SEPTEMBER 08, 2014
Another elected official who has appeared on Judicial Watch’s annual corrupt politicians list has been criminally convicted, this time a former Republican governor—Bob McDonnell— who not long ago was considered a serious White House contender.
The former Virginia governor made JW’s 2013 Ten Most Wanted Corrupt Politicians list after the FBI launched an investigation into his relationship with a wealthy businessman—also the subject of a federal securities probe—who exchanged expensive gifts for political favors. Among the gifts were luxury vacations, an engraved Rolex watch, a $10,000 suede coat, a lavish shopping spree at swanky New York City stores 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.
The McDonnells also billed Virginia taxpayers for things like dog vitamins, body wash, sunscreen, deodorant and their adult children’s dry cleaning. They also used state workers to run personal errands for their adult daughters, according to records obtained by a newspaper last year. 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.
This month a federal jury in Richmond found McDonnell and his wife Maureen guilty of multiple counts of corruption. After deliberating for 17 hours, the jury found the former governor guilty on 11 corruption and fraud counts and his wife guilty on eight corruption counts and one count of obstruction of justice. This includes six counts of obtaining property, worth $138,804, under color of official right. The amount includes a $15,000 check for the McDonnell daughter’s wedding.
“As Virginia’s governor, Robert McDonnell and his wife turned public service into a money-making enterprise, abusing the Commonwealth’s highest office to benefit a Virginia businessman in exchange for more than $170,000 in gifts and loans,” said the lead federal prosecutor in a statement issued by the Department of Justice. “In pursuit of a lifestyle that they could ill-afford, McDonnell and his wife eagerly accepted luxury items, designer clothes, free vacations and the businessman’s offer to pay the costs of their daughter’s wedding. In return, McDonnell put the weight of the governor’s mansion behind the businessman’s corporate interests.”
Sentencing is scheduled for January and the disgraced politician and his wife face mandatory prison sentences and up to 20 years behind bars. A local news report describes how an ashen Bob McDonnell wept as the verdicts were read. Then he was mobbed by TV cameras before being whisked from the federal courthouse in a blue Mercedes. “”All I can say is that my trust remains in the Lord,” McDonnell said quietly.The case derailed the career of the onetime rising Republican star, according to the story.
Last summer a member of JW’s 2008 Ten Most Wanted Corrupt Politicians list, former Arizona Congressman Rick Renzi, also got convicted on more than a dozen federal corruption charges for using his public office to enrich himself and his cronies. The disgraced three-term Republican was found guilty of 17 felony offenses including conspiracy, honest services wire fraud, extortion under color of official right, racketeering, money laundering and making false statements to insurance regulators. Former Illinois Congressman Jesse Jackson Jr., in jail for illegally using campaign money, was a member of JW’s 2012 corrupt politicians list.
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