Bob McDonnell Discovers He’s Past the Sell–By Date

Baby McDonnell sell by memeIf you need additional proof that taking handouts creates dependency, look no further than the sad fate of former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell. McDonnell is currently under federal indictment and accused of trading government favors for money, loans and gifts from former Star Scientific chief executive Jonnie R. Williams Sr.

Williams is one of those ‘good friends’ politicians seem to acquire just about the time they win an office where it’s possible to dispense favors.

Federal charging papers list quite an inventory of gifts. They include a $17,000 NYC shopping trip for wife, Maureen, where the money was spent at Oscar de la Renta, Louis Vuitton and Bergdorf Goodman to buy various designer dresses and jewelry befitting a former Redskins cheerleader and current 1st lady.

Then there was $15,000 for catering at the daughter’s wedding — Maureen likes round numbers — a $10,000 wedding gift to another daughter, $120,000 in no–doc loans to shore up bad vacation home investments, free family vacations at the Williams’ getaway and a $6,500 Rolex watch for Bob. They even had Williams’ brother, Donnie, mow their lawn and do odd jobs for free around the house. Bringing the grand total in the indictment to $165,000, not counting Donnie’s sweat equity.

And all this occurred because it’s so tough to make ends meet on only $175,000 a year plus free room and board.

Naturally a politician so broke he essentially functioned as the foster child of his ‘family friend’ Williams is in no position to pay for his own legal defense. And Maureen is not about to settle for the tender mercies of the public defender’s office, so McDonnell founded the Restoration Fund and began soliciting donations for his defense.

The fund’s chairman, Stanley Baldwin, told the WaPost the ‘Restorers’ (not to be confused with Donnie Williams) are “long time admirers of Gov. McDonnell and his outstanding performance as Virginia’s chief executive.”

Evidently it’s a dwindling band. During all of 2013 the fund raised a total of $11,400. Of course if McDonnell mooched off the rest of his friends the way he milked Williams, it’s no surprise he’s only raising bake sale money for his defense fund.

Another variable at work is the hard and fast reality of the political sell–by date, which causes ‘good family friends’ to become scarce just when one needs them the most. During McDonnell’s campaign, when he was still fresh and, like milk, passed the smell test, J. Douglas Perry — co–founder Dollar Tree stores — gave $75,000. Perry’s contribution to McDonnell’s legal defense fund after he left office was only $2,500, which is quite a discount rate.

To put that $11,400 in perspective, the average billing rate for a high–powered DC law firm is $662/hour. Even if Bob grabs the entire treasury, he can only buy 17 hours of legal time and you can’t plead guilty for that amount.

And in spite off all the tribulations their attempt to join the ranks of the nouveau riche brought upon the family, Bob and Maureen still have his–and–her lawyers. Although I wonder who’s footing the bill for her defense as I hear Jonnie has blocked Maureen’s cell number.

Back in the statehouse leftist Democrats see this as a perfect opportunity to expand the nanny state and pass ‘ethics’ laws that increase the size of the permanent government bureaucracy. One proposal creates a state ethics advisory council — think of it as a taxpayer–paid conscience for spineless legislators — and limits gifts to a value of $250 each. Forcing future ‘family friends’ to purchase their politicians on layaway.

The good news for the easily corrupted is law doesn’t put a value on trips, tickets or other intangible influence peddling, so if you already have a watch it’s business as usual.

The fact is Virginia’s law could use an update, but it doesn’t require putting a dollar amount on gifts. All that’s required is for elected officials to issue monthly disclosure of any gift valued over $10, with a false filing resulting in a felony perjury charge. Those covered under the new rule should now expand to include anyone in the immediate family that receives a gift: Call it chain disclosure. And any ‘S’ corporations a politician is involved in would also disclose gifts and loans.

That way voters could decide for themselves if their politician has been bought and if so, evaluate the bargain he drove. There’s no need for additional bureaucracy and pettifogging rules.

This brings us to the real scandal sitting in plain sight: Dime–store political dynasties that think the office belongs to them. Democrat John Dingell is a case in point. He inherited the Congressional seat his father warmed and then served 53 years. During which Dingell was cashing countless federal paychecks, wasting tax dollars, inflicting bad ideas on the nation and enduring what appears to be at least one facelift that left him looking like a Rugby ball with a grin.

You’d think that would be enough for any family of leeches, but you would be wrong. Now wife Debbie wants her turn at the trough. She’s already had an influence–peddling job with the American Automotive Policy Council, where I’m sure listing Detroit Cong. John Dingell at the top of her list of references had no impact.

Now Debbie wants the congressional seat — the media is calling this obscene power grab a “Dingell hat trick” — and she’ll probably win it. The same contributors who rented John all those years like to stick with a name they can trust and the interest groups he pandered to will recognize the Dingell family brand on the ballot.

Virginia governors have to move fast if they want to cash in, because they only get a single term. The likes of Dingell and the rest of an arrogant political class get their corruption over the decades on the installment plan and that’s the real scandal no one is talking about.

Time for Virginia’s GOP Governor to Resign

Big Watch Bob and the timepiece that says it's time to go.

Big Watch Bob and the timepiece that says it’s time to go.

Virginia Gov. Bob ‘I want my Boost for breakfast’ McDonnell’s slide down the slope to complete disgrace continues. When we last wrote about Gov. Boost in mid–June, he was under fire for billing Virginia taxpayers for body wash, sunscreen, dog vitamins, colon blow, breakfast Boost, dry cleaning, shoe repairs and dog food — all because it’s really tough to make ends meet when you are only pulling in $175,000 a year.

The spending problem was joined by a receiving problem when the Washington Post* reported the McDonnell family had also accepted a $15,000 check for catering at daughter Cailin’s wedding and the governor had not bothered to disclose the gift. Possibly because the foie gras disagreed with him.

That was bad enough, but the latest developments in the story leave no room for doubt regarding the governor’s deficient sense of propriety and lack of common sense.

The signer of the $15,000 catering check was Jonnie R. Williams who is head of Star Scientific, the manufacturer of Anatabloc an OTC anti–inflammatory. Evidently Williams also serves as the McDonnell family’s personal ATM. For in addition to the catering, the McDonnell’s have also made withdrawals from Williams for the following:

A $6,500 Rolex watch

A $15,000 Bergdorf Goodman shopping spree for wife Maureen

A $10,000 wedding gift to daughter Jeanine

A $70,000 loan to Bob and another $50,000 to Maureen

Bringing the grand total (based on current accounting) to $166,500.00.

This is why there won’t be any circling of the wagons for Gov. Boost, unless it’s a tumbrel.

It’s obvious why Williams was willing to give all this money to McDonnell, who was a complete stranger until just before the inauguration. Williams is an Old Testament man, specifically Proverbs 18:16 “A gift opens the way and ushers the giver into the presence of the great.”

(Rumor has it that Williams also met Democrat candidate Creigh Deeds at about the same time, but he took one look at the Deeds campaign and simply gave him a case of Anatabloc.)

My question is what was McDonnell thinking? His kids are stealing $2,400 worth of food from the mansion to take back to college. His wife thinks his winning the governor’s race means she’s won the lottery. And he’s borrowing thousands of dollars to shore up vacation properties he bought at the height of the real estate boom.

Is McDonnell’s ego so large that he believes he can take the money from Williams without incurring any obligation or public comment? Or does he feel the fact he drove William’s Ferrari back to Richmond from Smith Mountain Lake — thereby becoming the most expensive valet parker in history — means they’re square?

And while we are on the subject of the family, does Maureen know FOX has cancelled My Big Fat Obnoxious Boss? Judging by the Post coverage, working for The Donald is preferable to working for The Maureen. The former Redskins cheerleader has ordered professional mansion staffers to strip to their BVDs and scrub her bathroom. Other staff members have been reduced to tears after her tirades. The situation finally became so bad a management consulting team from Virginia Commonwealth University had to perform an intervention.

Even her vanity projects are somewhat bizarre. Maureen discovered a pressing need for the Commonwealth to have portraits painted of Virginia’s first ladies. Tom Camden, former curator of the state art collection, acknowledged that Mrs. McDonnell had asked for several changes to her portrait. “I understand how Mrs. McDonnell thought,” he said. “And I think she wanted her best image, whether it was necessarily historically accurate or not.”

Judging from the picture in the Post, Maureen’s portrait has successfully lost about 30 years and 30 lbs. Unfortunately, you won’t be able to see for yourself, since there is currently no place to hang the collection. Maybe Williams will offer some space in his Smith Mountain Lake vacation retreat.

As this is written, the governor has a new legal team and crisis spokesman to deal with the FBI investigation of the gifts and the continuing media inquiries. I certainly don’t begrudge the governor his lawyer, but unfortunately the first question that comes to my mind is who’s paying for this? Is Jonnie finally tapped out?

The new spokesman says “private funds” will be used to pay for the team — this comes as a relief to taxpayers who are still coming to terms with buying the governor’s Axe for Men — and the governor does not have a legal defense fund “at this point.”

I’m sure it’s only a matter of time before Breakfast Boost Bob has a fund of his own, thereby keeping company with George Zimmerman and Edward Snowdon.

One of the early controversies in this year’s Virginia governor’s race (McDonnell is term limited, thank goodness) was Republican nominee Ken Cuccinelli’s refusal to resign as attorney general after he began campaigning. I agree with Cuccinelli’s decision then, but I’m wondering what’s keeping McDonnell in office now?

Shouldn’t he resign to spend more time with the family? It would certainly be novel to have the husband stand silently in support at the news conference while the wife explains how she created the scandal.

When asked about a McDonnell resignation, Cuccinelli tactfully replied, ““That’s a question for the governor,” but he did add the controversy has become “a distraction.”

“Distraction” is putting it mildly. If Cuccinelli is defeated in November, McDonnell will bear a large part of the blame. Should the scandal continue there is a very real possibility independents will vote against Republicans to register their revulsion with McDonnell’s conduct and disgusted conservatives won’t vote at all.

That would mean the flim–flam man, Terry McAuliffe, is the new governor, but with a Clinton crony at least the public knows what it is getting. Obviously, Democrats are already calling for a resignation in an effort to make it an issue later in the campaign. Taking their advice would actually turn the tables and remove a powerful McAuliffe campaign issue.

Republican know–it–alls will respond that it’s still early and the public isn’t following the race yet. And besides, McDonnell isn’t on the ticket. But that’s wrong. The Washington Post is on this like the IRS on the TEA party. Big Watch Bob is a genuine crisis discovered by the Post, not a made up controversy like “macaca” and we know how that turned out.

As the election approaches the Post will pepper Cuccinelli with questions regarding McDonnell’s “culture of corruption” and its impact on his campaign. It will inflate Cuccinelli’s lack of judgment with regard to accepting vacation housing from Star Scientific’s Williams to complete equivalence with McDonnell’s total sellout. Post opinion writers will rehash the entire sordid story in the last week of the campaign. Democrats will gleefully run quotes, thoughtfully provided by Post stories, in their attack commercials.

As long as McDonnell is in office he’s going to be a problem for the Cuccinelli campaign. Lance the boil now and Cuccinelli has time to change the topic and McDonnell has time to spread some Anatabloc over family divisions.

*Rather than clutter up the column with constant “reported by” and other methods of attribution, I’ll state here that all the facts come from excellent reporting by Washington Post reporters Laura Vozzella, Rosalind Helderman and Carol Leonning, as do all the quotes. The analysis is mine.

It’s Always Christmas If You’re a Politician

virginia AG Ken Cuccinelli brandishing one of the forms he forgot to fill out.

Virginia AG Ken Cuccinelli brandishing one of the forms he forgot to fill out.

What is it about an elected official that compels rich people to want to give him gifts? Do they look needy? Hungry? Depressed? Is there a secret gift registry of which I’m unaware? Could it be a mentoring program where plutocrats adopt a middle–class governor or attorney general and show them how capitalism has paid off? Sort of a rescue program except no Labradors are involved?

Any of those reasons are an improvement over the suspicions of my wife. She believes the gifts are given because the recipients hold high public office and it might come in handy for a rich person to have a governor or attorney general in their pocket. So she is disappointed in Ken Cuccinelli. Again. And that goes for me, too.

For those of you who don’t follow Virginia politics, Ken Cuccinelli is the Tea Party–backed Republican attorney general who filed the first court case against Obamacare. He also fought the EPA on job–killing regulations. And the AG filed a Freedom of Information Act request to get the papers “global warming” guru Michael Mann used to get grants while he was at the University of Virginia.

I was first disappointed in Cuccinelli when he broke a promise to serve two terms as AG and not run for governor after his first. Details are here. Now Cuccinelli and Gov. Bob McDonnell are enmeshed within a gift controversy brought on in large part by McDonnell’s failure to use his head and Cuccinelli’s failure to use his ballpoint.

The nexus of the scandal is Jonnie R. Williams, Sr. who runs Star Scientific, a former cigarette company that has progressed from selling cancer to marketing Anatabloc a nutritional supplement made from a substance found in tobacco. Anatabloc is used to fight inflammation and its also contained in facial cream where it may help to remove wrinkles caused by smoking.

Williams is a new BFF that both Cuccinelli and McDonnell have known for about five years. (Hmmm that’s just about the time they’ve been in office, but it must surely be a coincidence.) Williams gave $15,000 to McDonnell’s daughter so she could pay the ‘Let ‘em Eat Cake’ catering bill at her wedding. Williams has also given the family free use of his vacation home at Smith Mountain Lake and let the governor drive his Ferrari back to Richmond from that same vacation spread in Western Virginia. All told William’s publicly disclosed gifts to McDonnell and his political action committee come to over $120,000.

And it’s all perfectly legal. I just hope the wedding catering smelled better than the rest of the gifts. In fact, the catering started the scandal ball rolling, because McDonnell didn’t declare the gift, since it went to his daughter. I mean, what’s out of the ordinary about some BFF you’ve known since 2009 dropping 15 gees on your daughter’s wedding? It sure beats a blender.

Now FBI agents are investigating the relationship between the governor, his wife Maureen (who has promoted Anatabloc) and Williams to see if there was a quid pro quo.

Once the media started following the foie gras the trail led to Cuccinelli. He hasn’t had any weddings recently — although with a brood his size it’s only a matter of time — but he did invest in Star Scientific stock after meeting Williams. I’m sure he thought it was a great opportunity. Lance Armstrong and Barry Bonds had such great success with dietary supplements, what could possibly go wrong?

Cuccinelli also stayed at the Smith Mountain vacation home twice, accepted $6,700 worth of Anatabloc, took a flight to New York, borrowed Williams’ boat, took a trip to Kentucky, stayed at Williams’ house near Richmond, ate a Williams’ provided turkey dinner and was surprised to discover he owned over $10,000 in Star Scientific stock.

Many of these gifts and the stock were not reported promptly on disclosure forms. It’s appears Cuccinelli is a lawyer, but he’s not good with details and paperwork.

The worst part of this mess is that none of it had to happen. Conservatives were convinced Cuccinelli was different. He wouldn’t fall prey to the pitfalls of influence and influencers. But he did. And because he did, Cuccinelli is dealing with a campaign issue that never should have happened and one that sullies his reputation for ethics and honesty.

Delusional Democrats are fantasizing that the controversy may force McDonnell to resign. This is very unlikely, not the least because the events don’t rise to the level of a major scandal. But if McDonnell did resign, it would restore a disenchanted Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling’s faith in Providence. At the stroke of a pen Bolling would get to be governor without running a primary campaign, and even better he would be governor before Ken Cuccinelli!

Meanwhile I have some practical gift receiving advice for Cuccinelli and other conservative politicians who — I hope — don’t want to lose touch with the Americans that elected them:

  1. Don’t take a gift from any ‘friend’ you made after you left high school unless it comes with a receipt, preferably from Wal–Mart.
  2. Don’t buy stock in a ‘friend’s’ hot company if you didn’t know him in high school.
  3. Even if you knew him in high school, don’t take any gifts from a company with ‘science’ in the name that isn’t run by someone in a lab coat.
  4. Don’t take a gift from any ‘friend’ who owns a company that the SEC, FEC, IRS, FDA or the PTA is investigating.
  5. Don’t hitch a ride on an airplane, yacht or submarine owned by a stranger you met after high school, unless you all chip in for gas.
  6. Don’t accept free vacation housing from a ‘friend’ you met after high school, unless it’s a tent.
  7. Don’t offer to valet park a ‘friend’s’ Ferrari if you have to drive it more than 200 yards.