RICHMOND, Va. (AP) – Gov. Bob McDonnell said Wednesday that his daughter Cailin has returned the $15,000 check she received for her wedding from Jonnie Williams, a major McDonnell campaign donor and head of a nutritional supplements manufacturer who gave the first family thousands of dollars in gifts.
Now the subject of federal and state investigations into his relationship Williams, McDonnell announced on his hourlong monthly show on Washington’s WTOP radio that he is working with his private legal team to return all gifts still in his family’s possession to Williams.
That includes a $6,500 Rolex watch inscribed for the “71st governor of Virginia,” 28-year-old Cailin’s wedding gift and a $10,000 check to the McDonnells’ eldest daughter, 32-year-old Jeanine, for her May wedding that has already been returned to Williams.
“I am working with my counsel to return gifts that have been given,” McDonnell said. “My eldest daughter returned her engagement gift and my daughter Cailin has returned her wedding gift, and there are other substantial items that are in the process of being returned, and I’ll let you know more when I do.”
Last week, McDonnell said he had repaid nearly $125,000 in personal and business loans that Williams made, and the governor, through his private legal and public relations team, issued an apology to Virginians.
The governor did not disclose either the loan from Williams or gifts from him which candidates and public officeholders are required to file annually broadly detailing their personal finances. McDonnell, entering the final five months of the single, non-renewable term to which Virginia uniquely limits its governors, defends his decision not to report the gifts, noting that the state’s porous ethics laws compel disclosure only of gifts given directly to officeholders or candidates themselves, not to their immediate families.
He has expressed generalized support for tightening Virginia’s ethics and reporting laws, but voices no appetite for submitting specific legislation and summoning the General Assembly into special session to consider them before his term expires in January.
McDonnell told reporters Wednesday he hasn’t calculated the total value of the gifts being returned to Williams or settled on a timetable for returning them. Nor would he address whether he believed Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, the Republican nominee in this year’s race to succeed him, should return about $18,000 in gifts he received from Williams or reimburse Williams for their estimated value.
“I’m not going to comment on that. I think everybody’s got to do what they think (is) right,” McDonnell said.
Cuccinelli has reported his family’s gifts from Williams on his statements of economic interest, though some years later when he amended his earlier reports to add items he said he had overlooked earlier. Among them were a $3,000 family vacation and a $1,500 Thanksgiving dinner, both at Williams’ luxury waterfront home on Smith Mountain Lake in Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountain foothills.
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