Tuesday, April 16, 2013

One of these things is exactly like the other

A Norfolk city government employee faces up to 10 years in prison for taking about $15,000 in "gifts" in exchange for government "favors." Can someone explain to me how what Bob McDonnell did with Star Scientific is any different?

Consider these two stories; first up, Michael D. Brown of Norfolk, Virginia.
According to court documents, he received between $15,000 and $20,000 in cash, goods and services from Andrew Zoby Jr., the owner of A.T. Zoby Mechanical Inc. In exchange, Brown gave Zoby preferential treatment regarding city contracts and work orders.
Okay, the takeaway: roughly $15,000 exchanged for preferential treatment from a government official. Now consider the case of one Robert Francis "Bob" McDonnell:
Virginia Gov. Robert F. McDonnell has said his daughter and her husband paid for their own wedding. So a $15,000 check from a major campaign donor to pay for the food at the affair was a gift to the bride and groom and not to him and therefore did not have to be publicly disclosed under the law, the governor says.

But documents obtained by The Washington Post show that McDonnell signed the catering contract, making him financially responsible for the 2011 event. The governor made handwritten notes to the caterer in the margins. In addition, the governor paid nearly $8,000 in deposits for the catering.

When the combination of the governor’s deposit and the gift from the donor resulted in an overpayment to the caterer, the refund check of more than $3,500 went to McDonnell’s wife and not to his daughter, her husband or the donor.
What did Star Scientific get in exchange for its gift?
Just over a week later — three days before the wedding — Maureen McDonnell flew to Florida, where she spoke at the gathering of doctors and investors interested in anatabine, the key chemical found in Star Scientific’s supplement Anatabloc.

The reimbursement check to Maureen McDonnell is dated June 6, two days after the wedding.

Three months later, McDonnell allowed the company to hold an event at the governor’s mansion to mark the official launch of Anatabloc.
Quid. Pro. Qho.

And so I ask again: two public officials accept gifts in exchange for favors they provided. Can someone explain to me how what Bob McDonnell did with Star Scientific is any different from what Michael D. Brown did?

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