What's a little funny about the controversy surrounding Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell is how many of the questionable gifts his family received from donors involve vanity. Federal officials are investigating whether McDonnell's wife, Maureen, received free cosmetic dental work from W. Baxter Perkinson Jr., The Washington Post's Laura Vozzella and Rosalind S. Helderman report on Friday. Add that alleged gift to the recently disclosed gifts from donor Jonnie R. Williams, which include $15,000 in clothes in a Bergdorf Goodman shopping spree for Maureen McDonnell, a $6,500 Rolex watch McDonnell says he thought his wife bought him, and loans and payments of $145,000 to the family, including two of their daughters. Plus, investigators are looking at jewelry and furniture gifts. As the Post understatedly puts it, Maureen McDonnell's dental work fits in well among the other gifts that "appear to have been aimed at polishing her image as first lady."
McDonnell's spokesman Rich Galen, claiming he was speaking hypothetically, said of the dental work allegation, "It wasn’t reported, but it didn’t have to be reported." Virginia state law doesn't require officials to disclose gifts to family members. The governor was once seen as a potential Republican presidential candidate. Now some "downcast McDonnell allies... privately express doubt that he’ll be able to serve out his term," Politico's Alexander Burns reported last week. McDonnell's salary is $175,000, and Business Insider's Josh Barro thinks that's too low, because "it's not nearly enough money to match the lifestyle of the sort of people you become surrounded by when you are a powerful political leader." Being a politician is expensive. McDonnell is paying out of pocket for Galen to serve as a spokesman on issues involving the investigation.
But it's fascinating how many of the controversial gifts McDonnell received involved looking pretty. Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli also received gifts from Jonnie Williams (pictured above with Maureen McDonnell), head of Star Scientific, a dietary supplement company. But the gifts Cuccinelli received are slightly different from the ones McDonnell's family got. The Cuccinelli gifts included a $1,500 Thanksgiving dinner, a $3,000 stay at Williams' lodge, plus travel on a private jet. And he owned $10,000 in Star Scientific stock that he initially did not disclose. Cuccinelli was cleared of wrongdoing by prosecutors on Thursday. There's no evidence Cuccinelli "in any way, promoted supported or assisted Star Scientific while he had a financial interest in the company," a prosecutor's report said. Investigators are still probing whether McDonnell used his office to promote Star Scientific.
- Bob McDonnell