FBI Joins McDonnell Probe

Image: FBI Joins McDonnell Probe

Tuesday, 30 Apr 2013 11:33 AM

By Melanie Batley

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The FBI is investigating the relationship between Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell, his wife, and a major campaign donor who paid for the food at their daughter’s wedding and spent thousands of dollars on vacations for the couple.

Agents are questioning associates of McDonnell and his wife Maureen about the gifts from Star Scientific chief executive Jonnie Williams Sr., some of which have been previously undisclosed, The Washington Post reported Tuesday.

Though the inquiry is part of a federal investigation of securities transactions involving Star Scientific, the agency is considering whether to broaden the probe to examine whether the Republican governor and his wife have promoted the company in exchange for monetary gain and other benefits.

Agents and police investigators are also reviewing Star Scientific’s financial records, and campaign donations. With enough evidence, investigators may open a formal public corruption inquiry.

The U.S. Attorney’s office, the FBI, and Williams’ attorney have all declined to comment. McDonnell spokesman Tucker Martin also refused to discuss it, saying, “It is the policy of the governor’s office to not comment on any possible investigations.”

In the past, McDonnell has said Williams is a personal friend and the efforts to promote Virginia-based Star Scientific are in line with the governor’s job to boost state-based businesses.

But in recent weeks, the McDonnell family’s relationship with the head of Star Scientific has received heightened media scrutiny after the disclosure that Williams and his company have given McDonnell and his political action committee more than $120,000 in donations and gifts.

McDonnell also allowed the company to use the governor’s mansion for a 2011 lunch, paid for by the governor’s political action fund, to launch a dietary supplement called Anatabloc. Maureen McDonnell flew to Florida that year to promote the product to a gathering of doctors and investors.

Still, the company does not appear to have benefited from any state incentive grants or other state financial assistance, according to the Post.

Earlier this month, The Washington Post reported that the governor and his family took a four day lake-house vacation at Williams’ home in 2011, at the end of which they borrowed a Ferrari for a three-hour drive back to Richmond. The vacation, worth $1,892, was just one part of a total of $2,268 the governor received in “lodging and entertainment” from Williams that year.

The Post also reported that Williams provided $15,000 for the catering of McDonnell’s daughter, Cailin’s June 2011 wedding, a gift the governor did not disclose at the time.
McDonnell has repeatedly declined to say whether Williams gave undisclosed gifts to members of his family, as state law doesn’t require it.

Under Virginia law, there is no limit to the number or value of gifts elected officials can receive, as long as they are disclosed annually.

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