Gov. McDonnell back on defense over Star Scientific
RICHMOND, VA (WTVR) — Governor Bob McDonnell had no problems discussing the current state of Virginia finances during his annual budget address to lawmakers Monday.
“For the fourth straight year we generated a significant budget increase,” McDonnell said.
However, the Governor did take issue with reporters’ questions regarding his own personal finances, specifically his family’s relationship with Star Scientific CEO Jonnie Williams.
“I am talking about the budget of Virginia today, I don’t have anything to say about those other subjects,” McDonnell told reporters.
Although the Governor wasn’t talking, his attorneys were. The Washington Post first reported that McDonnell’s legal team and the First Ladies’s separate lawyers met with federal prosecutors in Alexandria on Monday.
They were attempting to make a case to investigators that McDonnell does not deserve an indictment for his relationship with Williams.
While the Governor has repeatedly said he did nothing illegal, prosecutors are probing whether Williams got anything in return from the Governor for the thousands of dollars worth of gifts and loans Williams gave him over the years.
Such gifts included Rolex watches, family vacations, loans for his real estate business, and even a $15,000 dollar check to his daughter for her wedding.
Over the weekend lawyers for Mrs. McDonnell confirmed to CBS 6 reporter Joe St. George that the First Lady owned previously unreported stock in Star Scientific, stock her attorney says the Governor did not know existed.
This revelation is the first time that the success of the McDonnell family finances were connected to the success of Star Scientific. As for any potential indictment timeline, experts say prosecutors are running out of time.
On one hand, prosecutors tend to want to make indictments when politicians are currently in office. McDonnell has less than five months in the Governors Mansion.
On the other hand, prospectors also do not like making indictments of politicians around Election Day. There are just under eighty days left before the Governors race is decided.
“They don’t want to be seen as doing this somehow to influence the gubernatorial election,” CBS 6 political analyst Dr. Bob Holsworth said.
But ethics expert Dr. David Brat of Randolph Macon says the bigger issue facing McDonnell in his final days in office may not be a legal one, but an ethical one as Virginians begin to judge the Governor’s actions individually.
“In the old days the moral law and the legal law were thought to be one in the same but today we are in a whole new world,” Brat said.