That drip, drip, drip sound you keep hearing is coming from Virginia, where details about the ongoing federal probe of Gov. Bob McDonnell (R) continue to appear in the press.
Over the weekend, The Washington Post published its latest in a series of indispensable articles about the scandal. In it, the paper reported that McDonnell was aware of the tens of thousands of dollars in gifts and other financial help provided to his family by Virginia businessman Jonnie Williams. The Post’s story also revealed several additional gifts Williams gave Virginia’s first family, and reported that prosecutors have asked the attorneys for the governor and his wife, Maureen McDonnell, to attempt a second round of discussions by the week of Sept. 15.As in its past stories on the scandal, the Post’s latest report relied in large part on anonymous people “familiar with documents and interviews gathered by federal investigators.”
A rundown of the big news in the piece:
1. The Governor Knew About The Gifts
The governor was aware of Williams’ generosity towards his family during the same period of time that he and his wife took steps to help Williams’ company, a struggling dietary supplements company named Star Scientific. Bob McDonnell and his representatives have suggested that Maureen McDonnell kept the governor in the dark about the extent of Williams’ gifts.
From the Post:
The governor could not have been influenced to improperly help the Star Scientific executive, [attorneys for the governor and first lady] asserted, based on gifts he didn’t know about at the time. The couple’s attorneys told prosecutors that Maureen McDonnell worked to hide Williams’s gifts because she feared her husband’s disapproval, the people said.
2. There Were More Gifts
More than $150,000 in gifts and payments from Williams to the McDonnells has been made public since the scandal first made news earlier this year. The Post has added a few more items to the inventory.
First, Williams paid for Bob and Maureen McDonnell to fly up and stay on Cape Cod over Labor Day weekend last year. Williams and his wife joined the McDonnells that weekend, as did Johns Hopkins University doctor Paul Ladenson, who has served as a consultant to Star Scientific. Williams also paid more than $7,000 in golf outings and equipment for McDonnell, his twin college-aged sons, and members of his staff. Finally, at a September 2011 fundraiser in Richmond, Va. for the American Cancer Society, Williams put in the winning bid, $15,000, to give Maureen McDonnell a weekend in New York and a tour of the fashion district with the designer designer Alex Garfield. Garfield told the Post that Maureen McDonnell had not claimed her prize.
3. Williams Was Expensing Gifts
According to sources who spoke with the Post, Williams was reimbursed by Star Scientific for many of the gifts he gave the McDonnells, “a sign that he viewed the gifts as a business expense that would pay dividends to the company.” Star Scientific has told investigators that it was not aware, at first, that Williams was using company money to pay for the gifts.
It’s worth noting here that McDonnell has for weeks been referring to his friendship with Williams in the past tense, and his team has begun actively attacking the businessman.
“It is important for citizens to take much of what Mr. Williams says with a grain of salt,” Rich Galen, McDonnell’s private spokesperson, told the Post.
4. Investigation Has Hit Delays
The timing for filing any charges in the probe is being complicated by Virginia’s looming Election Day. Prosecutors do not want the perception that their work influences the results of the gubernatorial contest between Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli (R) and former Democratic National Committee chairman Terry McAuliffe. From the Post:
What had been an unusually fast-paced investigation has hit some delays as prosecutors consider the evidence, including the governor’s account and new information, several people familiar with the probe say.