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McDonnell: Daughter repaid $15,000 catering gift for wedding

Virginia Gov. Robert McDonnell speaks to constituents after delivering the keynote speech at a VA Adopts kick-off event on Tuesday in Fairfax. (Melina Mara/THE WASHINGTON POST)

Gov. Robert F. McDonnell said Wednesday that his daughter Cailin has reimbursed a Virginia businessman for the $15,000 catering tab he picked up for her June 2011 wedding.

McDonnell (R) disclosed the repayment while speaking briefly with reporters after an unrelated event at the state Capitol.

His comment came one day after he said he would return all gifts that Star Scientific chief executive Jonnie R. Williams Sr. provided to him and his family. It was not initially clear if the gifts he referred to on Tuesday included the payment for wedding catering. At times, McDonnell has talked about returning “tangible gifts.”

The McDonnell family has been under scrutiny since late March, when The Washington Post reported that the governor and first lady Maureen McDonnell promoted Star’s nutritional supplement about the time Williams paid for catering at Cailin McDonnell’s wedding. The catering tab had become symbolic of the larger gift scandal that has been hanging over McDonnell’s last months in office.

Federal and state prosecutors are looking into the McDonnells’ relationship with Williams, who also provided a $6,500 Rolex watch for the governor, a $15,000 Bergdorf Goodman shopping trip for the first lady and a $10,000 engagement gift to another daughter, Jeanine McDonnell. On Tuesday, the governor confirmed that Jeanine McDonnell had returned the $10,000, and on Wednesday, he announced that Cailin McDonnell also had repaid Williams.

Timeline: Star Scientific and Gov. McDonnell

“My eldest daughter returned her engagement gift, and my daughter Cailin has returned her wedding gift, and there are others that are in the process — tangible items — that are in the process of being returned,” he said in a five-minute gathering with reporters.

Last week, McDonnell released a written statement apologizing for the scandal and saying that he had repaid Williams for $120,000 in loans: $70,000 to a real estate company owned by the governor and his sister and $50,000 to first lady Maureen McDonnell.

McDonnell said at the time that he had reimbursed Williams with a combination of money from his real estate company, personal funds and money provided by family members. On Wednesday, he did not indicate the source of the funds his daughters tapped to repay the Star executive.

Jeanine McDonnell had not spent the $10,000 engagement gift and simply returned it to Williams, according to someone close to the transaction who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss a sensitive matter.

Rich Galen, a spokesman for McDonnell, said Cailin McDonnell and her husband presumably used their own money to repay Williams.

“I don’t know what the source of the money is,” he said. “I do know the check was written by the daughter or son-in-law — their funds. . . . They were prepared to pay for [their wedding] in the first place, so it’s not unreasonable to assume — because I haven’t asked and I won’t — that they had that money available in the first place and that’s what they used to pay it back.”

The governor has said that Williams and his company received no state benefits in exchange for his gifts and loans to the first family. He has also said that he and his wife did nothing to promote Star or its dietary supplement, Anatabloc, that they would not do for any state-based enterprise.

Also Wednesday, Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli II told reporters that he would not return the $18,000 in gifts Williams gave him, noting that the nature of what he received —  stays at Williams’s vacation home and trips on his jet — made them difficult to give back.  

“There are some bells you can't unring,” Cuccinelli said..

Laura Vozzella covers Virginia politics for The Washington Post.



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