The election is over. The transition teams are forming. And the GiftGate legal bills keep mounting.
Taxpayers are now facing $575,000 in total charges, according to The Washington Post. These include $331,000 in fees charged in July, August and September by two law firms representing state employees in the Gov. Robert F. McDonnell gift scandal.
That is on top of $244,000 in earlier bills.
White shoe Baker & McKenzie which began representing members of the governor’s staff in July is hitting the state at a $450 an hour rate.
Eckert Seamans Cherin & Merlot, including star lawyer and former Democratic attorney general Tony Troy, are a little bit more of a bargain at $250 an hour.
Among state employees benefiting from private counsel because of Attorney General Kenneth Cuccinelli’s involvement in the case are employees at Virginia Commonwealth University, which researched received grants to study products made by Star Scientific, whose soon-to-depart CEO Jonnie R. Williams gave the McDonnells about $160,000 in gifts and loans, which McDonnell has since returned. Also benefiting from private counsel is the Virginia State Police.
McDonnell, still the target of a federal probe, has a private group that is raising funds to help him out. There isn’t much available about who they are, but a group called “The Restoration Fund” has filed to become a non-profit company and has solicited funds to help pay McDonnell’s legal bills.
Among the heads of the Restoration fund is Virginia Beach lawyer Stanley Baldwin who apparently has ties to AMERIGROUP and Wellpoint that help manage the state’s Medicaid federal health money for the poor program.
Another leader is Jason Miyares, a Norfolk lawyer who graduated from the College of William & Mary Law School and blogs at the popular conservative site Bearing Drift. State employees are not supposed to make contributions to the McDonnell defense fund and the donations are not tax deductible.
I tried to look up The Restoration Fund at Guidestar but was not successful.
So, here we have the floatsam and jetsam of the outgoing and disastrous McDonnell Administration – a passel of legal bills that the taxpayers will be stuck with.
In normal times, they would have been handled by Cuccinelli’s office, but he was too busy running unsuccessfully for governor and was tied to tightly to Giftgate through some dubious connections of his own, namely to Todd Schneider, the fired executive chief of McDonnell who copped a plea for misdemeanor embezzlement charges in September.
Cuccinelli didn’t have the decency to resign from his public job when he decided to run for governor and guess who is indirectly paying the bill for that? You are, Dear Taxpayer. You might want to remember this if the Cooch makes a stab at the U.S. Senate race in the future.
As for McDonnell, well, the clock’s still ticking at the U.S. Attorney’s office regarding possible indictments. The next few weeks could be extremely interesting. It’s time to get the ball rolling for a State Ethics Commission.