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Former Virginia Governor’s Personal Activities Under Federal Investigation


Former Governor Robert McDonnell, of the mid-Atlantic state of Virginia, has been hit with a 14-count federal criminal indictment. The charges include obstructing a federal investigation, conspiracy, and fraud. McDonnell’s wife, Maureen, was also indicted.

The federal charges come after an investigation that focused on gifts and other activities involving the Virginia leader’s association with a Richmond, Virginia businessman, Jonnie Williams. These activities allegedly took place while McDonnell held the governorship.

The 43-page indictment sets forth a series of gifts, including a Rolex watch for the ex-governor, a shopping spree for his wife said to be worth $20,000, and paying expenses for the wedding of McDonnell’s daughter.

In response to these federal charges, McDonnell admitted in a public statement that he accepted gifts and loans from Williams, all of which the ex-governor says he repaid with interest. He characterizes his indictment as based on false allegations, and as what he termed “unjust overreach of the federal government.”

Richmond-based investigative reporter Peter Galuszka lists what was allegedly given to the governor and his family - primarily from a Richmond-area businessman named Jonnie Williams, who heads a company called Star Scientific.

He said, "Governor McDonnell has accepted some loans for a real estate corporation that he has with his family. His daughter received $15.000 for a wedding dinner. He has been given a $6,500 Rolex watch. His wife, Maureen McDonnell, has been treated to expensive shopping sprees in New York.”

Legal observers say the Virginia state laws covering the reporting and accounting of personal activities by elected officials are not strong. And, as McDonnell himself points out, these laws only cover him, not other family members.

“Gifts that come to me, I regularly, diligently report them in the “Statement of Economic Interests’ [report] that are done annually," said McDonnell. "But, gifts that come to other family members, under current law, are not reportable.”

McDonnell says he has repaid the nearly $125,000 in loans from Williams and that his daughter has paid back the check Williams sent for wedding expenses. Another McDonnell family member returned money given to her by Williams. The governor also said the Rolex watch was being returned.

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    Jeffrey Young

    Jeffrey Young is a Senior Analyst in VOA’s Global English TV.  He has spent years covering global strategic issues, corruption, the Middle East, and Africa. During most of 2013, he was on special assignment in Baghdad and elsewhere with the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction (SIGIR).  Previous VOA activities include video journalism and the “Focus” news analysis unit. He also does journalist training overseas for VOA.

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