Will The Virginia Governor’s Race Boil Down To A Cook?

By Mark Esposito, Guest Blogger

todd_schneiderVirginia State Judge Margaret Spencer has an interesting decision tomorrow – one that could affect more than the criminal case involving the executive chef for Virginia’s Governor, Bob McDonnell. On the third floor of Richmond’s John Marshall Courts Building, Spencer will hear that Chef Todd Schneider was denied due process of law because the prosecutor at the time, Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, had a political and personal conflict of interest that influenced his decision. Schneider’s lawyers,  Steven D. Benjamin and Betty Layne DesPortes, contend that Cuccinelli, who is the GOP candidate for governor, was tied personally and politically to a Virginia businessman whose crumbling empire has launched FBI and State Police investigations as well as political headaches for McDonnell. Those ties, and Cuccinelli’s representation of McDonnell, made criminal  charges against Schneider for allegedly stealing food from the Governor’s Mansion a political witch hunt, they say. They have asked for a complete dismissal of all charges.

The whole mess started when Republican bigwig, Jonnie Williams Sr., wanted to promote his dietary supplement company, Star Scientific, Inc.  Mesmerizing Virginia First Lady and former Redskin cheerleader, Maureen McDonnell, with the pitch, Williams gradually developed ties with the governor and even used the Executive Mansion to pitch his  anti-inflammatory supplement, Anatabloc,  in a now infamous luncheon that the Governor attended despite his staff’s misgivings. Nothing scandalous as far as that went, but rumors began to circulate that Williams was doing more than just plying his wares and providing a few free samples.  It is now confirmed that Williams gave the McDonnell family thousands of dollars in “gifts”  — including a $15,000 check to pay for the wedding of the Governor’s daughter,  a $6,500 Rolex watch the Governor won’t talk about, and  a lavish New York City shopping spree for the governor’s wife including a $10,000 suede jacket — that were never reported. Virginia’s disclosure laws require elected officials to declare any gift valued at $50 or more, but does not require that gifts to the family of the governor  be reported.  Those gifts were in addition to the roughly $110,000.00 in disclosed campaign contributions he gave to McDonnell’s run for governor. However, that kind of  cozying up by cash doesn’t sit well in Virginia, where the state’s reputation for good government is sacrosanct.

The confirmation of the undisclosed gift giving came from — you guessed it — Todd Schneider.  When confronted with claims of felony embezzlement by the Capitol Police, Schneider went straight to the Attorney General’s Office of Ken Cuccinelli as well as the FBI and sang that all was not well in the Governor’s Mansion. He told them that state resources were being used improperly and that he could prove it.  He also said the theft charges were bogus and that Maureen McDonnell had allowed him to take food in lieu of cash for serving as her personal shopper and handling catering events at the mansion like the Star Scientific product luncheon. The FBI launched an investigation; but Cuccinelli kept prosecuting until the Grand Jury returned four indictments.

Schneider’s lawyers were aghast and filed papers with Judge Spencer asking Cuccinelli to recuse himself. The Attorney General refused but then abruptly changed course turning over the investigation to Richmond Commonwealth Attorney, Mike Herring, a no-nonsense state prosecutor known for scrupulous adherence to the rules and fair play.  But Cuccinelli did something else at the same time the announcement to recuse was made that only deepened the scandal. According to the Richmond Times Dispatch, the  Republican candidate told reporters that he asked Herring to investigate him, too because he ” neglected to disclose an additional $5,000 in gifts from Williams, including airfare to New York City and two stays at his Smith Mountain Lake vacation home, one of which included a catered Thanksgiving dinner for the attorney general and his family.”  Ouch. Now two of the top three Virginia Republican officials had fingerprints all over the Star Scientific mess and were faced with charges of  succumbing to gift giving. Only Bill Bolling, in the largely ceremonial post of Lieutenant Governor, was spared.

And what was the Star Scientific mess? Well, it seems that Mr. Williams’ company has been losing money for ten years.  Anatabloc was supposed to change all that. He reputedly owes the state a cool $700,000.00 in unpaid taxes and, to make matters doubly worse, he is being investigated by the Securities and Exchange Commission for his business dealings. That’s not exactly the résumé you want for First Family of Virginia’s BFF.

And what about the election year fall out? Political guru Larry Sabato says that if this trial goes forward in October, just weeks before the election, a power shift could happen in once reliably red Virginia. “The last thing the Republican ticket needs is for the final weeks of the campaign to be dominated by scandalous headlines about the incumbent GOP governor and his family,” said Sabato, who heads the respected Center for Politics at the University of Virginia. “And even though Cuccinelli is certainly not close to the McDonnells, he has ties to this case … as well as to Jonnie Williams.”

McDonnell has fought back saying, “”I think it’s important that the people of Virginia know that nothing has been done with regard to my relationship with Mr. Williams or his company Star Scientific to give any kind of special benefits to him or his company.” But Virginians have become wary of McDonnell’s protestations especially since he clammed up about the Rolex.

Virginians don’t seem to like their choice for governor but they seem to like Cuccinelli less. The Virginia Democratic Party is running Washington power broker, Terry McAuliffe, as its candidate for governor. Former head of the Democratic National Committee and campaign chairman for Bill Clinton, he is the classic DC insider. But DC insiders don’t play well in Virginia even sons of famous football coaches. Just ask last go-rounds  unsuccessful senatorial candidate, George Allen. Still McAuliffe holds a 3 point edge in latest Rasmussen poll but within the margin of error. And Cuccinelli appears to be taking the hit in his approval ratings according to a poll by Public Policy Polling which shows 44% of those polled expressing a negative view of the GOP candidate.  That’s a full eleven points worse than McAuliffe.

“The governor’s race is shaping up exactly as expected — voters don’t care for either Ken Cuccinelli or Terry McAuliffe,” said Dean Debnam, president of Public Policy Polling. “But at this point they have a bigger problem with Cuccinelli than they do with McAuliffe.”

That’s a recipe for disaster in anyone’s cookbook regardless of who is doing the cooking.

Source:  Richmond Times Dispatch; Washington Times

~Mark Esposito, Guest Blogger

43 thoughts on “Will The Virginia Governor’s Race Boil Down To A Cook?”

  1. If you readGov Bob’s law school thesis you will see he is exactly like a big government left wing wacko who wants to use government to effect social change. Only he wants to use government to shape family values whatever that means.

    He and the Cucci are statists just a different side of the same big government can do anything coin.

  2. Mespo,
    Not only is he politically damaged goods, he is a far right wacko who thinks big government should stay out of our lives, except for women’s privates.

  3. Maddow was reporting that the Cootch apparently forgot to disclose some gifts from the same company, something he’s been doing (forgetting to disclose gifts) for some years now. Those free-market, family values Republicans, ya’ gotta’ love em.

  4. The reason I ask is in our state the income of one spouse is considered equal property of the other spouse (under certain situations) so I wondered if a gift to the governor’s wife would not necessarily insulate him from an unlawful income charge.

  5. what specific law did he break? the article says that what was done was legal. And what benefit did the supplement company get? Virginia’s secretary of health turned the guy down. Gifts to family members are OK and so are loans to companies.

    It doesnt look good but where is the crime?

    I wonder how much money Terry funneled to the Clintons?

  6. Bob had better get the state limousine warmed up and waiting in the driveway to the Mansion for a fast getaway. I don’t think he’ll make it to November. Sad case of a politician with a high maintenance wife on the make. Happens all the time just not so publicly. Sayonara, Gov. Bob’s political career.

  7. After reading that article, Gene, it’s hard not to conclude the governor and first lady are on the take.

  8. Porkchop:

    I think you are a few years older than I am so it took me a little longer to figure it out. I was involved in Nova repubs from about 1988 to 1992 and then started a business so didnt have much time for it. By the time I got back to thinking about politics the republican party had gone bat sh*t crazy.

    I just cannot, in good conscience, vote for a man who wants to force medical procedures on us and who wants to make illegal what goes on in a bedroom between consenting adults. And I cannot, in good conscience, vote for a man who thinks I dont own the right to my productive work.

    The repubs and the dems are exactly the same, they just come at it from different sides.

  9. Bron:

    He sounds like an interesting guy. I like where he stands on most issues.

    As it happens, he went to the same science and technology high school as my youngest daughter (about 15 years before she did).

    Interestingly, he has not gotten much publicity here in Northern Virginia — where he lives.

    It sounds like our (yours and mine) are similar, at least in most ways. I bailed out of the Republican Party in 1989, because I just couldn’t stomach Marshall Coleman, and Morton (and Helen) Blackwell put me in a position over that where I just didn’t feel I could continue to be a member of the local Republican central committee. Even then, they were way over the top, even for Reaganites.

  10. Porkchop:

    vote for the libertarian, he cant be any worse than a dem or repub. He seems pretty sharp based on his education. He seems to be a fair minded person and has been/is a small business person.

    Robert Sarvis for Governor!

    He isnt going to be probing women and preventing sodomy.

    He probably doesnt have much chance but I am going to vote for him. I used to be a republican but now I am just disgusted.

  11. “Virginians don’t seem to like their choice for governor but they seem to like Cuccinelli less.”

    This Virginian can’t stand either of them. This is more like a Procrustean bed than a Hobson’s choice, dilemma, or Morton’s fork. I expect voters to stay home in droves; I know I may.

    The good news is that in Virginia, a governor may not succeed himself, so no matter who wins, we’ll have a new governor in four years.

  12. http://nymag.com/daily/intelligencer/2013/05/mcauliffe-cucinelli-not-grimmest-choice-ever.html

    The most depressing election in America is unfolding in Virginia, where voters will trudge to the polls this fall to choose either Republican nutjob Ken Cuccinelli or soulless Democratic hack Terry McAuliffe as their next governor. We know why Republicans picked Cuccinelli — he’s crazy, they’re crazy, it’s the sort of perfect match that regularly produces nominees like Todd “legitimate rape” Akin and Richard Mourdock.

    Just how McAuliffe managed to clear the field is harder to explain. McAuliffe is a House of Cards character, only less articulate. Unlike most soulless hacks, he did not obtain his position through years of greasy pole climbing — he’s a novice in electoral politics whose only real power base is Beltway insiders. McAuliffe is the Democrat Democrats have been dying to vote against, except they can’t, because he’s running against a falling-off-the-right-edge-of-the-map Republican. (It’s a testament to McAuliffe’s visceral loathsomeness that he’s starting off with a ten-point deficit against Crazy Ken Cuccinelli, in a state Barack Obama won twice.)

  13. The strange thing in all this is that Cuccinelli was a choir boy and now he is against sodomy and wants to pass anti sodomy law in his state. As they say in the UK,” Mind your back”.

  14. I thought as I was reading a book called “Gifts, Grafts and Gratuities” the guide to how to get it and not be caught…..

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