Former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell Completes His Epic Political Fall

The former governor and his wife were charged Tuesday for illegally accepting gifts.

Former Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell poses with a Washington Redskins fan prior to their game against the Dallas Cowboys at FedExField on December 30, 2012 in Landover, Maryland.
National Journal
Matt Berman
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Matt Berman
Jan. 21, 2014, 11:11 a.m.

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.”

Wil­li­ams resigned as Star Sci­entif­ic CEO in Decem­ber. Bob Mc­Don­nell is the first Vir­gin­ia gov­ernor to ever face crim­in­al charges. He and his wife face 14 felony counts.

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.

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