Gov. Bob McDonnell And The Compliance Dodge

GiftsThe bottom line is that Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell accepted what looks to any objective observer like a bribe–several bribes, in fact—and whether he is in technical compliance with his states laws and ethics rules doesn’t change the fact that he is, by definition, corrupt and untrustworthy.

McDonnell, once considered a rising star in the national GOP firmament–and who knows? Considering the competition, he may be still!—has been steadily soiled and diminished by  revelations of dubious gifts and payments to his family and a corporation jointly owned by him and his wife by wealthy businessman Jonnie R. Williams Sr, chief executive of dietary supplement manufacturer Star Scientific Inc. So far, the gifts and payments appear to include,

  • A $50,000 check made out to Maureen McDonnell from Williams’ trust.
  • A separate check, written the same day, to pay for the catering of the Governor’s daughter Cailin’s wedding.
  • Another $50,000 check from his trust to MoBo, the family corporation, which was followed by an additional $20,000 payment to the corporation.
  • A  $10,000 check as a present to McDonnell’s eldest daughter, Jeanine, intended to help defray costs of her May 2013 wedding.
  • Taken all together, Williams appears to have given  $145,000 to assist the McDonnell family in 2011 and 2012.
  • That amount does not include other undisclosed gifts that Williams gave to the governor’s family, including $15,000 in luxury clothing he bought for Maureen McDonnell, and a $6,500 Rolex watch she asked him to purchase so she could give it to her husband.

Virtually none of these was reported by the Governor, which he justifies this way:

“The rules that I’m following have been rules that have been in place for decades. These have been the disclosure rules of Virginia. I’m following those. To, after the fact, impose some new requirements on an official when you haven’t kept record of other gifts given to family members or things like that obviously wouldn’t be fair.”

This is called “the Compliance Dodge,” a deceitful rationalization  that is very high on the Ethics Alarms rationalization list. The translation goes something like this:

“There are loop-holes in the law that let me get the kind of illegal and unethical financial incentives from rich donors that the laws and regulations of the state were designed to prevent. This allows me to obey the letter of the law while raking it in. So there.”

Virginia  law requires the disclosure of any gift valued at more than $50, but gifts to family members are exempt, a foolish Virginia practice that most states have moved to cease. Otherwise, a political donor in search of special favors can give the wife of a governor $6,500 so she can buy a Rolex watch to give to her husband. Consistent with Virginia law, Gov. McDonnell didn’t report all of this bounty flowing to him through his wife, corporation and kids. Now, in most states there would be a clear prohibition against governors engaging in conduct that blinds with the “appearance of impropriety,’ like McDonnell’s dealings with Williams, but Virginia has the vaguest, most inaccessible and largely useless ethics regulations for elected officials in the nation. Thus McDonnell may be able to claim, perhaps successfully, that he is an ethical lawmaker, the way Virginia defines the term, which is to say, badly.

Breaking laws and regulations, however, and showing oneself to be untrustworthy, venal, unethical and corrupt are sometimes different things entirely, and McDonnell allowing his family to be bribed by this CEO, as if McDonnell himself derives no benefit from it, is a classic example of the latter. Laws announce what is wrongful conduct, but the conduct is still wrongful whether there is law against it or not. Whether or not the various investigations of these shady financial transactions (McDonnell calls them “loans”) ultimately gets the Governor in legal trouble, the verdict is already in regarding his character.


Source: Washington Post

32 thoughts on “Gov. Bob McDonnell And The Compliance Dodge

  1. We can thank Bill Clinton’s defenders for the (wrong, but often advanced) principle that character no longer counts.

  2. “Breaking laws and regulations, however, and showing oneself to be untrustworthy, venal, unethical and corrupt are sometimes different things entirely,”

    Thanks for that, Jack. It is amazing how many politicians (trained as lawyers, usually) fall back on “I did nothing illegal” as a defense. And more amazing how that seems to placate the media and much of the populace.

    I’m sure that when Bill Clinton said, “I did not have sexual relations with that woman… Monica Lewinsky,” he meant he didn’t have sexual intercourse with her, convinced that oral sex was not sexual intercourse. I wonder how that went over when he ran that theory past Her Hillaryness.

    Funny, for the first time, I just realized why he added “Monica Lewinsky” after the pause. Hah Hah. He didn’t want anyone thinking he was saying he hadn’t had sex with other women! I think even Bill would have considered that a lie and perjury had he been under oath and anyone pressed him on it!

    • People are still bitter about Bill Clinton.. Has there been a fiercer political force in our lifetime? 4x Gov, 2x President, and if you examine the Hilliary’s motives, Bill was running for President again by Proxy. He may still.

      • How about the Bush family? 2 presidents and 2 governors at first glance, none of whom were adulterers, perjurers, or serial liars. That’s not to mention the Kennedy family, which might have produced how many presidents but for a few well-placed bullets and a bridge, but whose ethics make Clinton look like a choir boy. There are, there have been and there will be a LOT fiercer political forces than him, assuming he has that much farther to go given his already less-than-wonderful cardiac health.

        • You’re talking about families. Jj is referring to an individual. I’m trying to think of other dynamos of the same ilk — perhaps FDR or Teddy come close if you look back over the last 100 years.

          • He said a force, and both of those are very powerful forces. FDR and Teddy are similar, I would even say surpass Clinton. Let’s also not forget Ronald Reagan, who may have been relatively undistinguished before he entered politics, but once he entered politics became one of the six victors of the Cold War and arguably the defining man of the second half of the 20th century in America.

            • I rate George H.W. Bush ahead of them all, as a force. Consider all the jobs he held. Sure, Reagan was President – with Bush’s permission (and a failed assassination). Same with Clinton – for some reason, that’s been eating at me for the past few days: Realizing what a one-party racket is governing this country. No way did GHWB even want to win re-election in 1992; he’d made it to the top, and he’d had enough. Perot served well. I wouldn’t be surprised if GHWB had more to do with Gorbachev’s taking of the reins than most of the Politburo – with Yeltsin “in reserve.”

              • George H.W. Bush was no force on the level of any of these things by himself, although the Bush family is a very powerful force indeed. This is not to say he was either a wimp or an incompetent, he was the youngest pilot in the US Navy in WWII and saw combat, he was head of the CIA at a touch time, he faced down dictators with submachine-toting guards personally, he oversaw the end of the Cold War, and he won the Gulf War, with history possibly vindicating him on the decision not to go into Iraq. However, Jack, in another post, pointed out that he loses points for building up this huge approval rating and then doing nothing with it. You apparently believe he just decided to step aside in 1992 and rigged an elaborate scheme to do so. I don’t believe that, but I do believe he was either overconfident or just plaint didn’t care if he won or not in 1992. I also believe that his attempt at a kinder, gentler, team-player approach crippled him from using his huge approval rating to prevent breaking his pledge for no new taxes. This error renders him a non-force.

                • I really admire George H.W. as being an intelligent leader. I disagree with many of his policies/actions (not worth debating here) but I don’t think anyone can accuse him of being an idiot. He also led with quiet confidence — a quality that I appreciate in a politician.

                  • No, the idiot designation is reserved for his predecessor (who liberals LOVE to say had Alzheimers while still serving, despite complete absence of medical evidence to back that assertion), or his son (who liberals love to portray as a simpleton, Harvard MBA aside). I can agree with the quiet confidence thing, unfortunately in this age of reality TV and poison pen columnists (yeah Ted, that includes you, if you’re reading), apparently the brasher the better.

                  • He was an awful, awful President–weak, irresolute, passive, unwilling to use his power to address serious problems. A man who regarded the Presidency as some kind of a career reward, like a gold watch. Yes, he seems to be a decent person, just like James Buchanan, Franklin Pierce, Jimmy Carter, Warren G. Harding and Gerald Ford. My next door neighbor, an ex-mail carrier, is a decent person too, and I’d vote for him before I’d vote for another term of Papa Bush.

                    • But to bring this back around, Bill and Hillary Clinton are both menaces and an embarassment to my, the Baby Boom, generation, which sufferes from a terrible dearth of leaders.

                    • Jack: I agree with some of what you say at 1:16. I agree most strongly that it seemed as if Bush wanted to just make it to the top and relish it, without a care about not being remembered favorably overall for being there. He seemed to tire of haggling with Congress, like it required more scheming than he had patience for. By breaking his no-new-taxes pledge, he may have miscalculated that doing so would keep up “bipartisan” appearances to his advantage. He obviously had no passion for the (phony) “Reagan Revolution,” or for anything Reagan may have desired passionately for the direction of government fiscal behavior. He also seemed to suffer what Churchill did after WWII, and maybe did not expect: a rapid shift in the electorate’s priorities.

                      Bush may have recognized the onset of cultural changes early enough to simply respond with a “Screw ‘em, screw it, I’m outta here” attitude, having no interest in “culture wars.” He does seem to be a decent family man; he was a disappointing president, but that obscures the force he was throughout his political career before being POTUS. Though disappointing as he was, I don’t agree that he was “awful” – not like Dukakis would have been – unless you like the idea of Jesse Jackson on the Supreme Court (or someone similarly unqualified) instead of Clarence Thomas.

                    • “… terrible dearth of leaders.”

                      Bill, do you mean overall? If so, I disagree. The Baby Boomers have plenty of good leaders, just not enough with political office ambitions.

                    • Well, lots of intelligent presidents are considered to have been bad at the actual job. But I stand by my point that H.W. was smart — even if I disagree with much of what he did.

                    • Beth, what would you have preferred be done in response to the Saddam regime’s 1990 invasion of Kuwait? The situation in 1989 in Panama? The 1991 vacancy on the Supreme Court? Taxes?

                      I agree with you that GHWB was smart (very smart); in what ways do you say he was bad at the job?

                    • Unforgivable: when his popularity was over 90% following Desert Storm, he sat on it, and did nothing. he had a blank check to address any of dozens of critical problems, from health care to social security to the deficit to the infrastructure to immigration, and refused to use it. That shows utter incompetence, and is an unforgivable failure to take advantage of the kind of political opportunity that occurs one in a generation, if that. Late in his first term, his (awful) chief of staff, John Sununu, announced that the Bush Administration had achieved its agenda so far, and there was nothing more it wanted to do. Bush squandered the advantage handed to him by Reagan, and allowed Bill Clinton, whose presence rotted American ethical standards and began the polarization that threatens the US today, to get elected President with less than 50% of the vote.

                      Bush Sr. is right up there with Buchanan and Pierce in my book, weak executives who fiddled while the house was burning.

                    • Jack, your July 14 at 7:14 am persuaded me. Now I am even more disappointed in Bush than before. Disappointed because of dereliction, which is how I view his failure to act – not as incompetence. So, he was even much worse as a president than I ever previously contemplated.

                • Steve-O, it’s Bush’s quietness that obscured his forcefulness. I agree that his influence is not as obvious or enduring as FDR’s or Teddy’s. But the influence he wielded (quietly) while he was on his game, I firmly believe was the most since FDR. But now we are in the Obama-mania era, where influence is wielded by lawless mobs who are useful idiots for even more lawless racketeers, while the influence is attributed to one Idiot-In-Chief by the same racketeers.

      • “… if you examine the Hilliary’s motives, Bill was running for President again by Proxy. He may still.”

        Jj, you touch on something significant there – a dilemma for me: Would I begin to trust 45th POTUS Hillary in some modest way, if she divorced Bill before she takes the presidential oath of office (or even, before she formally announces her candidacy)? Or would I distrust her even more strongly?

        • I might have voted for Hillary IF she had divorced Bill at the time of the scandal. Sure, lots of couples stay together after infidelity but this one was talked about at every dinner table. It’s hard to imagine that their love was that strong. I could be wrong, but it smacked of political gain and I can’t support that.

          • It “smacked of” political gain? Wow, you’re really going out on a limb on that one, Beth. Would you have voted for Hillary if she divorced him after she lied defending Bill and keeping him from the political humiliation he so greatly deserved? She’s despicable in a about a thousand ways—a feminist icon who enabled a woman-abusing, hypocritical pig for decades.

            • I love how I get criticized on this site if I don’t use strong enough language to appease the mob waiting with pitch forks and torches. We’re on the same side (or mob) on this one Jack — go yell at someone else. 🙂

              But to answer your point — I would have left him at the moment the story broke. So, I have to conclude that her actions were for personal and political gain because she didn’t. AND, if she knew about it before the story broke, that just makes it worse in so many ways.

              That being said, it is possible that they have an open marriage. It’s not for me, but it is for some people. If that is the case here, I guess I would have respected her if she came out and said, “We have an open marriage. You might disagree with it, but we don’t care.”

  3. Pingback: Allegations of Undisclosed Gifts Emerge for Va. Governor | Family Survival Protocol - Microcosm News

  4. Pingback: Allegations of Undisclosed Gifts Emerge for Va. Governor | Family Survival Protocol - Microcosm News

  5. I don’t understand why anyone wants a six thousand dollar watch. I mean, it doesn’t do anything but tell the time. It doesn’t tell the time any better than a fifty dollar watch does. Hell, it doesn’t tell the time any better than the free Ninja Turtles watch my niece got in a cereal box.

    And walking around with $6000 on my wrist would just freak me out – I mean, what if it gets broken? What if I misplace it? It’s worth six freaking thousand dollars! I’d just be a nervous wreck.

    There’s a lot of rich people stuff I can see the appeal of; I love going to Broadway shows, living in a good house or in a gorgeous area is nice, etc. But I’m never going to understand why anyone wants a six thousand dollar watch.

    Sorry for being off topic. :-p

    • I’m with you. I don’t get it at all, and never have. I feel the same way about super-expensive cars, 1000 suits and monogrammed shirts. If you have to waste money, you really should think about giving some of it away.

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