Politics

01.22.14

Up to Speed: Bob McDonnell Scandal

The details in the indictments against former Governor Bob McDonnell and his wife are devastating. The Daily Beast gets you up to speed.

The previous governor of Virginia, Republican Bob McDonnell, and his wife Maureen were indicted Tuesday on 14 charges of corruption by the feds. From an engraved Rolex to private-plane shopping trips to Fifth Avenue, the file on Virginia’s former First Couple is lousy with lucre. Here’s what to know. 

Who is Bob McDonnell and why do I care?

McDonnell was close to being Mitt Romney’s veep pick thanks to his swing-state job and Mitt-level good looks and hair. In 2010, McDonnell gave the GOP’s response to President Obama’s State of the Union. Like another embattled Republican governor, Chris Christie, McDonnell was elected in 2009 (and only served one term thanks to Virginia’s term limit.)

What are the McDonnells being charged with exactly?

Wire fraud, conspiracy to commit wire fraud (double whammy), obtaining property under color of official right (using his office to get loot), giving false statement, and obstruction of an official proceeding. Basically, they’re alleged to have accepted at least $165,000 worth of gifts from a tobacco entrepreneur Jonnie R. Williams Sr. in return for giving his Star Scientific, Inc. help.

Wait, Star Scientific is a tobacco biz?

Sort of. The Virginia company produced dietary supplements, notably CigRx, a tobacco alternative, and Anatabloc, which was to be used as an anti-inflammatory support. However, Star Scientific couldn’t make claims about their products because they aren’t approved by the FDA. So the feds say McDonnell and his wife became pitchmen for Star Scientific, attending events and emailing the state’s tobacco commission to help Star.

What were some of the alleged gifts?

· An all-expenses-paid trip to New York in which $10,000 was dropped at Oscar de la Renta, $5,685 at Louis Vuitton, and $2,604 at Bergdorf Goodman, in return for Williams being seated next to McDonnell at a Union League Club event.

· A $50,000 loan with two-year term at five percent interest.

· $15,000 to cover the McDonnell’s daughter’s wedding.

· $2,380 in charges at the Kinloch Gold Club to Williams’ member account. That was just one instance. Numerous instances of McDonnell’s sons using the account are detailed.

· Use of Williams’ vacation home, and Maureen McDonnell allegedly called “to ask whether JW’s Ferrari would be at the house for Robert McDonnell’s use.” So a Star Scientific employee allegedly hustled it on over there.

· A Rolex with “71st Governor of Virginia” engraved on the back

· A dinner at La Grotta restaurant in Richmond costing $1,423.

Why did the McDonnells allegedly do it?

“We are broke,” Maureen McDonnell wrote in an email. “I need to talk to you about Inaugural clothing budget. I need answers and Bob is screaming about the thousands I’m charging up in credit card debt.”

Rental properties in a company called MoBo Real Estate Properties, in which the McDonnell’s had a 50 percent stake, were also a concern, particularly for the governor. In 2011, the governor allegedly had a conversation with Williams, where he said “the rental income from the defendants’ rental properties in Virginia Beach was not covering the bills from those properties,” and allegedly asked for that $50,000 loan.

In 2012, according to the indictment, McDonnell sent a text message to Williams saying, “Per voicemail would like to see if you could extend another 20K loan for this year. Call if possible and I’ll ask [MU] to send instructions.”

He also allegedly emailed his own children to gin up business for the rental homes, saying, “Kids. Asking for help, need to rent the beach houses at Sandbridge more. Willing to give your friends a discount for the times it’s tougher to rent.”

And he claims what now?

At a press conference, McDonnell declared that he was innocent, and that he will “face these false allegations with strength and firm resolve.” Oh, and apparently the case is the result of an “unjust overreach of the federal government.”

Oh, and this is a very sad day for Virginia.

This is the first time in its 200+ years that Virginia has ever had a governor facing criminal charges. Illinois must be feeling schadenfreude.