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If McDonnell is truly contrite, he should stop trying to rationalize gifts and loans from a big donor.
Thursday, August 1, 2013
Gov. Bob McDonnell seems to understand the embarrassment he has caused himself for the gifts and loans that he and his family accepted from businessman Jonnie Williams Sr.
“I have gone through a lot of self-reflection,” McDonnell said Tuesday during an uncomfortable appearance on a Washington, D.C. radio show. “I have understood that some choices that have been made have undermined trust with the citizens. It’s hurt me very deeply because I value that trust very, very much.”
McDonnnell said Tuesday that he will return gifts from Williams that are still in his possession, including a Rolex watch that was given to him by his wife but paid for by Williams. The governor explained that he will use personal and family assets to repay more than $120,000 in loans that Williams made to McDonnell’s wife and a real estate company owned by McDonnell and his sister.
But even as the governor recognized the need “to restore trust with the people of Virginia,” he continued trying to rationalize his actions by proclaiming that he has complied with state’s Swiss cheese ethics laws. McDonnell didn’t disclose a luxury shopping spree and lavish wedding gifts showered on his wife and daughter because the law didn’t require him to, he said.
True enough. But beyond the question of disclosure is whether McDonnell should have allowed himself and his family to accept such gifts and loans, especially since Willliams’ company, Star Scientific, is in a protracted tax dispute with the state. McDonnell has repeatedly denied giving Williams any benefit in exchange for the businessman’s largesse.
McDonnell can cling to the fig leaf of the state’s weak ethics laws, but most Virginians can see through it and distinguish right from wrong. Time will tell if the governor broke any state or federal laws. But the verdict on his judgment has been rendered.
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