RICHMOND, Va. – The latest NBC/Marist poll covering Virginia finds Governor Bob McDonnell, despite months of headlines and apologizes over self-admitted ethical mistakes, surprisingly popular with Virginians across the political spectrum.
While newspapers contain “anonymous” sources saying federal prosecutors are readying, contemplating indicting the Governor for violation of the Hobbs Act for illegally accepting gifts from “bad boy” GOP donor Jonnie Williams, the people of Virginia do not feel their Governor has done anything approaching felonious conduct.
Indeed, they think he is a doing a relatively good job, and whatever the truth about the donations, it hasn’t affected his stewardship of the state.
Long story short, the people of Virginia, through the polls, are sending the United States prosecutors, all the way to Attorney General Eric Holder, a clear message:
“Stay out of Virginia, we can police our own politicians.”
There is actually some legal basis to their complaint, since the Hobbs Act has been broadly interpreted by federal prosecutors in recent years to reach state conduct not likely considered covered by this federal law when passed by the Congress.
But the federales, believing certain states were too lax in policing state politicians “on the take,” have used the law to go where they feel those local officials refused to tread.
Unlike most states, Virginia has never had a governor who has faced serious federal investigation, much less criminal charges. As best I can tell, the case against McDonnell relies basically on the claim by Mr. Williams that he gave the $150K in monetary gifts to the Governor, his wife, their real estate company and children in exchange for an expectation of help from McDonnell in some way or another and that Virginia’s chief executive knew Williams had this in his mind.
According to the Hobbs as interpreted by the federales, no governor can take any money from anyone – even if the governor has no intention of ever doing anything and never does anything – if the donor’s expectation is known or is reasonably apparent given the circumstances.
McDonnell says he never did anything for Williams and never intended too.
The issue of Williams’ “expectation” has not been addressed.
Of course, if Williams did give the money under such circumstances, he would have violated the law.
So far, Williams has not admitted to that.
Bottom line, the newspapers say Williams has been singing to the federales, implicating the governor and presumably the First Lady in some scheme to help his company, the struggling nutritional supplement firm Star Scientific, previously a tobacco company.
But so far, there is no smoking gun, not even tobacco smoke.
The Governor has admitted he never should have taken Williams’ money, has returned it, and concedes his actions have embarrassed the state.
However, he has asked for a second chance from the people, saying he didn’t break any laws, only got caught needing money due to bad real estate investments.
He thought Williams was friend, helping him.
Long story short, the people believe their governor, not Williams.
Indeed McDonnell’s approval rating, both personally and for his job performance, is higher than a lot of other governors who are not under investigation. This is remarkable, really.
McDonnell is due to leave office in less than three months.
The people of Virginia want him to leave with his head held high for a job reasonably well done.
They have forgiven him as best they can and hope he can finish out on a high note. As best anyone can tell, McDonnell has been trying as best he can with the federal investigation hanging over his head. Virginian’s would prefer to see it go away and have the federales concentrate on the real criminals in the drug trade, terrorism, money laundering, the real bad guys.
In my view, stated months ago, I am not from the “rat school” of criminal law. I have been as hard on the governor as anyone, and he knows. But we are still working together on important education stuff that could really help Virginia and our school children.
He had an ethical brain cramp for sure, long lasting.
But I say, he has been a decent guy, tried hard, but his wife and him tried to maybe live a lifestyle they couldn’t afford, tried to be Donald Trump of Virginia Beach real estate.
He got burnt, cost him big. He made a mistake, but we all do at times.
The people of Virginia have forgiven him. The public is smart.
If all the federales have is Jonnie Williams’ ratting out the governor, then in my view, that ain’t enough by a long shot.
The public voted for him, I voted for his opponent.
The public, Republicans and Democrats, think he has done a good job. There is no state prosecutor going after the governor.
I think federal prosecutors need to consider the wishes of the people under these circumstances.
A prosecutor, as the saying goes, can get a grand jury to indict a “ham sandwich” in the famous phrase of the former top judge in New York State.
The people of Virginia are right, they don’t want their governor treated like a ham sandwich or any other kind of sandwich.
Paul Goldman is in no way affiliated with WTVR. His comments are his own, and do not reflect the views of WTVR or any related entity. Neither WTVR nor any of its employees or agents participated in any way with the preparation of Mr. Goldman’s comments.