Correction:

An earlier headline on this article incorrectly stated that Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli II was involved in the controversy surrounding donor gifts to Governor Bob McDonnell’s family.

Questions about Star Scientific relationships with Va. government officials and family members

The Federal Bureau of Investigation is questioning people about Virginia Governor Robert McDonnell’s friendship with a donor to his campaign who has also given large gifts to McDonnell’s family.

The agents have been asking associates of the McDonnells about gifts provided to the family by Star Scientific chief executive Jonnie R. Williams Sr. and actions the Republican governor and his wife have taken that may have boosted the company, the people said.

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Among the topics being explored, they said, is the $15,000 catering bill that Williams paid for the 2011 wedding of McDonnell’s daughter at Virginia’s historic Executive Mansion. But questions have extended to other, previously undisclosed gifts from Williams to [Virginia First Lady] Maureen McDonnell as well, they said. (Read the full article here.)

The Post first reported on McDonnell’s relationship with Williams and Star Scientific last month. The governor’s family helped promote a new dietary supplement being produced by Star Scientific called Anatabloc:

Anatabloc was crucial to the future of the company, which has been losing money for years. But the science behind the product — an anti-inflammatory the company hopes might be helpful to people with such ailments as Alzheimer’s and multiple sclerosis — was unproven.

Three days before her daughter’s June wedding, Maureen McDonnell flew to Florida, where she spoke at a seminar for scientists and investors interested in anatabine, the key chemical in Anatabloc, according to people who attended the conference.

The governor’s wife told the group that she supported the product and touted the pill, which is not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration, as a way to lower health-care costs in Virginia, the attendees said. (Read the complete investigation here.)

In a related case, Todd Schneider, a former chef at the Virginia governor’s mansion, asked a judge to dismiss charges against him on Monday. Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, who is running for governor, also has a relationship with Williams and Star Scientific, and Schneider’s attorneys claim the charges of embezzlement are retaliation for talking to authorities about Cailin McDonnell’s wedding:

In June and July 2012 — after Schneider turned over the documents about Williams — Cuccinelli made a profit selling 1,500 shares of Star stock at $4.70 a share, a near 52-week high for the company’s stock price.

He also vacationed at Williams’s home at Smith Mountain Lake in summer 2012 after Schneider had been interviewed by the FBI, state police and investigators for the attorney general’s office about Williams.

Schneider’s attorneys argued that Cuccinelli, the presumptive Republican nominee for governor, stood to gain financially and politically by forging ahead with his prosecution of the chef and trying to undermine Schenider’s credibility. (Read the rest of the article here.)

Cuccinelli has asked to be recused from Schneider’s case. However that case concludes, the wedding has revealed weaknesses in Virginia’s ethics laws:

McDonnell has said the payment from Williams was a present not to him but to his daughter. The commonwealth does not require officials to disclose gifts to immediate relatives. That loophole, when paired with the lack of dollar limits, gives Virginia one of the most unrestricted gift laws in the nation.

Interviewed on the radio today, McDonnell tried to reassure citizens that the FBI investigation will not affect his ability to govern the state. For complete coverage of this story, visit this page.

 
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