After leaving office earlier this month, former Virginia governor Bob McDonnell (R) has moved on to a much hotter seat: The Republican politician is now facing a 14-count felony indictment, two decades in jail, and thousands of dollars in fines.
And he is not going down alone; McDonnell’s wife, Maureen, is included in the 43-page federal indictment that threatens to land them both in jail. It contains a number of revealing details highlighting just how close the McDonnells were to former Star Scientific CEO Jonnie Williams until 2013.
According to the indictment, McDonnell first met Williams in 2009 to ask if he could use the former CEO’s private plane for his gubernatorial campaign. McDonnell later asked, per the request of his wife, that Williams cover the cost of Mrs. McDonnell’s dress for the governor’s inaugural address.
One of McDonnell’s senior aides warned the first lady that it was not a good idea.
She shot back in an email on December 29, 2009: “I need answers and Bob is screaming about the thousands I’m charging up in credit card debt. We are broke, have an unconscionable amount in credit card debt already, and this Inaugural is killing us!! I need answers and I need help, and I need to get this done.”
Just days later, Mrs. McDonnell told Williams she would take a “rain check” on the dress.
The rest was history.
Since 2010, the McDonnells have allegedly taken over $100,000 worth of gifts. But more shocking than the gifts the pair received over the years are the details concerning their financial woes and terrible cover-ups.
Read on to learn five of the juiciest details from the indictment.
Photo: Virginia Guard Public Affairs via Flickr
The McDonnells Were In Debt When Maureen Quietly Took Money
Maureen McDonnell’s email did not include that much of the family’s debt stemmed from Bob and his sister’s rental-home company, MoBo.
The problem, however, was that the properties needed “capital infusions of up to $60,000 annually to meet mortgage payments and other expenses.” Struggling to keep up with the payments, the McDonnells asked family and friends for loans.
With the property value of the homes declining, the McDonnells were unable to sell the houses. In 2011, Mrs. McDonnell confessed to Jonnie Williams that the family faced serious financial trouble and asked for a $50,000 loan. This would be the second favor Williams would do for the McDonnells — the first one directly linked to money.
Williams’ own motivation? Using the governor to advance his company’s products, which he believed could treat a variety of ailments and help people quit smoking.
The loan to the governor’s wife – without paperwork – secured the relationship between Star Scientific and the McDonnells.
However, the indictment shows that a large sum of money gifted to the McDonnells since 2011 initially came as a surprise to the governor. One email shows McDonnell had no idea that some of his rental properties were being renovated until his brother-in-law — in charge of managing the properties — emailed him saying that after talking with the first lady, he was told to speak “to the guy who is helping us…so he could send the first check.” In a follow-up email to his wife, the then-governor asks her to specify who her brother is referring to.
Though McDonnell’s initial claim that he was not aware of the first $50,000 loan his wife asked for was proven false, it remains unclear if McDonnell originally knew that she asked for an additional $15,000 during the same meeting to cover expenses for their daughter’s upcoming wedding.
Photo: PoliticalActivityLaw via Flickr
Williams’ Bargain: Human Guinea Pigs
By 2011, Williams started to ask for his own favors.
According to the indictment, in August 2011, Mrs. McDonnell met with Williams and a senior policy advisor to the state’s Secretary of Health, Bill Hazel. At the meeting, the then-CEO proposed testing his company’s product — Anatabloc, an inflammatory dietary supplement — on state government employees.
He said government workers would serve “as a control group for research studies,” and again brought up the idea in October.
In an email to the first lady, Williams detailed their discussions and suggested performing “a study of Virginia government employees…to determine the prevalences [sic] of autoimmune and inflammatory conditions.”
Photo: Yasa_ via Flickr
Bob McDonnell, The Salesman
Trying to keep up his end of the bargain, McDonnell lied to the state’s Secretary of Administration during a meeting to discuss state employee health plans and ways to reduce health care costs in Virginia.
The indictment states that during the meeting in March 2012, “Robert McDonnell pulled some Anatabloc out of his pocket and told the Secretary of Administration and one of her staff members that Anatabloc had beneficial health effects, that he personally took Anatabloc, and that it was working well for him.”
He then asked “the Secretary of Administration and her staff member to reach out to the ‘Anatabloc people’ and meet with them to discuss Anatabloc.”
This all sounds more like one terrible infomercial than a discussion about ways to reduce health care costs across the state.
AFP Photo/Alex Wong
Cover-Up: Part 1
Another important part of the indictment against the McDonnells relates to Star Scientific stock transactions.
The couple might have been able to survive the lavish gifts and loans they received from Williams due to Virginia’s lax ethics laws, but the 50,000 shares of Star Scientific stock that were almost transferred as collateral for the $50,000 loan the governor’s wife asked for in 2011 may sink them.
Allegedly realizing that the stocks would have to be disclosed on public forms, Williams instead loaned the $50,000. Not only does this change of mind appear in the indictment, but so does the voided check Williams and Mrs. McDonnell used to cover their tracks.
In fact, to avoid raising suspicions that Williams was loaning the family any money, he apparently asked his assistant to void a check that had Maureen McDonnell’s name in the memo line. He then ordered his assistant to write a new check that did not include her name.
Photo: Gage Skidmore via Flickr
Cover-Up: Part 2
Once The Washington Post started revealing tidbits of the McDonnells’ relationship with Star Scientific, the then-governor and first lady immediately began denying the accusations.
In February 2013, Mrs. McDonnell lied to law enforcement officials, claiming there was a “loan agreement that she had signed and that she was making periodic payments on the $50,000 loan.”
Not only was the statement false, the indictment charges, but by 2013 she had accepted more than just $50,000 from Star Scientific. Over those two years, Mrs. McDonnell went on a $15,000 shopping spree in New York City while her husband enjoyed “thousands of dollars in golf outings,” among other gifts.
McDonnell then revealed in an interview in July of last year that he was paying back all the gifts’ worth – failing to mention how – and that his wife returned the clothes Williams had bought her.
Though McDonnell apologized on Tuesday “for poor judgment,” he maintains that the gifts and loans were “legal” and he never promised – “and Mr. Williams and his company never received” – any “government benefit of any kind.”
“I will use every available resource and advocate I have for as long as it takes to fight these false allegations,” says the disgraced politician, who was once seen as a potential running mate for Mitt Romney.
Now engrossed in financial and legal woes, it is unclear what “available resources” the family has.
At least McDonnell gets to keep his customized Rolex – the one Williams had engraved with “71st Governor of Virginia.”