Governor McDonnell to return remaining gifts from donor
(CNN) — Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell is giving back every tangible gift he received from a wealthy executive at the heart of a federal investigation, he said Tuesday.
McDonnell has already returned the $120,000 in loans he has personally received from the owner of a dietary supplement company, Jonnie Williams Sr. Now, McDonnell will be returning everything else, including a Rolex watch he received from Williams, McDonnell said in his monthly radio interview on WTOP radio.
Everything “from this particular donor,” will be going back, McDonnell said. That includes a repayment for loans made not just to the governor but also to his family. The money will come from personal assets and that of his family, he said.
The one-term Republican has refused to step down, repeatedly denying any wrongdoing, saying that he complied with all disclosure requirements for the gifts.
“Elected officials are required to follow the law,” McDonnell said. McDonnell has come under fire for gifts given not just to him but to his family, including a major shopping spree for his wife and the catering for his daughter’s wedding. McDonnell has said that those gifts did not need to be reported because they were not given to him. While McDonnell directly mentioned his daughter repaying her wedding gift, he did not address repaying his wife’s shopping spree Tuesday.
“Gifts that have come to me, I’ve tried to report those,” he said.
According to McDonnell, he returned the gifts in order to restore trust with Virginia voters who have demanded a higher level of disclosure than is legally required.
“I thought the best way to make that right was to repay this loan,” McDonnell said. He argued that there has been no evidence of any special favors or benefits given to Williams or his company because of the gifts.
Other governors have also accepted gifts, McDonnell said. “It has been part of what is permissible,” he said.
McDonnell’s staff is currently considering potential revisions to the disclosure laws, he said, although he provided few specifics and said he had no intention of calling a special session of the state legislature.
The legislature will not convene another regular session until after McDonnell’s successor to the governor’s mansion is decided in November. Virginia governors are prevented from serving consecutive terms.
Despite probing questions, McDonnell remained demure for most of the interview. That is until he was asked towards the end about his discussions with the FBI and when last they interviewed him.
“We’ve spent 45 minutes of this show,” discussing the gifts, McDonnell said, arguing that there was little more he would be able to answer.
Travelling around the state, McDonnell said, Virginians have talked to him about other issues. “They don’t ask me about this,” he said.
McDonnell said he’d rather talk about more important issues facing the state. He immediately dove into a discussion not of state issues, however, but of his recent trip to Afghanistan.
Asked about his future political aspirations, the man who’d once been considered a contender for the White House in 2016 said that he was focused only on the remainder of his term and was looking forward to returning to private life, he said. He left the door slightly ajar, however, citing the charitable work he continues to do and gave no long-term plans for once he leaves office.
“It’s certainly going to be back in private life in 2014,” McDonnell said.