Bob McDonnell’s only been out of office for 10 days, but his post-gubernatorial life is already off to a rough start.
On Tuesday, federal prosecutors charged the former Virginia governor and his wife, Maureen, in a corruption case over gifts the two received from the head of a dietary-supplement company. The former first couple is charged with requesting clothes, money, trips, golf accessories, and private plane rides from former Star Scientific CEO Jonnie R. Williams in exchange for their influence in helping get Star Scientific off the ground.
The most infamous favors were a $15,000 catering tab that Williams footed for the McDonnell’s daughter’s 2011 wedding and a $6,500 Rolex which Williams bought for Maureen to give to her husband. A Washington Post investigation last summer found that Williams had given more than $120,000 to Maureen McDonnell and a corporation owned by Bob McDonnell and his sister. In July, McDonnell said he would pay back all gifts from Williams.
Maureen McDonnell had bought thousands of shares in Star Scientific in 2011, and met with potential investors for the company in Florida, in addition to helping Williams get meetings with Virginia health officials. The McDonnells also hosted a launch event for the company’s dietary supplement at the governor’s mansion that fall.
The indictment lists $140,805.46 worth of property subject to federal forfeiture, including multiple pairs of Louis Vuitton shoes, two sets of golf clubs, two iPhones, and a silver Rolex engraved with “71st Governor of Virginia.”
Even though the charges aren’t a total out-of-the-blue surprise, they are still astonishing for someone who had so many Republican hopes pegged to him. It was only a few years ago that Bob McDonnell was being mentioned as a potential future Republican vice presidential or presidential nominee. McDonnell was touted as a possible GOP savior as recently as last February. Even as late as last fall, Politico found that the governor was “defying political gravity” and was pulling off a “remarkable feat of political survival.”
In November 2009, the governor called questions about his presidential aspirations “pipe dreams down the road.” Just over four years later, “pipe dreams” seems pretty apt.