AUGUST 05, 2013
If there was a political version of the reality television show America’s Dumbest Criminals, Virginia’s Republican governor, Bob McDonnell, would probably be a frontrunner for the starring role.
In a matter of weeks his multiple transgressions have taken him from a serious GOP White House contender to an embarrassment on the verge of permanently ruining a once-bright political career. One Virginia newspaper editorial called the disgraced governor “absolutely pitiful,” pointing out that he got “caught in the quicksand of a political scandal.”
The governor and his family have accepted luxury gifts and hefty “loans” from a wealthy Virginia businessman, who incidentally is the subject of a federal securities investigation. The gifts include a $10,000 suede coat, a lavish shopping spree at swanky New York City stores, a $6,500 watch and a $15,000 wedding gift to Governor McDonnell’s daughter. The same shady donor also lent the governor his expensive Italian sports car, a fancy lakeside vacation home and private jet.
Washington D.C.’s mainstream newspaper broke the story months ago and recently it has escalated because the FBI and state authorities have launched investigations. Besides the unscrupulous gifts, the governor and his wife have used taxpayer money for a range of personal items that state law says they should have paid themselves, according to news reports.
Get this; the McDonnells have billed Virginia taxpayers for things like dog vitamins, body wash, sunscreen, deodorant and their adult children’s dry cleaning. They also use state workers to run personal errands for their adult daughters, according to records obtained by the newspaper. For example, in the middle of a workday, a staffer was deployed to get Rachel McDonnell’s newly hemmed pants at a tailoring shop nine miles from the governor’s mansion. In another incident a state worker was dispatched to a dry cleaner 20 miles away to fetch a storage box for Cailin McDonnell’s wedding dress.
It’s not like Virginia’s first family didn’t know this was wrong. Six months into the governor’s term, the official who oversees mansion spending warned the McDonnell’s that they had to stop charging taxpayers for a number of expenses like the ones listed above. They were told that, like most Americans, they had to buy their own toiletries and dog supplies. In fact, they were required to pay the state back hundreds of dollars but they just kept doing it.
As if all this weren’t already bad enough, the governor’s wife, Maureen McDonnell, bought nearly $9,800 in clothing with money from her husband’s political action committee and an additional $7,600 in “unspecified items” after raiding his campaign and inaugural funds. It appears that there is no end to this madness. The town paper that called McDonnell “absolutely pitiful” wonders how the governor’s “judgment and sense of ethics could so fail him and us.”
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