subsidized by one outside donor, and the ramifications of that are pretty complex and pretty troubling,” said state Sen. Chap Petersen (D-Fairfax County).
    Last week, Petersen sent a letter to the governor calling on him to explain the contributions more fully or resign.
    “If you can't come forward and explain this -- what happened -- as a governor, he needs to step down,” Petersen said.
    State Sen. Barbara Favola (D-Arlington) also called on McDonnell to step down Wednesday.
    When asked whether McDonnell should resign, Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli told News4's Shomari Stone, "

    State law also exempts gifts to public officials from family members or close friends. McDonnell has said he considers Williams as a personal friend, a distinction that could cover his decision not to report a $6,500 Rolex watch that was also gifted to him.

    McDonnell said changing the law to close the family-and-friends loophole in the Virginia's conflict-of-interest reporting laws could become unrealistic or unmanageable.

    It's also been alleged that the McDonnell family took state-purchased items at the Executive Mansion for their personal use. McDonnell has since reimbursed the state almost $2,400 for food and supplies taken by his children from the Virginia Executive Mansion kitchen.

    Most of the items -- cold cuts, Gatorade, paper products, laundry detergent and other pantry staples -- were given to three McDonnell children when they returned to college after weekend or holiday visits. Some also was packed for vacation outings or, in one case, a trip by the parents to visit their sons.

    The governor enlisted the mansion director and others to compile a list of items carted away by the children after former mansion chef Todd Schneider, who is facing embezzlement charges, accused the family of wrongdoing.

    Schneider, who was employed at the Executive Mansion, says the McDonnell family used him as a personal chef and shopper for dozens of events. He adds he was told to take the food instead of getting paid.

    McDonnell spokesman Tucker Martin said the governor reimbursed the expenses “out of an abundance of caution.”

    No charges have been filed against anyone other than Schneider, who is charged with pilfering goods from the mansion kitchen for use by his catering company.

    The governor's office released this statement:

    "Star Scientific and Jonnie Williams have not received any board appointments, economic development grants, targeted tax incentives or government contracts during this administration. The governor has been diligent over the years in making his financial disclosures. As this article notes, the loan to the First Lady was disclosed in accordance with Virginia's reporting requirements. As the article also notes, loans to businesses are not required to be disclosed. Finally, regarding a gift to one of the governor's children, Virginia law does not require the reporting of gifts to family members."

    That explanation does not satisfy Delegate Marshall, Northern Virginia Bureau Chief Julie Carey reported.
    “It looks like you're skirting the law,” he said. “We have to pay attention to the spirit of the law and the letter of the law.”
    He drafted legislation to tighten gift -- and now loan -- reporting requirements. He wants anything more than $100 to elected leaders and their families to be disclosed.
    “These revelations show that the law has a huge, problematic loophole,” Marshall said. “When I think of gifts, I think of football games and I think of dinners. I don’t think of $50,000 loans.”

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