Bob McDonnell and Resignation Rumors

mcdonnell-1By Peter Galuszka

Intriguing rumors that Gov. Robert F. McDonnell may resign have picked up momentum following a seemingly endless series of disclosures his acceptance of expensive gifts without disclosing them.

Conservative blog Bearing Drift reported Saturday that two sources had confirmed McDonnell would resign as part of a plea bargain agreement with prosecutors looking into his ties with Jonnie R. Williams, a close friend and head of a dietary supplement maker who gave him gifts and political donations.

That sparked strong denials from the Governor’s office. Leading political analyst Larry Sabato likewise weighed in to knock down the rumors and Bearing Drift’s editors  have said they might end their relationship with the blogger if his reporting proves wrong. McDonnell is being probed by the FBI and a local prosecutor.

Among the curiosities here is that Sabato, an independent observer, felt compelled to take a stab at spin control. Why is that? The revelations keep coming and they get more embarrassing. We’ve gone from the wedding lunch to the Oscar De La Renta shopping spree to the Rolex. When you get top Washington lawyer and fireman Earnest T. Flood in there advising McDonnell, you know something is really wrong and getting worse.

The GOP is loath to admit that Flood is the very same legal muscle Bill Clinton called upon to help him fight impeachment. Does anyone remember listening to Rush Limbaugh back in the late 1990s on Clinton’s travesties? I sure do.

Now we have Rachel Maddow filling that role and I must admit I find her a lot more entertaining than Limbaugh. The sad thing, though, is how this makes Virginia look. McD took a big hit in the national media with his trans-vaginal fight back in 2012 and it cost him his shot at running as Mitt Romney’s VP. This one is a lot bigger.

He latest twist will come today in Richmond when Circuit Judge Margaret P. Spencer will hear a plea from the lawyers of Todd Schneider, McDonnell’s former personal chef, to dismiss the felony charges against him.

The lawyers claim that Schneider was denied due process because Atty. Gen. Kenneth Cuccinelli, a Republican running to replace McDonnell, had personal ties in the case. Cuccinelli had accepted gifts from Jonnie Williams and also did not disclose some stock he owned in Williams’ company, Star Scientific.

After Schneider was canned by McDonnell, he went to the Attorney General’s office in March 2012 with information that McDonnell had accepted undisclosed gifts from Williams. Cuccinelli apparently sat on the material for months. Press reports claim his aides kept him from dealing with it because of his own links to Williams.

Anyway, on it goes. The case is truly ratcheting up.

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31 responses to “Bob McDonnell and Resignation Rumors”

  1. I have three main reactions to GiftGate so far.

    The first is amazement that McDonnell was willing to accept so many personal gifts from Williams. I can’t fathom it. How can any self-respecting person accept gifts of that magnitude from a friend, no matter how wealthy? If a wealthy friend gave me a Rolex watch, I could not possibly accept it. I would place myself under an implicit debt to the gift giver that I could never repay. Even more astounding is that Williams would pay for McDonnell’s wife’s shopping junket and for his daughter’s wedding lunch. What’s going on? What is the nature of that relationship? My sense is that there is an unusual — perhaps even weird — personal dynamic going on here. I think that’s part of what is unsettling people.

    My second reaction is that Virginia’s gift reporting laws are too lax. This kind of coziness should be a matter of public record. If the governor and family members are accepting that kind of largesse from someone, the public has a right to know… and has a right to ask questions. What the heck is going on?

    My third reaction is that it appears, from evidence to surface so far, that there is no quid pro quo. One can legitimately accuse McDonnell of insufficient transparency in reporting the gifts. That’s very different from pulling the levers of power to benefit his friend, Williamson. Talk of McDonnell’s resignation seems absurd at this point.

    But the fact remains, there is a weirdness about this gift giving that doesn’t add up. We still don’t have the whole story. And the media will continue picking away at it until it all makes sense.

  2. larryg Avatar

    re: quid pro quo = ” If a wealthy friend gave me a Rolex watch, I could not possibly accept it. I would place myself under an implicit obligation to the gift giver.”

    come on Bacon… asked and answered!

    I do not think he will resign myself but if he does I expect a bunch of people to say “what for”?

    now if this was Kaine or Warner – all hell would break lose on the right but somehow too many of us expect the conservatives to get their hands caught in the cookie jars….

    why is that?

  3. Neil Haner Avatar
    Neil Haner


    re: the quid pro quo… right now there’s smoke, and while that’s certainly indicative of fire, we still have no proof of fire.

    As of now, when it comes to what we can prove, we can likely prove that McDonnell violated disclosure laws. Violating disclosure laws is not corruption.

    This is not to excuse that behavior. He made a big oopsie. But until there’s evidence to actual corruption, some tangible benefit that McDonnell or Cuccinelli’s friends (or their companies) received from those offices, I don’t think there’s quite the standing to call for resignation.

    1. larryg Avatar

      Neil – accepting money is bribery… you don’t need to identify what specifically the money is for.

      I have the same standard for all politicians – left, right, upside-down, dem or GOP.

      Money is already a POX on our system since it is essentially unlimited for campaigns.

      to accept personal money is terrible and any elected leader doing that is displaying just horrendous judgement that leaves me wondering if he is actually fit to make judgements at all if he can’t get this part right.

  4. billsblots Avatar

    I don’t know enough details and need to research all what has gone on, but this is irritating, among other things, because as a low level state employee with a $25,000 per month spending limit I must fill out a disclosure statement every year and get harped on about not accepting gifts. I don’t let anyone buy me a $5 lunch at Mexico Restaurant or cover my tips to the waiter. I don’t want any perceived obligation to anyone. What the Hell, Gov’? It’s bad enough that procurement people still tell me I have to award contracts to Small, Women, and Minority (SWAM) vendors even though their bid is 15% higher. McDonnell supports that SWAM garbage even though it was Gov Kaine’s Executive Order 33 that created this whole wasteful mess.

  5. This needs to be investigated, but I also question whether this is a WaPo-inspired political attack because Freddie and Lee think there is a risk those stupid Virginians might vote for the GOP. As I recall, there was the usual MSM silence on gifts to Tim Kaine or certainly no constant drumbeat. And, of course, media silence as to how McAuliffe made his mega-millions.

    We need one set of standards. That and an editorial staff at the Post with a modicum of ethics. With a little luck, the Post’s pay screen will fail, while reducing advertising revenues from a smaller readership.

    1. I agree, the WaPo seems ten times more interested in the derelictions of Republicans than Democrats. It will be interesting to see if WaPo ever gets around the recounting how McAuliffe made his money. (I’m not holding my breath.)

  6. Peter Galuszka Avatar
    Peter Galuszka

    As far as a quid pro quo, it is a mystery but the lack of a clear one does not negate or diminish the damage already done. Odd that Star Scientific does not need much in the ay of state regulatory approval. Federal approval for potential drugs is another matter. The stuff is just too much in aggregate to say, “we’ll there’s no qui pro quo so never mind.”
    As far as the WashPost having masterminded this all — the idea is farfetched. The Post was on top of the story first and has supported the majority of the allegations with emails and other documents obtained under the FOIA. The Times Dispatch, the Pilot and Roanoke have all contributed.
    As for letting Dems off the hook — baloney. Remember Chuck Robb and the oceanfront parties? The bugging? That was all over the papers back in the day.

    1. But the Post did give Kaine a pass. A Post reporter told me once that he received pressure from the editorial board whenever he wrote anything remotely critical of Kaine. We heard nothing about any deals between the Tysons landowners and Kaine vis a vis funding the Silver Line, which failed to satisfy US DOT standards. The ethical wall does not exist when there is a risk the GOP will win in Virginia. The Post gave Gerry Connolly a basic pass when he was both VP for SAIC and chairman of the Fairfax County BoS at the time an additional Silver Line station in front of SAIC’s HQ on Route 7. Oh, sure, they wrote about it. But not in the drumbeat style that was used with George Allen and Bob McDonnell.

      One would think that, with all the Post’s concerns about special deals, we’d hear about McAuliffe’s bucks and how they were obtained. But we will hear nothing.

      The Post actually does a good job providing diverse views on most issues, expect for politics in Virginia. Both Chap Petersen and Barbara Comstock voted against the transportation bill for the very same reason – they believed the higher state tax rate imposed on NoVA was wrong. Watch the Post hammer at Comstock this year, but ignore Petersen when he runs for reelection in 2015. One set of rules. Hell, no, not when it comes to Virginia politics.

  7. reluctantactivist Avatar

    Bob McDonnell is hiding behind his wife. Inditement or no, I am sick to death of the politicians who use their wives for cover (left AND right). At the very least, he needs to man up, show a little bit of self-respect and take responsibility for his actions rather than claiming by inference that his wife was doing all the dirty work without his knowledge. I suspect that if an inditement were handed down to HER, he’d be perfectly happy to throw her under the bus. Coward.

  8. larryg Avatar

    re: quid pro quo.

    I remember when I was employed that accepting money was a firing offense regardless of whether a quid-pro-quo was found or not.

    and for good reason.

    It’s pathetic to compare WaPo “taking it easy” on Kaine compared to say, for instance, Kaine taking money from a company with business interests that could be affected by Kaine.

    this is not about “taking it easy (or not) on politician”. Taking money as a public servant from business interest is, in my book, corruption. What the exact nature of the “transaction” was – is irrelevant IMHO.

    This is inexplicable. McDonnell is not a dumb cluck. what possessed the man to take money when just a couple of years earlier he wrote off Phil Hamilton for doing the same exact thing?

    My view is not partisan here. I would be just as harsh if not more so if Kaine or Warner were found to be taking money. It’s just flat unacceptable and any trust that one might have in the integrity of the person just evaporates.

    Even you defenders of the Gov probably no longer trust him either, right?

    1. Larry, the biggest transfer of wealth from taxpayers to private parties in Virginia history most likely occurred with the transactions involving the funding of the Silver Line. First, the proposal did NOT even meet the US DOT grandfathered funding standards. There simply was too much cost for the benefits. Had the law been followed, the Silver Line would not have been built. But, under then-Governor Tim Kaine, the Commonwealth: 1) persuaded US DOT to ignore its standards and agree to fund the Silver Line; 2) transferred the Dulles Toll Road to MWAA without consideration; 3) agreed to a funding plan that limited landowner funding of Phase 1 to $425 million, accepted $900 million from Uncle Sam (money that should not have been spent) and put the rest of the funding (sans a $50 million appropriation from the Commonwealth) on the backs of Dulles Toll Road users. This enabled Fairfax County to grant unprecedented increases in density and development profits to landowners located within 1/4 of a mile from the stations. What did the Dulles Toll Road users get in return? Absolutely nothing, except an unlimited liability for any cost overruns on Phase 1.

      Does traffic congestion on the DTR become less? No. In point of fact, increased motor vehicle traffic on the DTR is increased to the point where as many as three to five new lanes must be built on the DTR and then, by 2030 (using GMU growth projections), the DTR reaches failure every evening.

      Moreover, Gerry Connolly’s former employer, SAIC, was able to share in this windfall because its then-VP was also Chairman of the Board of Supervisors and voted to add a station right in front of SAIC’s Tysons HQ building. The increased costs of the station were largely passed on to DTR users.

      Did Tim and Gerry receive campaign contributions from Tysons landowners? You bet. How much of a bonus did Connolly receive for his work? We don’t know. Did either person also receive any gifts? We don’t know.

      No other governor in Virginia history has transferred so much wealth to private individuals and corporation on the backs of DTR users (the public) as Tim Kaine. Taxpayers are spending billions over time to enable a few to make billions over time. Yet, what has the Washington Post written about the Silver Line. Nothing but lies and another reason to raise taxes on Virginians.

      Any other Virginia Governor is a piker compared to Tim Kaine. He used DTR drivers to enrich the rich and powerful.

      1. larryg Avatar

        TMT – policy decisions are not personal corruption guy. comparing policy decisions to taking money for personal use – betrays a partisan lens.

        I have the same standard for BOTH parties- personal money is bad, unacceptably bad.

        policy decisions are not personal corruption.. whatever else they might be in your view – they are not taking money to put in their own pocket.

        you are clearly partisan on the GOP vs Dem.. guy but defending corruption is not a good thing no matter what party is doing it.

        if you can’t see the difference here.. I’m totally flummoxed..

        1. In 2005, when Kaine was running for Governor, West Group executive John C Ulfelder gave Kaine’s campaign $30,000. McLean developer Albert J Dwoskin gave him $36,000. After being elected, Kaine facilitated an unprecedented transfer of dollars from Dulles Toll Road users to build the Silver Line, which made these and others millions. Again, keep in mind that the Silver Line is not cost-justified under federal standards, and everyone except the DTR users has their funding share capped. When you help spend public money for a use that has the main purpose of increasing the wealth of private parties, many of whom gave you campaign contributions, how is that not corruption?

          I’m not arguing only the Democrats are corrupt. Both parties engage in nasty activities. But the MSM, most especially the Post, gave Tim Kaine a huge pass on quid pro quo. The Post won’t even admit the Silver Line is a boondoggle and enables a wealth transfer to already rich people. If the Post’s management and editorial staff had any ethics whatsoever they would have reported the Silver Line funding transactions as corruption, pure and simple. But they don’t, and they didn’t.

          1. larryg Avatar

            campaign money is bad – but it’s not personal money corruption.

            there is a difference and equating the two is not reasonable.

            If the DTR/Silver line was wrong – it took more than Kaine to approve it. In fact, the Feds approved it. comparing that to the Gov accepting a Rolex watch – and the other shenanigans is classifying all of it as the same and it most assuredly is not.

            McDonald cooked up the biggest tax increase in the history of the Commonwealth but that was not corruption.. it was policy and politics the same as the Silver Line.

            When you show me that Kaine took personal money from these guys, I’ll agree with you but until then you’re not being kosher.

            I’ve given you links to the Wash Examiner and Bearing Drift and I can give you links to the RTD and Virginia Pilot so continuing to blame WAPO alone is just more political pandering…

  9. Breckinridge Avatar

    Re: Kaine, I have two words for you. Biscuit Run. That deal still smells, even after all this time. But the only paper that really covered it was the weekly Hook in Charlottesville. The MSM silence on that one was 100 percent pure pro-D selective blindness.

    Re: McDonnell, I think that printing or commenting on rumors is pointless. There is no reason to believe he will resign, not based on what has been in the papers anyway, but speculation is cheap and easy. The feds may know things that have not been published, of course. I don’t think the coverage has been out of line (except the cheap shot about the limo donation, in the Pilot – that was a stretch) and it is has been pleasant to see the Post being scooped from time to time. I just wish it wasn’t over this.

    1. larryg Avatar

      equating personal corruption with smelly policy decisions that do not end up with money in his pocket is just refusing to admit the difference!

      McDonnell passed the biggest tax increase in the history of the Commonwealth which makes Biscuit Run and DTR pale in comparison!

      I think boys are in shock. Take personal money is bad guys.. real bad.

      concocting political deals is no where near related.. to personal corruption in my book.

      You can go to every single Governorship in Va and find smelly deals – both GOP and Dem. It’s called politics for a reason guys!

      but you do not take money for your personal account. We fire govt employees that do that – no matter their “excuse”.

  10. larryg Avatar

    If you don’t like WaPo- try the Examiner:

    or the times dispatch or virginian pilot,… etc.

  11. larryg Avatar

    geeze.. WaPo and the rest of that evil MSM are panty-waists:

    Virtucon: McDonnell Lawyers Up

  12. Scout Avatar

    A lot of confusion is showing up in the comment thread. If the Governor has a legal problem here, it is not about the tax revisions. Why that would even show up in this context baffles me.

    Re reluctantactivist’s comment, there is no evidence that the Governor is hiding behind his wife. With the qualification correctly made by Breckinridge that there are things we don’t know, the publicly available information suggests almost the opposite – that the Governor is protecting his wife.

    Finally, all of this spotlights the inadequacy of Virginia’s existing restrictions on gifts and favors. Whatever the issues that relate to the McDonnells, we should all be advocating clear and effective limitations on gratuities from persons with interests in the actions of the Commonwealth.

  13. Darrell Avatar

    So where was the gov when the wife was in NYC spending some other guy’s money?

  14. larryg Avatar

    re: “So where was the gov when the wife was in NYC spending some other guy’s money?”

    oh geeze Darrell. what a straight man! He was on his way to get his Roylex silly guy.

    I think describing a gov who receives a roylex watch as a “free gift” as hiding behind his wife or having “legal problem” is a bit amusing.

    not to dismiss the fact that the roylex is not the only “gift” but even more amusing is the suggestion that just receiving the watch is not “proof” of quid-pro-quo.

    I’m still totally at a loss to understand how a man who was on his way to being characterized as one of the best govt in recent history – did such a dumb thing and _now_ he’s getting a lawyer?

    The only thing I can say is that, in general the ego and arrogance of politicians knows no bounds – witness, Weiner, Spitzer, and Sanford.

    1. Neil Haner Avatar
      Neil Haner

      Larry – quid pro quo literally translates to “this for that.” The Rolex, the shopping spree, the wedding caterer all qualify as “this.” But tell me, what’s the “that?” We don’t know what it is, or even if there is anything?

      Again, I defend nothing that is happening in the statehouse. I was a military officer who handled government contracts, and I too lived under very strict rules about receiving gifts from private entities, even if I didn’t do anything in return (dealing with foreign contractors was even worse, because giving a gift of appreciation was a very large part of some cultures, and took great personal offense if you refused their gift).

      My bottom line is what can be proved. Maybe the FBI or private investigator has knowledge of some benefit derived by Star, but we as the general public do not. Ergo, it’s not by legal definition corruption. And it’s not quid pro quo until we have evidence of the quo.

      It can still be argued, based on what we know and can prove, that this is no more than a politician who feels he’s entitled to certain perks of being a governor (special treatment for his family, run of the statehouse pantry, etc), and a businessman who gets a big personal ego trip out of financially kissing the butt of a major political figure.

      1. larryg Avatar

        Neil – I don’t think you need to quid-pro-quo for anything guy. He took money and if he had been a govt employee he would have been fired for taking the money no matter the “this for that” – as you pointed out.

        why do we need to “wait” to see “what is proved”?

        we have proof already – the man took money – something the people who work for him – would get fired for.

        Why is it okay for him to take money unless we can prove it was “for something”?

        I’m not understanding the quandary here… it seems pretty straight forward. Public officials who take money need to be fired. Period.

  15. billsblots Avatar

    “this is no more than a politician who feels he’s entitled to certain perks of being a governor (special treatment for his family, run of the statehouse pantry, etc), and a businessman who gets a big personal ego trip out of financially kissing the butt of a major political figure.”

    Well, friends, that example is set at the White House and on down.

  16. larryg Avatar

    taking money for personal gain is not kissing political butts nor it is taking money for your campaign or anything similar.

    a public official who takes money – no matter the reason, no matter the “proof” of quid-pro-quo should be fired – just as any govt employee would be if found to be taking money.

    I’m not at all getting the ” this is just like…. something else”.

    taking money in my book is worse, much worse, than the other mentioned transgressions.

    this is not just my view:

    ” [Jesse] Jackson, the son of civil rights leader the Rev. Jesse Jackson Sr., pleaded guilty this year to spending $750,000 in campaign funds on personal items, including a gold-plated Rolex and mounted elk heads, among other things.

    He faces a maximum five-year prison term. Under his plea agreement, Jackson must pay back the $750,000 and he’ll be subject to a host of other financial penalties.”

    do you see the part about 5 yrs in prison?

  17. Peter Galuszka Avatar
    Peter Galuszka

    Larry has a strong point and it goes to the heart of the reform that needs to take in Virgnia but probably never will.
    Take my case. I worked at BusinessWeek magazine for 15 years. We had very strict rules about what we could accept and not accept from sources. It did not go beyond maybe a lunch. If it was learned that any source or potential source had given us anything close to a Rolex, we would be fired immediately. We had to list all of our stocks every year and those of our spouses (but not mutual funds). Listing stocks was often problematic because in New York there were more than a few spouses who worked on Wall Street. But a rule was a rule.
    We had one situation where a radio journalist on staff who broadcast daily reports form the newsroom was caught using his knowledge of advance stories to trade stocks. Not only was he fired, he was indicted, convicted and imprisoned.
    No one screwed around with the thinking, “well, if there’s no clear quid pro quo, it’s no big deal.” Only a Virginian would think that way and I don’t mean that as a compliment.

  18. larryg Avatar

    re: ” … “well, if there’s no clear quid pro quo, it’s no big deal.” Only a Virginian would think that way and I don’t mean that as a compliment.”

    YES! that’s what’s totally NUTTY about this. It’s like if you can’t prove what the money was for – it’s okay.

    try telling that to the govt employees who are told JUST taking the money no matter the reason will get your butt fired.

    TMT worked for the govt – he oughta know this.

    how come govt employees have to follow the rules or be fired and the Gov does not? I cannot believe that people are actually advocating this – not only for this GOV but other govt officials now and into the future.

    Are we REALLY saying that unless you can prove a quid-pro-quo that taking money is okay? And we say govt is corrupt? Well, if this is our expectations as voters.. then we are endorsing corrupt … aren’t we?

    we get the govt we deserve… right?

  19. Darrell Avatar

    So will the next lawyer the gov hires specialize in divorce?

  20. larryg Avatar

    Divorce? Heckfire – him and his wife are like two peas in a pod on this issue, right?


    I’m reminded of this lady: Leona Helmsley who was quoted as saying: ” : “We don’t pay taxes. Only the little people pay taxes”

    Clearly McD and his wife must have that kind of attitude when it comes to their scruples , eh?

    I mean either they both are clueless (not likely) or virulently brazen.

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