Show off your holiday lights and you could win an iPad! Enter your photo by December 13. Winner will be selected by popular vote.
He said state grants for Star Scientific were approved years ago, and are not tied to recent gifts or events such as his daughter's wedding.
Associated Press | File April
Gov. Bob McDonnell has reported no gifts from Del. David Ramadan, R-Loudon County, on his statements of economic interest. Ramadan did attend McDonnell’s daughter’s wedding.
Wednesday, May 1, 2013
RICHMOND — Gov. Bob McDonnell gave his most full-throated defense to date Tuesday on nagging questions about his family’s relationship to a political donor that has attracted the probing eyes of federal agents, saying the donor hasn’t received special treatment from his administration.
Speaking on the radio, McDonnell cited records showing Star Scientific Inc. was approved for $800,000 in state grants in 2002, nearly eight years before he became governor.
Gifts given by Henrico County-based Star and its chief executive, Jonnie Williams, to McDonnell and Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli have come under scrutiny in recent weeks amid a series of news reports about them.
McDonnell insists there’s been no favoritism or reciprocity to the man who provided them.
“It’s important that the people of Virginia know that nothing has been done with regard to my relationship with Mr. Williams, or his company, Star Scientific, to give any kind of special benefits to him or his company, or frankly any other person, or any other company, during the time that I’ve been governor,” McDonnell said.
A McDonnell administration review requested by The Virginian-Pilot also indicates neither Williams nor any Star officials have received state board appointments in the governor’s term.
Williams provided Smith Mountain Lake vacations for the governor and attorney general in the past year and underwrote $15,000 in catering costs for the June 2011 wedding of McDonnell’s daughter Cailin at the Executive Mansion.
His political contributions to McDonnell exceed $108,000, according to the Virginia Public Access Project, a nonpartisan tracker of money in politics. But it’s the personal gifts that have become a nuisance for the governor and Cuccinelli, who hopes to succeed his fellow Republican.
McDonnell didn’t report the wedding gift to his daughter because state law requires only public officials to disclose personal gifts worth more than $50, not family members.
In the wake of the wedding revelation came news that McDonnell and first lady Maureen McDonnell hosted an August 2011 event at the Executive Mansion promoting an anti-inflammatory supplement from Star, a former tobacco company.
The governor’s staff downplays the significance of that gathering, noting it’s one of more than 300 events hosted at the mansion during McDonnell’s term.
Much of the new information about Star and Williams is found in court filings from the embezzlement case of former mansion chef Todd Schneider, who’s charged with four counts of taking state property worth more than $200. Schneider worked for McDonnell in the first two years of his term — he catered Cailin McDonnell’s wedding — before his employment ended in March 2012 under the cloud of a Virginia State Police investigation into the theft allegations.
His defense lawyer is trying to get the indictment dismissed for several reasons, explaining in one motion that Schneider was told by mansion staff to take state property in trade for uncompensated catering work.
Another defense argument is that Cuccinelli chose to prosecute the case despite his “conflicting personal, financial, and political interests” that denied Schneider due process.
Cuccinelli has also cited conflicts in asking the court to let him step away from the case and appoint a special prosecutor. That request could be decided at a Richmond Circuit Court hearing Thursday.
He just recused his office from a $700,000 tax lawsuit against Virginia by Star Scientific, a company he belatedly disclosed his investments in. Cuccinelli said he also forgot to report some other gifts from Williams.
The attorney general has told the court it would be problematic for him to handle a criminal matter involving members of the governor’s administration that he is legal counsel for by law.
And he has pointed out that a key defense witness, the first lady’s former chief of staff, works for a Richmond-based fundraising firm he has financial ties to; Cuccinelli paid the company more than $117,000 last year.
The McDonnell family links to Star Scientific and Williams have become entwined in that case and apparently attracted interest from the FBI.
Schneider’s dismissal motion filed Monday references a March 8, 2012, meeting with an attorney on Cuccinelli’s staff and FBI agents where the chef provided evidence of “wrongdoing” by the McDonnells. Recent published reports suggest agents have continued asking questions about McDonnell’s connections to Williams in recent months.
Earlier this year, federal authorities subpoenaed Star for documents as part of an investigation into company securities transactions.
The status of either inquiry is unclear. Officials with the FBI, the Justice Department and Virginia State Police said they could not confirm or deny an investigation.
Speaking on Washington-area radio station WTOP Tuesday, McDonnell didn’t directly address the prospect of a federal investigation focusing on him, and instead sought to assure listeners “there’s nothing going on at all at this time that impairs my ability to do a good job and to serve the people of Virginia.”
Weather JournalWarmth next 2 days hits icy wall