Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Governor McDonnell's Rolex

Quid. Pro. Quo.
A prominent political donor purchased a Rolex watch for Gov. Bob McDonnell, according to two people with knowledge of the gift, and the governor did not disclose it in his annual financial filings.

The $6,500 watch was provided by wealthy businessman Jonnie Williams Sr., the people said. He is the chief executive of dietary supplement manufacturer Star Scientific and the person who paid for catering at the wedding of the governor’s daughter. The people spoke on the condition of anonymity because of an ongoing federal investigation into the relationship between Williams and the McDonnell family.

Williams’ gift came in August 2011 — about two weeks after he met with a top state health official to pitch the benefits of his company’s health products at a meeting arranged by first lady Maureen McDonnell, according to people who know of the meeting.

Williams bought the watch at the urging of Maureen McDonnell, who admired Williams’ own Rolex and suggested that he buy her a similar one she could give to her husband, the people said. Her proposal occurred moments before the meeting she had arranged with the state official, according to one person familiar with the request.
Maureen McDonnell solicited thousands of dollars worth of "gifts" (read "payoffs") from a businessman who wanted favors from Bob McDonnell. I think this story has legs and it's just a matter of how far it goes.

1) It will make it increasingly hard for McDonnell to campaign for the GOP ticket this year.
2) Next year's General Assembly will feature a dozen bills to change the existing rules.
3) Cuccinelli is likely to become ensnared--this could make for some uncomfortable moments during debates.
4) There is a federal investigation underway and the federal laws are different and stricter. If McDonnell is indicted for anything it will be a disaster for the Republican Party of Virginia and Ken Cuccinelli.

The watch may be the straw that breaks the camel's back because it was so lavish--$6,500 for a watch(!)--and McDonnell did NOT report it. Maureen McDonnell will probably attempt what I call the "re-gift" defense, that the watch was a gift to her and she "re-gifted" it to Bob McDonnell, but I doubt that's gonna fly. There's also a pretty clear quid pro quo now--Williams was looking for help with Star Scientific's new product Anatabloc and Maureen McDonnell suggested--i.e. solicited--the watch as a way of smoothing the way. Gifts are given freely, bribes are solicited.

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