Things seemed to be going pretty well for Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D). Just last week, a poll showed the Democrat with a 58% approval rating, and there was occasional chatter about the governor being considered as a VP contender – scuttlebutt that he was only too pleased to encourage.
Late yesterday, however, the news surrounding McAuliffe took a sudden turn for the worse. NBC News confirmed that the FBI is investigating whether the Virginia governor accepted illegal contributions during his 2013 statewide campaign.
CNN first reported Monday that the Democratic governor is the subject of a federal investigation into whether he violated campaign finance laws. McAuliffe’s office told CNN they were not aware of the investigation, but would cooperate if contacted.As part of the probe, investigators are looking into a $120,000 donation from Chinese businessman Wang Wenliang through his U.S. businesses, according to the report. It is against U.S. election law for foreign nationals to donate to political races here. A spokesman for Wang told CNN the businessman holds permanent resident status in the U.S.
The governor’s office said last night that neither McAuliffe nor his former campaign operation has any knowledge of the investigation.
It’s hard to say with confidence whether the allegations have merit, and if McAuliffe hasn’t even been contacted as part of the probe, it’s possible the investigation may not amount to anything. Time will tell.
But as Rachel noted on the show last night, it’s hard not to feel a little bad for the commonwealth.
Remember, McAuliffe’s immediate predecessor Republican Bob McDonnell, was convicted of corruption allegations and is currently appealing a two-year prison sentence. Given Virginia’s reputation for effective governance, the McDonnell scandal was a shock to the state’s political system.
When he left office, and McAuliffe stepped in, there was a sense that the transition would make it easier for Virginia to move past the McDonnell unpleasantness. Except now McAuliffe’s future is in jeopardy, too.
Sure, it’ll be a while before Virginia competes with Illinois in the category of “States with Scandal-Plagued Governors,” but I don’t imagine that will make Virginians feel any better.