The indictments of former Virginia governor Robert F. McDonnell and his wife, Maureen, reveal new details about the first couple’s requests for financial help and luxury items from a prominent businessman at the same time the pair was offering to help promote his company’s new product, Anatabloc, according to prosecutors.
Here are some examples from the federal government’s charging documents:
April 11-13, 2011: The dress and a seat next to the governor
Maureen McDonnell called Star Scientific chief executive Jonnie R. Williams Sr. on April 11 and asked him to take her on a shopping trip to New York to buy a dress by designer Oscar de la Renta. The first lady explained that she was attending a political event at the Union League Club in New York two days later and promised to get Williams seated next to McDonnell (R). On the shopping trip, Williams accompanied the first lady to numerous designer stores and spent $10,999 at Oscar de la Renta, more than $5,500 at Louis Vuitton and roughly $2,604 at Bergdorf Goodman for dresses and accessories that McDonnell said she needed for her daughter’s wedding and for her own anniversary party. Williams was seated next to the governor at the Union League Club event.
May 2, 2011: Governor seeks a loan during “financial difficulties”; wife offers to help company
Maureen McDonnell arranged a private meeting at the governor’s mansion for Williams, during which she explained that she and her husband were having “severe financial difficulties.” She asked Williams for a $50,000 loan and said she could assist Star Scientific but needed his financial help. She also told Williams that she and her husband were having trouble paying for their daughter’s upcoming wedding and would like $15,000 to cover the remaining catering costs. Williams insisted on talking directly to the governor, who explained that the rental income on some investment properties was not covering their bills and said he would appreciate a loan over a two-year term at 5 percent interest. Williams agreed and said there was no need for formal loan papers.
May 9-June 1, 2011: Receiving checks from Williams and promoting his company
A member of the governor’s staff indicated May 9 that the staff was considering plans to have McDonnell visit a Star Scientific promotional event on June 1 in Florida. “[T]he person inviting the Governor is a good friend so I would like to be as responsive as possible,” the staff member wrote. A staff member told the company that the McDonnells’ daughter’s wedding, the same week as the corporate event, would make the trip impossible.
“I’m so sorry this won’t work out! What else can we do to fix this?” the staff member wrote.
On May 17, Maureen McDonnell scheduled herself to attend the promotional event.
On May 23, Williams had his office assistant write two checks, for $50,000 and for $15,000 as a wedding gift, and delivered them in person to the governor’s mansion.
On June 1, Maureen McDonnell attended the company’s promotional event in Sarasota, Fla., which was also attended by numerous Star Scientific investors, and announced that she was offering the governor’s mansion for the official product launch of Anatabloc.
July 2011: Free vacation and Ferrari loan; asking state officials to help company with research trials of its product
During the week of July 23, 2011, Star Scientific held a symposium at Gibson Island, Md., to discuss potential scientific studies and possible Virginia state tobacco commission funding for showing the health benefits of Anatabloc.
Maureen McDonnell sent her chief of staff to the event, to which Star Scientific had also invited numerous Virginia state university and health researchers.
The following week, the governor, his wife and family relaxed at Williams’s vacation home on Smith Mountain Lake in Virginia. The first lady had previously asked Williams whether the governor could use Williams’s Ferrari during the visit, and Williams had a Star Scientific employee take the sports car to the vacation spot in advance of the McDonnells’ arrival and arranged to rent a boat for their visit.
On July 31, Maureen McDonnell sent an e-mail to Williams with no message but with a picture attached of the governor driving the Ferrari. A few hours later, the governor e-mailed his secretary of health to say he “would like to have [one of the secretary’s deputies] attend a short briefing at the mansion about 10am with first lady on the Star Scientific anatablock trials planned in va at vcu and uva.” As a result, the Cabinet secretary arranged a meeting for Williams and the first lady with McDonnell’s top health policy adviser the next day.
August 2011: The Rolex, free golf and a product launch
On Aug. 1, Maureen McDonnell met privately with Williams before the state health official’s briefing to discuss ways that the state could research Star Scientific’s Anatabloc product. The first lady asked about the Rolex watch that Williams was wearing and mentioned that she wanted to get one for her husband, but Williams expressed surprise that the governor would want to wear a luxury item, given his role as a public official. The first lady responded that she wanted Williams to buy her one to give to the governor. Soon afterward, he did buy the watch and called the first lady to ask what she wanted engraved on the Rolex. She replied: “71st Governor of Virginia.” The same day, the governor’s wife entered an electronic calendar event for herself to attend an Aug. 30 luncheon with Virginia state researchers.
On Aug. 12, Maureen McDonnell’s chief of staff arranged for the governor to attend the Aug. 30 luncheon.
On Aug. 30, the governor and his wife played host at a luncheon at the governor’s mansion for the launch of Anatabloc. Williams helped craft the guest list, which included some of the same University of Virginia and Virginia Commonwealth University research scientists whom Star Scientific was trying to persuade to conduct clinical trials of Anatabloc. The first lady and Williams placed Anatabloc samples at each table setting.
January-February 2012: Big loans to the McDonnells and a push for state research:
In late January, the governor’s brother-in-law e-mailed him to say that “the guy who is helping us” had contacted him about where to send the first check he planned to provide for MoBo, a real estate holding company that McDonnell owned with his sister.
On Feb. 9, the first lady e-mailed her husband and copied his senior policy adviser under the subject heading: “FW: Anatabine clinical studies - UVA, VCU, JHU.” In her message, she wrote: “Here’s the info from JW. He has calls in to VCU & UVA & no one will return his calls.”
The next day, she asked her husband’s policy adviser to please call Williams that same day and “get him to fill u in on where this is at. Gov wants to know why nothing has developed w studies after [JW] gave $200,000