The Florida seminar
Maureen McDonnell’s presence at the Florida event, hosted by the Sarasota-based Roskamp Institute, caused a stir.
The governor’s wife, a former Washington Redskins cheerleader, has long been interested in nutrition and dietary supplements. According to her official biography, she launched a small business that helped market nutritional products.
Her brief speech at Roskamp, which is conducting research on Anatabloc under a royalty agreement with Star Scientific, was a “communique that wowed attendees,” California investor John Faessel wrote in an online posting.
“She spoke briefly about the company and the work they were doing, and how she believed it would be important not only for the people of Virginia but for society in general, to help them ward off this inflammation,” Faessel said in an interview.
Patrick Cox, a stock adviser from Maryland who also attended the event, said Maureen McDonnell “expressed support” for Anatabloc. “My understanding is that she’s trying to find ways to lower medical costs,” he said. “She’s working with other first ladies and first husbands to get the word out what this will do.”
Caldwell said Maureen McDonnell attended the event to tour the Roskamp facility and hear about potential treatments of Alzheimer’s — of particular interest to her because the governor’s father died of the disease a year earlier. She also went as a “strong promoter of Virginia businesses,” Caldwell said.
Caldwell said that neither Maureen McDonnell nor the governor led an effort to encourage the use of Anatabloc.
But in a news release, the company mentioned plans for a special event at the governor’s mansion to mark Anatabloc’s launch.
“A group of Richmond area physicians and healthcare providers are gathering at the Virginia Governor’s mansion today to learn more about the state of research on Anatabloc,” the release said.
The company also used the luncheon at the mansion to award research grants to scientists at the University of Virginia and Virginia Commonwealth University.
Jerry Kilgore, a former state attorney general and the GOP’s 2005 candidate for governor, who is now Williams’s attorney, acknowledged that the company benefited from the McDonnells’ involvement.
“I think with any Virginia product, it’s helpful to have support from the governor. In any state, it’s helpful to have a governor’s support,” he said.
McDonnell’s political action committee, Opportunity Virginia, paid for the lunch, Caldwell said, calling it “one of numerous events hosted at the mansion in support of Virginia businesses and universities.” It was allowed “based solely on the benefit to the Commonwealth,” he said.