Gov. Bob McDonnell has returned tangible gifts from a wealthy political donor whose relationship with the governor is under scrutiny, a spokesman for McDonnell’s private legal team confirmed Tuesday.
The spokesman released no other details about the gifts, including exactly what was returned or the value of the items.
Citing “concerns that have been raised by members of the public, and to do everything I can to restore trust with the people of Virginia,” McDonnell said in late July on Washington’s WTOP radio that he was working to return gifts from Jonnie Williams Sr. that were still in his possession, including a Rolex watch.
McDonnell said his eldest daughter, Jeanine, has returned $10,000 she received from Williams in advance of her May wedding. Williams also spent $15,000 to cover the catering costs for the June 2011 Executive Mansion wedding reception for another daughter, Cailin.
“At this point, I’ve been advised by my attorney, that all the tangible have been returned,” McDonnell told The Associated Press in an interview Monday.
McDonnell and members of his family have received more than $160,000 in gifts and loans from Williams, CEO of Henrico County-based Star Scientific. The governor faces state and federal investigations in regard to the gifts and his relationship with Williams.
The governor paid back $52,278 for what was described as a 2011 loan from Williams to first lady Maureen McDonnell. He also paid $71,837 for two 2012 loans to a real estate business he owns with one of his sisters, according to his personal legal team.
State law requires elected officials and others to disclose any gift in excess of $50 but does not place the same reporting requirement on gifts to immediate family members.
McDonnell has maintained that neither Williams nor Star received any special treatment from his administration. He earlier apologized for the embarrassment he said the scandal has brought to the state.
A spokesman for McDonnell lashed out Friday at what he described as “a free pass” given by federal prosecutors to Williams and Star Scientific in exchange for the executive’s testimony in the federal investigation of loans and gifts to the McDonnell family.
Rich Galen, a spokesman for McDonnell, issued the first public criticism of Williams by the governor, who previously described him as a personal friend.
Star said in a regulatory filing Friday that the company did not expect to face federal prosecution in ongoing investigations by the U.S. Attorney’s Office. Federal prosecutors have been examining Star’s securities transactions and private placements of stock since March.
Federal authorities also have been investigating the gifts and loans from Williams to the McDonnells. Star Scientific said Friday that it has been cooperating in “any and all of the matters” under investigation by federal prosecutors.
Galen contrasted McDonnell’s 37 years of service in the military and government with the work of Williams, who he said “has been in trouble with government entities since the earliest days of his business career.”
The spokesman also cited a report by a McDonnell lawyer, former Attorney General Anthony F. Troy, that showed no benefit given by the governor or state to Williams and Star.
“So the only quid pro quo that has been proven in this case is between the U.S. government and Jonnie Williams,” Galen said in a written statement.