Once upon a time there was a Virginia governor called Bob McDonnell who was very popular. So much so, that he was talked about as a presidential contender for 2016. He was on everyone’s short list.
Governor Bob was on the way up. But was he on the up and up? “Hell no” say prosecutors. He had perfect credentials. He was a son of a decorated army veteran, a Notre Dame graduate, had a beautiful wife, Maureen, and kids and was doing well as the governor of a key state in any presidential election.
In 2010 he took his entire family, including 20 relatives, to Ireland and pronounced it among the best trips he had ever taken. The Irish were happy, dreaming of a new friend in the White House.
In 2012 he was on Mitt Romney's short list for running mate. Although he didn't make it, he did get the consolation prize – introducing Paul Ryan on his first trip as Romney’s running mate. That made him the official runner-up, said the pundits. In that introduction he spoke warmly of Ryan and his shared Irish roots.
Now, just a few weeks after leaving office, he has been indicted along with his beautiful, but perhaps greedy, wife Maureen.
The indictment refers to numerous gifts he allegedly received from a political donor. "Today's charges represent the Justice Department's continued commitment to rooting out public corruption at all levels of government," Acting Assistant Attorney General Raman said in a news release. "Ensuring that elected officials uphold the public's trust is one of our most critical responsibilities."
The indictment comes after a federal investigation and after McDonnell returned $120,000 in loans from donor Johnnie Williams, the CEO of pharmaceutical company Star Scientific. But the indictment claims Bob was getting far more than just $120,000. The 43-page federal indictment claims the McDonnell family had the use of Williams’ private aircraft and vacation home. It also details a $20,000 shopping spree for First Lady Maureen, a Rolex watch for Governor Bob the and paying for the wedding of McDonnells’ daughter.
“The defendants participated in a scheme to use Robert McDonnell’s official position as the governor of Virginia to enrich the defendants and their family members by soliciting and obtaining payments, loans, gifts, and other things of value from [Williams] and Star Scientific,” prosecutors allege.
On Tuesday, McDonnell repeated an earlier apology, but pleaded his innocence. "I deeply regret accepting legal gifts and loans from Mr. Williams, all of which have been repaid with interest, and I have apologized for my poor judgment for which I take full responsibility," McDonnell said. "However, I repeat emphatically that I did nothing illegal for Mr. Williams in exchange for what I believed was his personal generosity and friendship.
Meanwhile, the only federal building he’s interested in now is the federal penitentiary, which he's hoping to avoid, not the White House, which he will not be getting into.