The saga revealing a close and lucrative relationship between Gov. Bob McDonnell and Star Scientific CEO Jonnie Williams Jr. is, at best, a disappointing commentary on the state of Virginia government.
At worst … well, the FBI is investigating. The governor may well be cleared of wrongdoing, but he will not be cleared in many Virginians’ minds of unethical and unseemly behavior while in office.
Most Virginians are aware that Mr. Williams, said to be a close friend of the governor and his family, has showered gifts and loans upon them in values said to top $100,000. Most are also aware that Mr. Williams is fighting a huge tax assessment from the state. Most know that the governor has belatedly reported some of these gifts and that he insists gifts to his family members are not required to be reported.
It’s apparent that Virginia’s law on accepting and reporting gifts needs to be updated and tightened.
Do people run for public office in order to receive wealth, or to serve the public? Our governor has not pleased everyone during his tenure, but he did manage to create a new and badly-needed source of revenue for the state’s deteriorating highways.
The governor repaid the loans on Tuesday and apologized in a statement issued by the office of his lawyers. He said he is "deeply sorry for the embarrassment" this episode has brought to Virginia. We too are sorry. And deeply disappointed.
No matter the final outcome of all the investigations, the continuing drumbeat of revelations, large and small, about the governor and gifts, now being termed "Giftgate" in the media, has tarnished his legacy.