Cuccinelli to donate $18,000 to offset Williams' gifts

Sept. 10, 2013 at 5:15 PM
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RICHMOND, Va., Sept. 10 (UPI) -- Republican Virginia gubernatorial candidate Ken Cuccinelli said he's donating $18,000 to charity to offset gifts from a wealthy donor who's under investigation.

Cuccinelli, the state's attorney general, has sought to distance himself from a scandal that's consumed Gov. Bob McDonnell's last year in office, The Washington Post reported Tuesday. McDonnell is under investigation by a special state prosecutor and the federal government for taking scores of gifts from a wealthy businessman, Jonnie R. Williams Sr., chief executive officer of Star Scientific, a company marketing a dietary supplement McDonnell and his wife Maureen extensively helped promote.

Cuccinelli's office initially began investigating Williams' political donations when the chef at the governor's mansion blew the whistle on a $15,000 catering contract Williams paid for the food at McDonnell's daughter's wedding.

The initial tip led to revelations of more than $120,000 in gifts Williams gave the McDonnells during Bob McDonnell's time as governor, including personal "loans," free trips, use of Williams' Ferrari, access to a private jet, a Rolex watch and other perks. McDonnell has since repaid some of the money but has refused to say what it was for.

Cuccinelli initially failed to disclose a $4,500 donation from Williams -- along with substantial Star Scientific stock holdings -- when his office was first investigating Williams. Cuccinelli has since recused himself and his office and appointed a Democratic state special prosecutor to review his actions. That review found Cuccinelli did not break any laws.

But Cuccinelli's campaign remained under fire for other perks Williams gave the candidate, such as a free stay at a posh cabin, a catered Thanksgiving dinner and other items estimated to be worth $18,000. Until this week, Cuccinelli, who's running against Democratic fundraiser Terry McAuliffe, had demurred on the so-called "intangible" gifts Williams gave him, saying he wasn't sure his family could afford to "write a check" to satisfy critics.

The $18,000 will go to a Richmond-area charity that was not disclosed.

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