smith_mountain_lake2By Peter Galuszka

It was a gubernatorial quandary only Virginia could have .

In the summer of 2011, former Gov. Robert F. McDonnell was ready to take a few days off. He and his family had been going to Smith Mountain Lake, a popular destination near Roanoke with lots of golf courses and seven-figure lakeside homes.

At his corruption trial this week, McDonnell testified that his summer getaway had been bankrolled by Delta Star, a company with a big factory in Lynchburg that makes portable industrial electrical gear. The firm had put him up at one of their lakefront houses for $2,474 in 2010, according the VPAP, which runs a data base about this kind of thing.

Summer 2011 had proved a big problem, however. His wife, Maureen, had become fast friends with Jonnie R. Williams a rich Goochland County businessman. Williams had given Ms. McDonnell a $50,000 check and also paid $15,000 for her daughter’s wedding luncheon that June. She had traveled with Williams helping promote Anatabloc, Williams dietary supplement that has since been pulled off the market by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

The problem was — whose million-dollar-plus house would the McDonnells use? Williams very much wanted the McDonnells to stay at his sprawling domicile on the tip of a peninsula. Delta Star wanted the McDonnells to stay at their place.

What to do? They split it. The McDonnells stayed at Williams’ house for a getaway valued at $2,268 value according to VPAP. He also laid on a Ferrari that the governor could enjoy driving on the way home.

Delta Star made sure the family was entertained and fed. They provided the family with their very own boat to cruise the lake and catered meals – a $1,892 value for a long weekend.

Delta Star’s feelings didn’t seem to be hurt since they laid on another entertainment gift worth $10,182 in 2012.

And while we’re talking lakeside homes, guess who else also stayed at Williams’ place? Former Atty. Gen. Kenneth Cuccinelli, that’s who – to the tune of $3,000 in 2011. We haven’t heard much recently from the former firebrand, hard right politician but he is on the witness list.

And so it goes. And, by the way, getting vacation favors is very common. Check out former Gov. Tim Kaine’s expensive sojourn on the turquoise blue waters of the Caribbean Sea.

It’s not the only way Virginia’s extremely lax ethics laws work.

If you use your PAC, you have an automatic teller machine. For instance, Tim Hugo of Fairfax, the third-ranking Republican in Virginia’s House of Delegates, expensed nearly $30,000 for travel and food and $9,400 for his cellphone over an 18-month period. As a spokeswoman for the State Board of Elections told The Washington Post’s Laura Vozzella in 2013, “If they wanted to use the money to send their kids to college, they could probably do that.”

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5 responses to “Bob McDonnell’s Big Decision”

  1. Ahhh … Peter has gotten past the voyeurism of the McDonnell trial and is hitting the nail on the head with this article. The so-called Virginia Way is nothing more than a license for our elected officials to sell out the citizens of the state in return for gifts and campaign donations which, in the forms of PACs, are like gifts anyway.

    This is Banana Republic behavior. No, check that. Most of the so-called banana republics have tightened their laws and wouldn’t tolerate the behavior that is considered acceptable in Virginia.

    So, why don’t we have tighter ethics laws? The answer is simple – the Republicans in the General Assembly adamantly oppose serious, enforceable ethics laws for elected officials. The kingpin of this opposition to ethics reform is Republican Bill Howell. Howell represents the 28th district which stretches from Fredricksburg to Stafford. He has been in the House of Delegates since 1988 and is currently Speaker of the House of Delegates.

    Bill Howell is yet another poster child for diluting the strength of Dillon’s Rule in Virginia. In a state that loves gerrymandering almost as much as it loves corrupt state politicians Howell is probably unassailable among the voters from his district in Fredricksburg. From that perch he can safely lead the effort to kill ethics reform which perpetuates corruption across the state. The only practical answer is to take power away from the General Assembly and transfer that power to the localities. If the localities decide to continually reelect representatives like Bill Howell then they get the government they deserve.

    Perhaps one of the commenters on this board from Fredricksburg will enlighten us as to why the good people of that area find a representative like Bill Howell so attractive. Is Virginia’s hopelessly poor ethics laws and resultant corruption acceptable to the people of Fredricksburg?

  2. TooManyTaxes Avatar

    The corruption at the local level is the same. While employed as a vice president of SAIC and chairman of the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors, Gerry Connolly voted for an additional rail station in front of SAIC’s campus on Route 7 in Tysons.

    In the 60s, a number of developers and elected officials were tried for bribery and conspiracy in connection with land use cases.

    The Virginia way permeates state and local government.

    1. The 1960s? Really? If the last corruption scandal in state government came from the 1960s we wouldn’t have anything to discuss.

      As for relative corruption … the General Assembly mandates that members of the Board of Supervisors recuse themselves from land use decisions if they get more than $100 in campaign contributions from a developer involved in a land use decision.

      For what items does the Virginia General Assembly require recusal of its own members for receiving a campaign contribution of $100 or more?

      If that recusal law were on the books for the General Assembly on matters regarding regulated industries nobody could cast a vote on a Dominion matter because they are ALL into dominion’s pocket.

      Time to get real TMT – there may be corruption everywhere but there’s a whole lot more corruption in the General Assembly than in most county governments.

  3. From the Fairfax County handbook:

    “Employees are prohibited from:
    • Accepting anything of value for
    performing, or refraining from
    performing, an official job-related act; or
    accepting anything of value in order to
    assist another person in obtaining a county
    job, promotion, or contract.”

    Would “providing access” to other state officials fall under the definition of performing an official job related act? Seems to me that it would. Which means that Bob McDonnell would have violated Fairfax County rules by merely introducing Jonnie Williams to Virginia’s Secretary of Health.

    Your opinion, counselor?

  4. On VPAP for 2011:

    $12,322 Alexander B McMurtrie, Jr
    $8,326 MVM Inc
    $4,028 ITT Defense & Info Solutions
    $4,026 Amerigroup Corp
    $3,000 Barboursville Vineyards
    $2,544 Raymond B Bottom, Jr
    $2,268 Jonnie R Williams, Sr <———-
    $2,205 University of Notre Dame
    $2,148 Helo Air
    $2,120 Alpha Natural Resources
    $1,892 Delta Star Inc <————
    $1,105 University of Virginia
    $800 Capital One
    $690 Dominion

    Williams and Delta were not the heaviest hitters by far!


    so McDonnell DID DISCLOSE – SOME of Williams money – as he should have…

    and the money he did not disclose – was exempted from disclosure by Virginia's really crappy laws.. either money to family members or money to a company/partnership that he had ownership in.

    Did Kaine and Warner do the same thing? disclose some money but funneled other money through the exempted entities?

    we'll never know – because – there never was ENOUGH for Fed authorities to file charges – which then allowed them to find out through discovery.

    Following along DJRs suggestion. What would be a more perfect job for McDonnell to rehabilitate himself?

    Sort of like the Cops hiring a fraudster to teach them how to spot it!


    but one suggestion – don't be hiring assistants that would yell at him…

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