Va. AG Ken Cuccinelli to donate funds given by Bobby Thompson to veterans groups

(2009 Photo By Steve Helber/Associated Press)
By Rosalind S. Helderman
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, July 29, 2010

RICHMOND -- Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli II (R) announced Wednesday that he will give away $55,500 in campaign funds to veterans charities across the state, bowing to months of pressure from Democrats and others.

The sum equals donations made to Cuccinelli's campaign in the summer and fall of 2009 by Bobby Thompson, a Florida man who served as a director of a charity under investigation in at least four states, including Virginia.

Thompson was a founder of the U.S. Navy Veterans Association, whose solicitation practices have been questioned across the country. Law enforcement officials, for instance, have said they have been unable to locate many of the officers and staff members of the organization listed on official charity documents.

Other Virginia politicians, including Gov. Robert F. McDonnell (R), House Speaker William J. Howell (R-Stafford) and state Sen. Patricia S. Ticer (D-Alexandria), announced they would donate money they were given by Thompson when questions first surfaced about the group in May.

Cuccinelli had resisted, indicating that Thompson had not been convicted of wrongdoing. Last month, Cuccinelli said he would place the funds in a restricted bank account and would donate them to charity if Thompson were convicted.

But Cuccinelli announced Wednesday that he has decided to donate the funds. In a statement, Cuccinelli said he was convinced by recent statements from Thompson's lawyers indicating they were not able to locate him. Cuccinelli's staff members said in June that they, too, had been unable to find Thompson to question him about his group.

"We were practicing the principle of presumed innocence with Bobby Thompson, awaiting proof from law enforcement that the money he had given the campaign was either a legitimate donation or was not his to give," Cuccinelli said in the statement. "With Mr. Thompson's recent disappearance and apparent unwillingness to maintain contact with his own attorneys, it seems that he does not wish to defend himself or the U.S. Navy Veterans Association."

Cuccinelli political director Noah Wall said that the attorney general has been consulting with veterans to decide which groups should receive the donations and that no decision has been made.

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