Nearly one year after the Washington Post broke news that then-Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell was under federal investigation for his relationship with Star Scientific, a dietary supplement company, both the former governor and his wife have been indicted on federal corruption charges.
As the Post noted this afternoon, “Authorities alleged that McDonnell and his wife received gifts from executive Jonnie R. Williams again and again, lodging near constant requests for money, clothes, trips, golf accessories and private plane rides.”
Overall, the couple was charged with 14 felony counts, ranging from wire fraud and conspiracy to commit wire to making false statements to a federal credit union and, in the case of Maureen McDonnell, obstructing the investigation.
In a statement, the former governor denied he had broken the law, apologized for his “poor judgment,” and promised to “use every available resource and advocate” to “fight these false allegations, and to prevail against this unjust overreach of the federal government.”
The “gifts scandal” took place over the course of McDonnell’s administration, beginning after he was sworn in as governor. During this period, he received more than a $160,000 in gifts and funds from Williams, in addition to loans, luxury transportation and housing, political contributions, and catering for his daughter’s wedding. During this time, the McDonnells purchased a stake in Star Scientific—buying and selling shares in a way that would avoid disclosure requirements—and Maureen McDonnell used the governor’s mansion to host an informational session on the company’s products.
Politically, this was a disaster for the Virginia Republican Party. In addition to plunging McDonnell into criminal proceedings—a first for a governor in the commonwealth—and destroying his national ambitions, the scandal also harmed the party’s gubernatorial nominee, then-Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, who had also received gifts from Williams, to the tune of $18,000. Indeed, it was this—along with Cuccinelli’s other weaknesses—that opened a path to victory for the Democrats’ vulnerable nominee, Terry McAuliffe.
With McDonnell’s indictment, and the ongoing investigation into New Jersey Governor Chris Christie’s role in “bridgegate,” this month has been terrible for the GOP class of 2009. The two governors were supposed to stand as standard-bearers for the right against the overreach of Barack Obama. Instead, one is headed to political oblivion, and the other is staring it in its face.
And as for Obama? He’s still the president.