In a statement, Star Scientific said it undertook the 2002 expansion project as part of a deal to create a “dissolvable, low toxin, smokeless” product for tobacco giant Brown & Williamson. Star was to open a facility in Chase City, Va., with up to 10 manufacturing lines, and the new product was to have national distribution.
A company spokeswoman said the deal stalled after B&W was acquired by R.J. Reynolds, which Star was suing in a dispute over patent infringement.
“After RJR decided not to move forward . . . it was impossible for Star to create this employment opportunity without a ‘big tobacco’ partner, and the project was never fulfilled,” company spokeswoman Talhia Tuck said in a statement.
Tuck said Jones had “very limited involvement” in the project. The idea that it stalled because of his legal troubles is “folly” and “inaccurate,” she said.
A spokesman for Sen. Mark R. Warner (D), who was governor at the time of the award, said there was nothing unusual about the project. That state officials had required Star to return money when the project didn’t pan out is a sign of strength in the state’s business-incentive programs, the spokesman said.
Warner did not receive donations or gifts from Star Scientific or its chief executive, Jonnie R. Williams Sr., according to the Virginia Public Access Project, a nonpartisan group that tracks money in state politics.
Star Scientific and Williams gave nearly $120,000 in donations and gifts to McDonnell, his campaign and his political action committee.
McDonnell has declined to be interviewed about Star Scientific. He has not responded to questions about whether Williams or Star Scientific provided gifts other than the $15,000 in wedding catering to members of the first family. Virginia law requires that elected officials disclose gifts they receive worth more than $50. But the law does not require the disclosure of gifts to family members.
McDonnell’s spokesman has said the wedding catering did not need to be disclosed because it was a gift from Williams to the bride and groom.
Jerry Kilgore, a former state attorney general who now represents Williams, has said Williams helped launched a number of highly successful businesses, including Visx, which builds machines used in laser eye surgery, and Psychemedics, which makes kits for drug tests.
“Jonnie has a great work ethic,” Kilgore said in an interview in late March. “He’s hardworking. He believes in his product and moving it forward.”
Kilgore has declined to comment further.
Laura Vozzella contributed to this report.
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