“That’s really not a question for the attorney general, that’s a question for the governor,” Cuccinelli said, while acknowledging that the controversy has become a “distraction” in his race against Democratic Party nominee Terry McAuliffe.
The Washington Post reported Wednesday that Star Scientific Inc. chief executive Jonnie R. Williams, Sr. gave $70,000 to a corporation owned by McDonnell and his sister last year, and that the governor did not disclose the money as a gift or loan. The Post, citing people with knowledge of the payments, said Williams also gave a $50,000 check to McDonnell’s wife, Maureen, in 2011.
The news comes after a series of disclosures that McDonnell and some members of his family had accepted $145,000 in gifts from Williams, whose firm manufactures dietary supplements. Those gifts are now the subject of federal and state investigations.
Hoping to call attention to the concerns of small business owners, Cuccinelli visited Holly, Woods, and Vines, a garden center on Route 1 in the Alexandria section of Fairfax County. After co-owner Vanessa Wheeler escorted Cuccinelli over a 3-acre lot chock-a-block with topiaries, garden gnomes and plants, she told him that as a businesswoman, taxes were her greatest concern.
But Cuccinelli’s eagerness to talk further about his tax-cutting policies was overshadowed by the controversy over McDonnell’s gifts and increasing discussion, at least among Democrats, about whether he should resign. On Wednesday, state Sen. Barbara A. Favola (D-Arlington) became the first elected official to explicitly urge McDonnell to step down. Sen. Chapman “Chap” Petersen (D-Fairfax) also reiterated his belief that McDonnell should give an explanation and return the gifts, or go. House of Delegates Speaker William Howell (R) dismissed such talk as “partisan political potshots.”
“What we’ve all been seeing has been very painful for Virginia, and it’s been completely inconsistent with Virginia’s very reserved traditions,” Cuccinelli said Wednesday in a separate, written statement issued by his campaign. “Right now there are two investigations running, one of which began with my referral, and we need to let those play out; however, all of this emphasizes the need for clearer and faster disclosures that cover the whole family, as well as a cap on the size and types of gifts.”
Besides addressing the governor’s problems, Cuccinelli was asked again about nearly $19,000 in gifts he took from Williams, including some that he didn’t disclose until April. He also initially failed to report more than $10,000 in stock holdings in Williams’ company, as required by state law. Cuccinelli said the omissions had been inadvertent.