The scandal has bled into the race for governor because the Republican nominee, Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli II, received $18,000 in gifts from Williams and owned stock in Star.
Marsden and his wife were treated to the dinner by Mindy Williams Carlin and Michael P. Carlin, co-owners of Fairfax-based Access Point Public Affairs.
The Carlins reported the $333.27 entertainment expense on disclosure forms filed with the state this summer, but they did not identify whom they entertained. They did not have to, because divided among four diners and nine clients, the value fell well below the $50 threshold.
In an interview, Williams Carlin said they had entertained Marsden and his wife. Marsden confirmed that such was the case. He said someone could make “a valid argument” that splitting the check in that way undermines the spirit of disclosure rules. He said the General Assembly should take up that question, particularly “given what we’ve been through this year.”
“We need to settle one way or the other, either you can do that or you can’t,” he said.
The Carlins paid the tab and later divided the cost of the dinner across the nine clients they were representing before the General Assembly that session, including several chambers of commerce and I Drive Smart Inc.
Williams Carlin said dinners with legislators are more about relationship-building than pushing for or against specific legislation. And because that benefits all their clients, they all share the cost.
“When we are talking about an issue, we do that in a meeting or in their office,” she said. “For a typical dinner for us during session ... it’s really a time to decompress and really not talk about issues.”
Williams Carlin said she has consulted state officials on whether that is the proper way to report entertaining a legislator at dinner when no specific client’s issue was discussed. She said she has been told that state statutes are silent on that point.
“It has to be reported, obviously, because it’s an entertainment [expense],” she said. “I divide it like I do my lodging expenses. I divide it equally among the number of clients we register for.”
If the rules change, she said, “we will deal with it and follow the rules.”