Mitt Romney Gives to McDonnell Defense Fund

Newly released tax records show former Gov. Bob McDonnell's legal defense fund raised nearly $150,000 during the first quarter of this year, a sizeable haul that's still far short of the $1 million-plus the fund's founder has said is needed.

Mitt Romney, the 2012 Republican presidential nominee, gave $10,000. Fred Malek, a veteran Republican fundraiser also gave $10,000.

Coal baron Richard Baxter Gilliam gave $50,000, the single biggest donation.

Most of the more than 40 reported donors gave in smaller amounts. A handful of donors were from out of state.

"It's significant that a lot of Virginians and a lot of Americans are standing with Bob McDonnell during this difficult time,'' said Jason Miyares, a spokesman for the legal defense fund.

The former Republican governor and his wife Maureen are charged in a 14-count indictment with accepting more than $165,000 from Jonnie Williams, the former CEO of dietary supplements maker Star Scientific Inc., in exchange for helping promote his products. Their trial is set to begin in July.

The McDonnells have returned gifts to Williams and apologized for their actions, but they have denied breaking any laws. Their supporters have characterized the federal prosecution as politically motivated.

McDonnell was once a rising star in the Republican Party and had been considered a possible Romney running mate.

But his last year in office was overshadowed by the federal investigation into his relationship with Williams.

The legal defense fund had raised slightly more than $11,000 during the last quarter of 2013, before the McDonnells were indicted in January.

Defense fund founder Stanley Baldwin, a Virginia Beach attorney, sent out a fundraising appeal last week indicating that the McDonnells' defense cost will top $1 million.

"The trial alone will cost approximately $1 million for legal fees, housing, experts, transcripts etc.,'' Baldwin wrote.

Lawyers for the McDonnells have been busy sparring with federal prosecutors in advance of the July trial date. In multiple court filings, the two sides have sharply differed on whether McDonnell's actions amounted to bribery or the routine extension of political courtesies and access.

The fund spent $140,000 this quarter on the various legal firms representing the McDonnells, with $100,000 going to the law firm Jones Day.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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