Like any good soap opera, Virginia’s Giftgate scandal only grows more interesting as time goes on.
The latest twist is that in early November, Attorney General Kenneth N. Cuccinelli II apparently sent a letter to Richmond Commonwealth’s Attorney Michael Herring asking him to investigate whether Gov. Robert F. McDonnell violated state gift and disclosure laws.
The matter involves an undisclosed $15,000 payment by Jonnie R. Williams Sr., head of dietary-supplement-maker Star Scientific, for McDonnell’s daughter’s wedding meal in June 2011. State law requires disclosure of all such gifts worth more than $50.
What’s especially interesting is the timing. Apparently, the Cuccinelli’s office learned of the disclosure issue involving McDonnell in March 2012. Why did he wait about so long to do something?
It gets even more intriguing. The disclosure came from Todd Schneider, McDonnell’s former executive chef who faces felony theft charges at the center of this tangled affair. According to The Post, Schneider approached Cuccinelli’s office in March 2012 with information about the wedding gift. McDonnell later said that he did not disclose the gift because it had been intended for his daughter. At the time he went to Cuccinelli, Schneider had already been fired as the governor’s chef.
It is curious that Cuccinelli apparently waited seven months — from March until November — to seek some resolution of Schneider’s allegations. Was it because Cuccinelli himself was up to his eyeballs in gifts and apparent conflicts with Williams? He had accepted $13,000 in gifts from Star Scientific, including a free lake-house vacation, and had owned stock in the company, which he has since sold.
Did the November elections had anything to do with the timing?
Since then, Cuccinelli has asked to recuse himself from a number of legal matters in connection with the case, including representing the state in a tax case involving Williams and other matters.
Meanwhile, the FBI is reportedly investigating whether McDonnell performed any improper service for Williams in exchange for gifts. McDonnell’s wife, Maureen, had attended events in Virginia and other states to promote Star Scientific products.