RICHMOND (WWBT)- Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli is responding to criticism tonight over his connection to the company Star Scientific. The company's CEO Jonnie Williams has given Cuccinelli tens of thousands of dollars in gifts, some of which the attorney general failed to initially report.
When Cuccinelli revealed for the second time that he forgot to report gifts from Williams, TV cameras were not allowed into the press briefing.
This week the Attorney General went on camera with NBC12 to answer the tough questions about the controversy plaguing his campaign.
Tuesday morning Cuccinelli was in front of frozen yogurt and stuffed green frogs, pitching a tax cut plan, but the specter of the Star Scientific controversy was not far behind.
Democrats and their affiliated groups are pushing Star related stories and web videos on a daily basis.
They contend Cuccinelli has made a serious, perhaps illegal mistake, when it comes to his connection to Williams.
The Attorney General knows he did something wrong.
"This was a mistake on my part and I own that."
He claims it was a mistake not in any way designed to benefit the CEO who gave him plane rides and vacation getaways.
"He never asked me for anything,” Cuccinelli said. “The only time anything from Star ever came across the radar from the Attorney General’s office was when they sued over a tax assessment and they were immediately opposed."
That tax case connected the gifts and Cuccinelli's work as Attorney General, there is no evidence Star Scientific has benefited from Cuccinelli in any way.
But the appearance of a possible benefit has left Cuccinelli open to criticism. He argues there is nothing to hide.
"The mistakes I made. I was the one who came forward and disclosed those, other people didn't do that. My opponent didn't release his tax returns like I did,” he said. “I am being open as I can be."
It is perhaps not enough for Democrats, but it is enough for Cuccinelli to never take another gift from Williams ever again.
"Nothing,” he said when I asked if he will take anymore gifts from Williams, “No no no."
And eventually it won't just be Cuccinelli's word we have to go on. Richmond Commonwealth's Attorney Michael Herring- a Democrat- is conducting an independent review.
Herring said today the review is underway and will take several weeks to complete.
Our full uncut interview with Cuccinelli can be found below:
Here are some of the highlights:
*On why the mistake was made in the first place:
"When I realized that I'd made one mistake I went back and literally pulled calendars and other things to see because I didn't trust my memory at that point.""This was a mistake on my part and I own that."
"I didn't have a system in place to immediately track it. It would literally get to the end of the year and we sit down and I'd say 'okay, what else is there that is not on this list already?' Obviously I remembered some and I didn't remember some others."
On potential benefits for Jonnie Williams:
"He never asked me for anything and the only time anything from Star ever came across the radar from the Attorney General's office was when they sued over a tax assessment and they were immediately opposed."
On his openness in this situation:
"The mistakes I made, I was the one who came forward and disclosed those, other people didn't do that. My opponent didn't release his tax returns like I did. I am being open as I can be."
On his decision to remain Attorney General while running for Governor:
"Everybody on earth in Virginia stays in office when they run for an office."
"I promised the people of Virginia four years as Attorney General. So did my opponent. If I were to resign what do you think they would say?"
"I'm not perfect, I keep proving that. I've disclosed a heck of a lot more than my opponent and even he hasn't called on me to resign."
On future gifts from Jonnie Williams:
"Nothing. No no no."