One of the more interesting aspects of the scandal over gift-giving to Virginia Gov. Robert F. McDonnell and his wife is how Attorney Gen. Ken Cuccinelli, the Republican gubernatorial candidate, is struggling to spin the embarrassing disclosures, which include him.
“What we’ve been seeing is very painful for Virginia, and it’s completely inconsistent with Virginia’s very reserved traditions,” says Cuccinelli, trying to get some distance between himself and the embattled governor.
Let’s back up a minute.
Cuccinelli is up to his neck in the same soup of donations, vacation house flings and gifts, some from the very same individual who is causing the McDonnell’s so much pain -- Jonnie R. Williams. Sr., head of dietary supplement maker Star Scientific.
While the state’s top legal official, Cuccinelli owned stock in the firm. He has accepted $18,000 worth of gifts from Williams, of which Cuccinelli and did not disclose almost $5,000. He has stayed at Williams’ lush estate outside of Richmond and has enjoyed Thanksgiving at Williams’ lakefront vacation house.
And while we’re at it, let’s remember that Cuccinelli has accepted $69,363 in gifts over the past 10 years. True, that’s small potatoes next to McDonnell and former Democratic Gov. Tim Kaine, but the point should be clear.
Cuccinelli apparently did nothing initially when Todd Schneider, McDonnell’s former executive chef, who is facing felony theft charges, went to the attorney general’s office in March 2012 to report the gift-giving between Williams and the McDonnells. It took Cuccinelli nearly nine months to send the case to a Richmond prosecutor. Cuccinelli was a stockholder in Star Scientific at the time.
While Cuccinelli is distancing himself from the McDonnell mess, it’s worth remembering that has had to recuse himself from legal cases involving Williams and others because he is deeply involved.
It is true that Cuccinelli and McDonnell have never been soul mates, although they are both conservative Republicans. Behind the scenes, McDonnell has winced at some of Cuccinelli’s more outlandish positions — on gays, women and abortion — that have brought Virginia unwanted national publicity.
Cuccinelli waffled on McDonnell’s transportation reform, which is his keystone legislative achievement. At first, Cuccinelli withheld support and now says that maybe it’s OK.
But about the gift scandal, he really has nothing to do with it, you see.