Just last night, while reporting on Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell’s (R) efforts to address one aspect of the scandal surrounding him, Rachel noted that the governor’s term in office ends officially in January, but “smart bookmakers everywhere are taking bets on whether or not he makes it that far.”
In light of a new Washington Post report, published this morning, the odds of McDonnell’s political survival are considerably worse.
A prominent political donor gave $70,000 to a corporation owned by Virginia Gov. Robert F. McDonnell and his sister last year, and the governor did not disclose the money as a gift or loan, according to people with knowledge of the payments.
The donor, wealthy businessman Jonnie R. Williams Sr., also gave a previously unknown $50,000 check to the governor’s wife, Maureen, in 2011, the people said.
The money to the corporation and Maureen McDonnell brings to $145,000 the amount Williams gave to assist the McDonnell family in 2011 and 2012 – funds that are now at the center of federal and state investigations.
Making matters slightly worse, the Post also reports this morning on a $10,000 “gift” the Star Scientific CEO gave to McDonnell’s eldest daughter, intended to help defray costs of her May 2013 wedding. You might be thinking, “Wait, didn’t we already know about Jonnie Williams helping pay for one of the governor’s daughter’s wedding?” We did, but this is another daughter – Williams gave $15,000 to help pay for Cailin McDonnell’s wedding in 2011 and then $10,000 to help finance Jeanine McDonnell’s wedding this year.
All of the extravagant gifts coincided with McDonnell and his wife working to promote Star Scientific and its products.
The governor may have a very good attorney, but it’s increasingly difficult to imagine how the governor stays in office. Indeed, one angle to keep an eye on in the coming days is how quickly Virginia Republicans begin to distance themselves from McDonnell as the scandal grows more serious. For one noteworthy GOP official in particular, that’s likely to be tricky.
The University of Virginia’s Larry Sabato said last night that we should expect state Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, for example, to “break openly and sharply” with the governor “very soon.” And that would certainly make sense – Cuccinelli is in a competitive race to replace McDonnell, and won’t want to be tarnished by the allegations.
But that may be more difficult for Cuccinelli than is commonly known. Star Scientific’s Jonnie Williams may have been almost criminally generous to McDonnell, but he also directed over $13,000 worth of gifts to Cuccinelli, too – gifts the right-wing state Attorney General did not disclose.
On several occasions, Cuccinelli even vacationed in Williams’ beach house, despite the fact that Cuccinelli was ostensibly overseeing Star Scientific’s $1.7 million tax dispute with Virginia at the time.
Cuccinelli may want to start backing away from McDonnell in light of the scandal, but that’s easier said than done.