McDonnell to Return All Gifts from Star Scientific CEO - NBC29 WVIR Charlottesville, VA News, Sports and Weather

McDonnell to Return All Gifts from Star Scientific CEO

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Gov. Bob McDonnell Gov. Bob McDonnell

Governor Bob McDonnell says he will now return all gifts he received from a major campaign donor.

McDonnell came under fire in recent months for not reporting those gifts, but in a radio interview Tuesday morning, McDonnell also said he would support changes to Virginia's existing gift disclosure laws, joining a chorus of other lawmakers and candidates suggesting reforms.

McDonnell appeared on WTOP's Ask the Governor radio program, apologizing to Virginia for the second time in two weeks for the ongoing gifts scandal involving a wealthy campaign donor, Star Scientific CEO Jonnie Williams.

He announced last week his family would repay $120,000 in loans given to them by Williams. Now, McDonnell says his family will return all gifts from Williams, including $15,000 for catering at McDonnell's daughter's wedding, and a $6,500 Rolex.

"I have said that I'm embarrassed with some of the decisions that have been made by me or my family that have undermined that trust. I think I have followed the law as it is currently stated, it appears as though the expectation of the citizens is a higher level of disclosure," McDonnell said. 

McDonnell also says he supports strengthening Virginia's gift disclosure laws for politicians. He says he is working with his staff on a list of proposals in an effort to restore confidence in state government.

Another question McDonnell faced Tuesday morning involved the $53,000 in private legal fees taxpayers will foot for the investigation into the gifts scandal.

McDonnell says he shouldn't be blamed for the fees because Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli made the independent decision to recuse himself from the investigation due to a conflict of interest.

"The only reason that there was even private counsel involved is because the attorney general made a decision that he had a conflict of interest and could not provide counsel to me," McDonnell said. "It wasn't my choice; I'm happy to use the attorney general's office but he determined he had a conflict."

In response to this story, a representative from Cuccinelli's campaign said, "Taxpayers are only paying for representation regarding the prosecution of the executive mansion chef. However, it should be noted that it was the attorney general who initiated the state investigation of the governor regarding his gifts."

Cuccinelli has also come under fire, mainly from Democrats, for gifts and his relationship with Jonnie Williams. Separate investigations initiated by Cuccinelli's office found no evidence either Cuccinelli or McDonnell broke existing disclosure rules.

Though McDonnell has now joined a chorus of other lawmakers and candidates suggesting reforms, he says he will still not likely call a special session of the General Assembly to make those reforms, leaving that for the next administration.

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