Republican Gov. Bob McDonnell announced Tuesday he would repay loans he and his family received from a controversial donor, apologizing for the investigations into his relationship with Star Scientific CEO Jonnie Williams.
“I am deeply sorry for the embarrassment certain members of my family and I brought upon my beloved Virginia and her citizens,” McDonnell said in a statement. “I want you to know that I broke no laws and that I am committed to regaining your sacred trust and confidence. I hope today’s action is another step toward that end.”
McDonnell said he had repaid $52,278.12 for a $50,000 loan made to his wife, first lady Maureen McDonnell, in 2011, and $71,837 for loans Williams made to a real estate company McDonnell owns with his sister.
“Virginia has never been stronger and I plan to focus on creating even more jobs and facilitating greater opportunity during the last five months of my term as your governor,” McDonnell said in his statement.
The loans and gifts from Williams to McDonnell and his family have been the subject of federal and state investigations into the incumbent governor, as he seeks to salvage the final few months of his term. In addition to loans to the family, Williams also paid for catering at McDonnell’s daughter’s wedding, a New York shopping excursion for his wife and a $6,500 Rolex for the governor.
The looming scandal has had implications on the closely watched race to succeed him, between Republican Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli and Democratic nominee Terry McAuliffe.
Cuccinelli had also accepted and failed to disclose gifts from Williams, including a catered Thanksgiving dinner and a stay at his vacation home. Cuccinelli amended his disclosures earlier this year and also sold stock he owned in Star Scientific. A report last week cleared the attorney general of any wrongdoing in his disclosures.
But the controversy around McDonnell, who could have been an important surrogate for Cuccinelli in this November’s close election, was a focal point at the first debate between the two men last Saturday.
Cuccinelli said it was “appropriate” for McDonnell to be asked whether he should resign, but said as attorney general he shouldn’t weigh in. McAuliffe said McDonnell “shouldn’t be tried through the media” and investigations should run their course.
A Quinnipiac University survey last week showed that 42% of respondents said they had heard a lot about federal and state investigations into McDonnell’s relationship with Williams. While 49% said they still didn’t know enough about the matter, 27% said they believed it was a serious matter, up from just 12% in May. A 41% plurality said they weren’t satisfied over how McDonnell has handled the controversy, but 61% also said they didn’t believe he should resign.