As the brouhaha over lavish gifts bestowed on Gov. Bob McDonnell and his wife intensified Tuesday, McDonnell said he's open to a thorough review of the state's financial disclosure laws, including what types of gifts from friends to family members should be required reporting.
“I think it's certainly a decent discussion that could be had on who is required to report,” McDonnell, a Republican, said during a brief interview at Claude Moore Park in Loudoun, following a ceremonial signing of Lyme disease legislation.
“For instance,” the governor said, “I've got a 32-year old daughter who's married, that's an Iraq War veteran, that's lived outside of my house for 15 years. And I don't know what she gets for her birthday or Christmas presents … Can I be reasonably expected to know every gift?”
The interview took place just hours before the Washington Post reported Maureen McDonnell, the governor's wife, urged a political donor to buy Bob McDonnel
l a $6,500 Rolex watch two weeks after the donor, Jonnie Williams, met with state officials to discuss his company, Star Scientific, a Virginia-based supplement manufacturer for which both McDonnells have advocated.
News of the Rolex gift was the latest in the Post's ongoing examination
of the McDonnells' spending habits and relationships with political donors. Beginning in late March, the newspaper has published a series of articles specifically examining the McDonnells' relationship with Williams. Questions about the friendship escalated in April after it was revealed in the Post that Williams had paid a $15,000 catering tab for McDonnell's daughter's wedding in 2011.
Several sources, including local state Del. David Ramadan (R-87th), have told the Post federal investigators are looking into the McDonnells and their relationship with Williams. Ramadan was the first to publicly state he'd been called to testify before a grand jury.
Ramadan has since declined to comment on the investigation.
The governor reiterated his claim Tuesday that political donations or gifts haven't affected his decisions on state affairs or business incentives.
“In my office, we never let donations, gifts in any way affect board appointments, contracts or anything else… but I do think it's certainly not inappropriate to have a discussion now about gift limits, about who should report, about definitions to tighten up what certain things mean in the code. I think it's probably a good time to do that,” said McDonnell.
Virginia has a unique combination when it comes to financial disclosure laws, the governor continued, in that the law requires full disclosure from the politicians themselves but also places no limits on how much individuals can donate.
Indeed, the Code of Virginia mandates elected officials disclose all gifts exceeding $50. However, the law doesn't require politicians to disclose gifts given to family members or received from family members or personal friends.
McDonnell chats with Delgaudio
This week's event at Claude Moore Park in Northern Virginia's Sterling community served as a converging point for McDonnell and another embattled elected official, Eugene Delgaudio.
Delgaudio, a Republican who represents Sterling on the Loudoun Board of Supervisors and leads a Southern Poverty Law Center-designated “hate group,” attended the Lyme disease signing ceremony and had a brief conversation with McDonnell.
As founder and president of his controversial organization, Public Advocate of the United States, Delgaudio “is fighting liberals, homosexuals, Obama, pornography, gay marriage, high taxes, over-regulation, obscenity, abortion, atheists ...” according to the organization's website.
Just a day earlier, a grand jury concluded its investigation of Delgaudio for claims he used elected office for personal, political and financial gain.
The grand jury, while not indicting Delgaudio, recommended the Virginia General Assembly form a committee to research and amend the Virginia Campaign Finance Disclosure Act of 2006, and that the Virginia General Assembly amend the “misuse of public assets” statute so that it applies to anyone that works for or is elected to any government body in the commonwealth.
Public Advocate, on its website, condemns “Bob McDonnell for his embrace of an openly pro-homosexual judge in Richmond and his tax hike betrayal of his previous pledge to not raise taxes.”