RICHMOND — Gov. Robert F. McDonnell would like to be remembered for his many accomplishments as Virginia’s 71st chief executive, not the gifts scandal that has consumed his final year in office.
The Republican issued a 52-page book Wednesday that lists achievements large and small, ranging from recession-defying job growth, pension reform and a landmark transportation-funding plan to receiving the “Microsoft Dynamics Customer Excellence Award for the public sector.”
The softcover book was produced at taxpayer expense, but the cost was minimal: $1,500 for 250 books, which were distributed to reporters, Cabinet secretaries and staff.
The book is essentially 52 pages of bullet points enlivened by color photos of the governor, his staff and his family. There are five full-page close-ups of the governor, one of him surrounded by reporters, one at his desk, one in a helicopter and two dressed in his Inauguration Day morning suit. One unusual picture shows a larger-than-life McDonnell superimposed on an image of a legislative committee.
“As we reached the final weeks of the McDonnell Administration, we wanted to try to put the accomplishments of the last four years into one simple and concise document,” spokesman Tucker Martin said in a cover letter mailed with the book. “But as many of you know so well from covering our policy rollouts, brevity has never been our hallmark. So we hope you’ll enjoy this 52, yes 52, page book that breaks down the achievements of Governor McDonnell’s term as Virginia’s 71st governor.”
It is not unusual for outgoing governors to compile lists of accomplishments, for their own records and to stick under the noses of reporters preparing to sum up their administrations in end-of-term articles.
McDonnell leaves office Jan. 11, when Democrat Terry McAuliffe is sworn in.
But no other recent governor has produced an administration summary in book form, according to former and current staff workers for former governors George Allen (R), James S. Gilmore (R), Mark R. Warner (D) and Timothy M. Kaine (D).
“When governors go out, they spend time trumpeting their successes,” said Boyd Marcus, who was Gilmore’s chief of staff. “By the end of our administration, we were putting something online. We were doing the neat high-tech thing to do. So we weren’t printing it out.”
Even some Democrats did not begrudge McDonnell the opportunity to preserve his legacy between the covers of a keepsake book, particularly as he faces uncertain outcomes of state and federal investigations into his relationship with a businessman who gave the governor and his family more than $165,000 in luxury gifts and money described as loans.
“Everybody publicizes what they do in various ways,” said Senate Minority Leader Richard L. Saslaw (D-Fairfax). “He’s worked hard as hell.”