“Trust is something that is easy to lose and hard to recover,” Cuccinelli said in an interview with The Washington Post. “I think the longer we let this go, the more difficult it is for Virginians to achieve the level of faith in their government that I think they’re accustomed to. And I think that’s something we can achieve if we move quickly.”
Cuccinelli’s chief deputy told the governor in a face-to-face meeting Monday that the attorney general would publicly urge him to call the special session. After the meeting, a spokesman for the governor said he sees no need for it.
Cuccinelli’s move puts more space between the attorney general, who has been touched by the scandal, and the governor, who has been consumed by it.
Cuccinelli received gifts from the same Virginia businessman who showered luxury items, five-figure monetary gifts and $120,000 in loans on the McDonnell family. Star Scientific chief executive Jonnie R. Williams Sr. gave the attorney general $18,000 in gifts, much of it in the form of air travel and lodging at Williams’s home in the Richmond area and his Smith Mountain Lake vacation house.
In recent weeks, Cuccinelli has sought to distance himself from McDonnell and the maker of nutritional supplements, whose relationship is the subject of state and federal investigations. Cuccinelli has had his office recused from related criminal and civil cases, noted publicly that he initiated the state investigation into McDonnell, and called the governor’s scandal “completely inconsistent with Virginia’s very reserved traditions.”
McDonnell said last week that he was working on his own proposal for ethics reform but saw no need to take the matter up in a special session.
“He was informed of the attorney general’s position on this matter,” McDonnell spokesman Tucker Martin said. “However, he believes the proper time and place for the consideration of such changes would be during the next session of the General Assembly, which begins in January.”
The governor has the power to call a special session, something the General Assembly cannot do on its own without the approval of a super-majority in both chambers.
Virginia’s disclosure laws, among the loosest in the nation, allow officeholders to accept gifts of unlimited value as long as they report any worth more than $50. Gifts to immediately family do not have to be disclosed.
McDonnell has been under scrutiny since late March, when The Post reported that he and first lady Maureen McDonnell had promoted Star’s nutritional supplement around the time that Williams picked up the $15,000 catering tab at the wedding of a McDonnell daughter.