Virginia attorney general apologizes for role in gift scandal

RICHMOND, Virginia Tue Sep 10, 2013 8:41pm EDT

Ken Cuccinelli is seen in this undated file photo, courtesy of the Cuccinelli Campaign. REUTERS/Cuccinelli Campaign/Handout/Files

Ken Cuccinelli is seen in this undated file photo, courtesy of the Cuccinelli Campaign.

Credit: Reuters/Cuccinelli Campaign/Handout/Files

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RICHMOND, Virginia (Reuters) - Virginia's Republican gubernatorial candidate on Tuesday said he would give a charity $18,000, the value of gifts he received from a political donor whose gift-giving sparked a federal investigation.

Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli accepted $18,000 in gifts from Virginia-based dietary supplement maker Star Scientific Inc, and its chief executive, Jonnie Williams. The gifts included vacation stays at Williams' former lakeside mansion in Virginia, a jet flight and a catered Thanksgiving dinner.

Federal authorities are investigating Republican Governor Bob McDonnell and his family for accepting more than $160,000 in gifts and loans from Star Scientific, a major donor to McDonnell's campaign.

Cuccinelli, who will face former Democratic National Committee Chairman Terry McAuliffe in November's gubernatorial election, apologized on Tuesday for his role in the scandal.

"For those who've been disappointed in this situation or how I've handled it, I apologize. It's been a humbling set of lessons for me," he said in a statement.

Cuccinelli said he had written a check for the value of the gifts he received from Williams to the CrossOver Healthcare Ministry, a Richmond-based charity. He said the money came from personal funds. CrossOver's website describes the charity as Virginia's largest free healthcare clinic.

McDonnell, who has faced calls for his resignation over his relationship with Star Scientific, said in July he had repaid $120,000 in loans to Williams, and would return all gifts, including a Rolex watch.

In July, Cuccinelli stated he could not return the gifts, saying, "Some bells you can't unring."

Later, the attorney general said he would return the value of the gifts if he could, but his family's finances would not permit it.

In recent polls, Cuccinelli has trailed Democrat McAuliffe in the governor's race.

A mid-August poll by Quinnipiac University gave McAuliffe a 6-point lead. A survey of 653 registered voters released August 30 by the Emerson College Polling Society said McAuliffe held a 10-point lead over Cuccinelli.

(Editing by Tim Gaynor and Stacey Joyce)

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Comments (2)
rickadams550 wrote:
Hey Reuters, why do you keep ignoring the Libertarian Party candidate for Governor in your reporting on the VA Governor’s race?

Sep 10, 2013 9:01pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
ConstitReset wrote:
While it was likely true that the gifts were actually gifts.
And it is likely true that it would have been awkward and impolitic to refuse the gifts.
Cuccinelli should have understood that Virginia is a English common law state
and that the relationship between that Commonwealth’s agent (Cuccinelli) and Cuccinelli’s principle in his office of AG (the Commonwealth) was such that gifts Cuccinelli received because he was AG belonged to the Commonwealth.

This includes gifts of hospitality that were provided for the AG’s office.
Cuccinelli, as AG, should have just thanked the hospitality gift’s donor in the name of the Commonwealth.

Cuccinelli should have just transferred the non-hospitality gifts to the Commonwealth and not given the value of the hospitality gifts to charity.

Virginia needs no new law to establish that as being the right way to handle gifts to an officer of the Commonwealth. I believe that the federal law regarding gifts to the POTUS is merely a restatement of the English common law regarding principle, agent and gifts.

Well, Cuccinelli’s whole gift faux pax just proves the Cuccinelli is just a man, and prone to error as men are.
The error had no evidenced greed or moral turpitude to it – no more than what confusion is ordinary to EVERY officer of the Va courts.

Sep 10, 2013 10:39pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
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