In this world of excess and easy credit, we all know folks with champagne tastes and a beer budget. But, wow, after reading through the 43-page indictment of former Virginia governor Robert F. McDonnell and his wife Maureen, I can’t believe how brazen they allegedly were to get someone else to pay for their finery. From clothing and numerous flights on a private jet to outright loans, the former first couple of the commonwealth allegedly showed no shame in getting someone else to foot the bill.
That someone else was Jonnie R. Williams Sr., a Richmond executive who served as Daddy Warbucks to the 71st governor of the commonwealth and his wife as he sought special treatment and access to state government. As The Post reports, “the McDonnells repeatedly asked [him] for loans and gifts of money, clothes, golf fees and equipment, trips, and private plane rides. The gifts and loans totaled at least $165,000.”
I was especially interested in one shopping spree highlighted in the indictment.
23. On or about April 11,2011, MAUREEN MCDONNELL contacted JW and requested that he take her shopping in New York City for the designer dress by Oscar de la Renta. MAUREEN MCDONNELL explained that she and ROBERT MCDONNELL were attending a political event at the Union League Club in New York City on April 13, 2011, and that she would ensure that JW was seated next to ROBERT MCDONNELL at the event. JW agreed to pay for the shopping trip.
24. On or about April 13, 2011, JW accompanied MAUREEN MCDONNELL to several luxury stores in New York City, including Oscar de la Renta, Louis Vuitton, and Bergdorf Goodman. MAUREEN MCDONNELL informed JW that she needed dresses and accessories for her daughter’s upcoming wedding and for her and ROBERT MCDONNELL’S upcoming anniversary party. JW paid for the entire luxury shopping trip for MAUREEN MCDONNELL and spent approximately $10,999 at Oscar de la Renta, approximately $5,685 at Louis Vuitton, and approximately $2,604 at Bergdorf Goodman. As promised by MAUREEN MCDONNELL, JW was seated next to ROBERT MCDONNELL at the Union League Club event later that evening.
The indictment lists 27 lines of items that are subject to forfeiture. That frocks from fashion designer Oscar de la Renta were prized is no surprise. He’s been dressing wealthy women and first ladies for decades now. What especially caught my eye were the purchases from Louis Vuitton. Unlike de la Renta, I have more than a passing understanding of the offerings of LV. And I can tell you that, looking at this list, Williams dropped more than $5,600 at the ultra-glam French retailer. The cheeky folks at the Guardian shopped for everything on that list. For the cream Louis Vuitton purse, they chose the smaller Capucines MM model. But the large size of that painfully chic purse retails for $5,600.
After her husband’s senior staffer, identified as “JE,” told her in Dec. 2009 that having Williams buy her gown for the governor’s Jan. 2010 inaugural would be inappropriate, Mrs. McDonnell angrily outlined her family’s beer budget in an email to JE.
I need to talk to you about Inaugural clothing budget. I need answers and Bob is screaming about the thousands I’m charging up in credit card debt. We are broke, have an unconscionable amount in credit card debt already, and this Inaugural is killing us!! I need answers and I need help, and I need to get this done.
According to the indictment, Mrs. McDonnell heeded JE’s advice and informed Williams thanks, but no thanks on the offer to buy the dress. But she asked for “a ‘rain check’ from him.” Oh, Williams made it rain, all right.
“I repeat again, emphatically, that I did nothing illegal for Mr. Williams,” the former governor said yesterday. “The Department of Justice has overreached to bring these charges,” the lawyer for Mrs. McDonnell said. The criminal justice system will hash out the legalities. But, man, it must have been tough to go back to beer when the champagne bill was sent to someone else.
Follow Jonathan on Twitter: @Capehartj