After taking weeks of criticism for his connections to the Star-Scientific scandal, Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli (R) will donate $18,000 to an unspecified charity. That dollar figure is equal to the value of the personal gifts Cuccinelli received from company CEO Jonnie Williams.
Cuccinelli who is the GOP nominee for governor, has fought calls to pay back Williams after his Republican counterpart, Governor Bob McDonnell elected to payback more than $150,000 in loans and gifts from Williams to him and his family. McDonnell's connection to Williams is under investigation by the federal government.
Cuccinelli has slowly worked to distance himself from Williams and McDonnell. He has said that McDonnell introduced him to Williams and that a big chunk of the gifts given to him from the CEO were in the form of nutritional supplements that he ended up giving away to other people. While Cuccinelli's gifts from Williams are not insignificant, they are a far cry from the financial connection the Governor has to the businessman.
Initially Cuccinelli forgot to report the gifts from Williams but later amended his financial disclosure report.
Cuccinelli has given a myriad of reasons as to why he could not, or would not return the gifts from Williams. First he said that the gifts were tangible and something that could not be physically returned. Cuccinelli received a catered Thanksgiving dinner at Williams's vacation home and several plane trips around the country to help support Republican candidates in other states in addition to the nutritional supplements.
When Democrats challenged that he should return the value of the gifts in cash, Cuccinelli said that as a father of seven, he was not in a financial position to come up with that kind of money quickly.
But while Cuccinelli continued to offer excuses Democrats, looking for every possible opportunity to tie the GOP candidate for Governor to McDonnell, did not relent. They regularly called on Cuccinelli to return the value of the gifts, even posting a billboard on a busy part of two interstates in Richmond.
Now- less the two months before voters go to the polls Cuccinelli has decided he will donate the value of the gifts to charity. It is the same tactic he took when Bobby Thompson, a major donor to his campaign, was under investigation for running a fake charity for Navy Veterans. The difference in this case is that Thompson donated to Cuccinelli's campaign fund. The gifts from Williams were given to Cuccinelli personally and thus these donations to charity must come from his personal accounts.
Democrats argue this move is driven based on recent polls that show Cuccinelli trailing opponent Terry McAuliffe.
"Cuccinelli’s pattern of ethical behavior is always the same," said McAuliffe spokesperson Josh Schwerin. "Get caught in scandals, do nothing for months, and then buckle to pressure for his own political reasons.
Through all this controversy Cuccinelli contends that despite the gifts from Williams, the CEO received no special benefit from him or the Office of Attorney General. His claim was backed up by a thorough investigation by Michael Herring (D), the Richmond Commonwealth's Attorney who determined there was no evidence that Cuccinelli broke the law. Cuccinelli also points out that he was the one who referred the information related to McDonnell to Herring which led to the federal investigation of the Governor.
Attorney General Cuccinelli has scheduled only one television interview on this topic and it will be with NBC12 this afternoon. Hear what he has to say about the matter tonight on NBC12 News at 5 & 6.
We will have more updates here on Decision Virginia as well.
The Cuccinelli campaign just released this video explaining his decision to donate the money: