Gift probes back in focus in Virginia governor’s race

Updated
Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell (R-VA) answers questions following a battleground preservation announcement at Ball's Bluff State Park August 15, 2013 in...
Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell (R-VA) answers questions following a battleground preservation announcement at Ball's Bluff State Park August 15, 2013 in...
Win McNamee/Getty Images

Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell and his wife’s attorneys are set to meet with federal prosecutors over the ongoing gifts scandal that has engulfed the final months of the Republican’s term, the Washington Post reports.

And with the investigations that have consumed state politics back in the headlines, Democrat Terry McAuliffe, who is vying for McDonnell’s job, released his first ad Monday that hits his opponent, Republican Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, on gifts he also accepted from the controversial GOP donor.

The outgoing McDonnell faces ongoing federal and state probes into his relationship with Star Scientific CEO Jonnie Williams Sr. The governor and his family received more than $140,000 in gifts from the  nutritional supplement head, including $15,000 in clothing to the first lady, a Rolex watch for the governor, and paying for catering for the wedding of one of the couple’s daughters. Williams also gave $120,000 to Maureen McDonnell and a loan to a small real estate company owned by the governor and his sister.

McConnell has since repaid the loans and returned tangible gifts to Williams. The Post report, however notes that Williams also gave additional gifts to McDonnell’s children, including golf clubs for his twin sons and an iPhone for the first lady.

At the heart of the scandal is what, if anything, McDonnell promised to Williams’ company in return:

According to two people familiar with his version, Williams has countered the account from the governor’s side. He has told authorities that McDonnell frequently spoke with him about ways he and the state could help Star Scientific gain prestige and scientific endorsements for its new anti-inflammatory supplement. The two people and others spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the ongoing investigation.

Williams also has told investigators that the governor was aware of his gifts and thanked him for helping his family during a time of financial strain.

McDonnell has said he broke no laws, tried to comply with state financial disclosure rules and took no unusual actions to assist the struggling nutritional supplement company beyond what he would do for any Virginia company.

The scandal hasn’t just marred McDonnell’s final months in office and tarnished any future national political plans the once-popular governor might have had, with Cuccinelli also having accepted gifts from Williams.

The GOP nominee, hoping to succeed McDonnell in a closely-watched contest with McAuliffe, a former chairman of the Democratic National Committee, admitted earlier this year to accepting gifts from Williams, including stays at his waterfront property and a catered Thanksgiving dinner, and also owned stock in the company. Cuccinelli has since sold that stock and amended his disclosures, and was cleared of any wrongdoing after amending his disclosures.

However, Cuccinelli has said he won’t repay Williams for the gifts, and said earlier this month at a campaign forum that writing a check for the $18,000 in gifts wasn’t “something I can do, from my family’s perspective.”

But McAuliffe’s campaign released its first ad on Monday, hitting Cuccinelli over the Williams gifts scandal. McAuliffe has faced questions over his involvement with his former electric car company, GreenTech, now under investigation for visas it helped secure for foreign investors. In an op-ed Friday in the Post, McAuliffe reiterated that he had no knowledge of the investigation, and defended what critics have derided as the company’s dismal business record.

Watch McAuliffe’s ad on the Star Scientific scandal below:

Gift probes back in focus in Virginia governor's race

Updated