Cuccinelli says he might write check for value of gifts from donor if he could, but he can’t

Maddie Meyer/The Washington Post - Gubernatorial candidate Ken Cuccinelli (R) answers questions during the Virginia “Battleground Forum” at the Hylton Performing Arts Center on Friday in Manassas.

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Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli II said Friday that if he could, he might “just write a check” to repay the remaining value of the gifts he received from a prominent donor whose relationship with Gov. Robert F. McDonnell is the subject of state and federal investigations.

Cuccinelli, the Republican gubernatorial nominee, has been under fire from his opponent, Terry McAuliffe and other Democrats who have called on him to return the $18,000 in gifts he reported receiving from dietary supplement company Star Scientific’s chief executive Jonnie R. Williams Sr.

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Cuccinelli has maintained that those gifts — including a flight, a turkey dinner, stays at Williams’s vacation home and nearly $7,000 in supplements — were intangible items that he is unable to return.

But when pressed about reimbursing for the monetary value, Cuccinelli responded, “You mean just write a check? If I could do that, I just might do that. But that’s just not something I can do, from my family’s perspective.”

Later, Chris LaCivita, a campaign adviser, sought to clarify Cuccinelli’s remarks, saying: “As a father of seven children, like most Virginians, he needs to manage a family budget, and his comment simply reflected that reality.”

As attorney general, Cuccinelli earns about $150,000 annually.

Earlier this week, Cuccinelli called for McDonnell (R) to convene a special session of the General Assembly to address ethics reform this month, but the governor has declined to do so. In recent weeks, Cuccinelli has sought to cast his disclosure lapses as separate from McDonnell, who is in the process of returning and repaying more than $150,000 in gifts and loans his family has received from Williams.

Cuccinelli initially failed to report stock holdings in Star Scientific and about $4,500 in gifts. He said the lack of disclosure was an oversight and points out that he was proactive in correcting his reports in April and has called for changes in the state’s ethics laws.

Cuccinelli’s running mate, E.W. Jackson, has amended his campaign finance disclosure report to reflect a $9,000 in-kind donation from another donor for his portion of air travel with other Republicans on the ticket during a statewide tour after their nomination.

When asked to explain why Jackson failed to report the flight, spokesman Chris Merola said in an e-mail Friday that the candidate “missed the communication informing us of the donation.”

Cuccinelli and attorney general nominee Mark D. Obenshain both reported the flight as an in-kind donation from Select Management Resources of Alpharetta, Ga., on May 21.

Jackson joined Cuccinelli and Obenshain on a three-day tour of Virginia immediately after the Republican Party of Virginia’s nominating convention in Richmond the weekend of May 17. Merola said Cuccinelli's campaign sent an e-mail about the flight after the trip.

“It appears we were given the information in a timely manner,” Merola said. “We overlooked it.”

The oversight, first reported by the Associated Press, is the latest in a series of missteps on campaign finance reporting by the Jackson campaign.

In June, Jackson did not immediately itemize his donors and was fined $100 for failing to disclose a $25,000 loan to his campaign according to state law. He later amended his report and paid the fine.

Last month, Jackson again failed to itemize all of his donors in his most recent report, but updated the disclosure within the deadline to do so and was not penalized.

Jackson is running against state Sen. Ralph S. Northam (D-Norfolk) in the November election.

 
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