When it comes to family values, former Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell (above with wife Maureen) used to be among the true believers – at least on paper. In his 1989 master’s thesis – “The Republican Party’s Vision for the Family: The Compelling Issue of the Decade” – McDonnell earnestly defended the sanctity of marriage and the role of the family in keeping society strong.
Influential Republican leaders thought he was the kind of family man who would make a fine running mate for Mitt Romney. Some pundits even talked about his chances of becoming President some day.
That was then. This is now.
In a desperate attempt to avoid jail time, McDonnell is smearing his wife’s reputation and trashing their marriage.
Here’s the deal. Under Virginia law, public officials can accept “gifts” as long as they don’t do favors in return. McDonnell is in court because he allegedly did both. He – and his sons- played golf at a fancy country club. He drove around in a Ferrari. He vacationed at a luxurious resort. He and his sons got golf clubs for free – all paid for by rich businessman Jonnie R. Williams Sr.
Williams even underwrote the wedding of the then-governor’s daughter…. and bought him an engraved Rolex.
McDonnell’s wife, Maureen, also benefited from Williams’ largesse. Court records show Williams spent nearly $20,000 buying her gifts at luxury stores in New York City. He even bought a $1,690 dress for her chief of staff.
Prosecutors also say Williams provided a loan to bail out troubled MoBo Real Estate Partners LLC — which McDonnell owned with his sister.
None of it would have been illegal under Virgina’s lenient laws if the governor did no favors in return. But Williams testified the gifts were intended to buy support for his Anatabloc dietary supplement. And prosecutors said the governor provided that support, introducing the company to Virginia health officials and suggesting to state universities that they conduct studies related to the product.
The McDonnells also hosted a luncheon at the governor’s mansion to celebrate the launch of Anatabloc in stores. Samples of the supplement were provided at the visitors’ place settings
But McDonnell denies tany quid pro quo. He would have done as much for any business, gifts or no gifts, he said. Promoting businesses to create jobs was part of his job as governor.
As for his wife’s activities, well, she “had a crush” on Williams so she wanted to help the guy. What could possibly be wrong with that? She wasn’t a public official, was she? She certainly wasn’t doing it on the governor’s behalf. Their marriage was a total mess, and they were barely speaking to each other.
I know. Creepy, isn’t it?
As the soap opera unfolds, the media are predictably distracted by the juicy details.
Will the jury be distracted, too? Bob McDonnell is counting on it.