Report: Donor Thought McDonnell Was Helping Company Get State Funding

The wealthy Virginia businessman and political donor at the center of the federal investigation of Gov. Bob McDonnell (R) has told prosecutors he believed the governor was helping his company get research funding during the time he was providing McDonnell and his family with tens of thousands of dollars in money and gifts, The Washington Post reported on Friday.  

In its article, The Post cited two people familiar with the account of Jonnie Williams, the CEO of a dietary supplements company called Star Scientific. The Post also obtained emails from researchers and scientists working with the company, which show that they thought McDonnell and his wife, Maureen McDonnell, wanted Star Scientific to get funding from Virginia’s tobacco commission.  

The tobacco commission distributes funds from Virginia’s share of the 1998 legal settlement with the major tobacco companies. But, according to the Post, records show that Star did not receive any funding from the commission, and the McDonnells maintain that they never tried to help William’s company get the funding. 

From the Post:

McDonnell has acknowledged that his family took more than $150,000 worth of gifts and cash the governor has said were loans from Williams. But his legal team says that any claims from Williams that the governor agreed to help the businessman or his company in exchange for the gifts are not credible.

“The governor never asked or directed anyone . . . to assist Star Scientific in obtaining research funding from the Virginia Tobacco Fund,” spokesman Jason Miyares said in a written statement. “Also, the Governor never told anyone at Star Scientific that he would try to help the company get funding from the Tobacco Commission.”

A key question for prosecutors is who is most believable about the interactions between the governor and Williams.

Read the whole Post article here

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Eric Lach is a reporter for TPM. From 2010 to 2011, he was a news writer in charge of the website?s front page. He has previously written for The Daily, NewYorker.com, GlobalPost and other publications. He can be reached at ericl@talkingpointsmemo.com
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