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The Virginia governor apologized for embarrassing the state over loans his wife and a business he owns with his sister accepted.
Associated Press | File 2011
The repayments include a $52,278 loan Star Scientific CEO Jonnie Williams (left) gave to Virginia first lady Maureen McDonnell (right) along with $71,837 for two loans to a real estate business Bob McDonnell and his sister own.
Wednesday, July 24, 2013
Virginia’s governor apologized for embarrassing the state over loans his wife and a business he owns with his sister accepted from the chief executive of a company that’s trying to overturn a $1.7 million state tax bill and that used the Executive Mansion to launch a new product.
Gov. Bob McDonnell said Tuesday that he has repaid loans that Star Scientific chief executive officer Jonnie Williams made to his wife and to a family business he and his sister own.
“I am deeply sorry for the embarrassment certain members of my family and I brought upon my beloved Virginia and her citizens,” McDonnell said.
“I want you to know that I broke no laws and that I am committed to regaining your sacred trust and confidence,” he added.
The repayments include $52,278 for a loan to McDonnell’s wife in 2011 and $71,837 for two loans to a real estate business McDonnell and his sister own.
The payments include more than $4,000 in interest as well as the $120,000 principal amount of the three loans.
Funds from the repayments came from McDonnell, his family or the business itself, the governor said, although he provided no details.
“It’s a solid first step and the governor should be commended for doing it,” said Larry Sabato, director of the University of Virginia Center for Politics.
“Sometimes public officials just can’t say they are sorry. McDonnell has,” he added. “But this is awfully late. The drip-drip has been going on for many weeks. And the grand jury is operating. And a campaign for his successor is ongoing. I think a full recovery will be difficult.”
McDonnell and his family have also received tens of thousands of dollars of other gifts from Williams, who has also given gifts valued at nearly $19,000 to Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli.
McDonnell did not say whether he and his wife will reimburse Williams for the $15,000 he gave to cater one daughter’s wedding gift or the $10,000 he gave to help pay for another daughter’s wedding or return a Rolex watch he bought and that Maureen McDonnell gave the governor, or a $10,000 leather jacket, designer shoes and dress and handbag Williams bought for Maureen McDonnell.
Asked about those items, as well as several thousands of dollars worth of flights, entertainment and lodging Williams provided, Bob McDonnell spokesman Rich Galen said “We are announcing today he has repaid the loans.”
He repeated that when asked if that meant McDonnell would not return the other gifts or pay for them.
“Governor McDonnell’s announcement is clearly an implicit acknowledgment that accepting tens of thousands of dollars from Star Scientific CEO Jonnie Williams is ethically questionable,” said ProgressVA Executive Director Anna Scholl.
Democrats called on Cuccinelli to follow McDonnell’s lead and apologize for accepting the gifts he received from Williams and to provide more details about his own relationship with the executive.
The attorney general, who is running for governor, has said Williams never received special treatment and that a Star Scientific lawsuit seeking to overturn its state tax assessment was handled like any other case.
Although that case languished in court for nearly two years, a special investigation by Richmond Commonwealth’s Attorney Mike Herring found no signs that Cuccinelli’s relationship with Williams, or his investments in Star, including a $10,000 purchase of shares after the suit was filed, affected the state’s handling of the case.
The Republican leadership of the House of Delegates, meanwhile, praised McDonnell for his decision.
“We appreciate his honesty and willingness to address this issue in a forthcoming manner. This is an important step toward regaining the trust and confidence of the people of Virginia,” the party’s House leaders said in a joint statement.
They said they will push for rigorous reporting requirements on gifts to immediate family members in the next General Assembly session.
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