POLITICS

Ken Cuccinelli Tries To Distance Himself From Bob McDonnell Gift Scandal

07/11/2013 12:34 pm ET
AP

Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, the state's 2013 Republican nominee for governor, is trying to distance himself from a gifts scandal engulfing Gov. Bob McDonnell (R).

"What we've all been seeing is very painful for Virginia, and it's completely inconsistent with Virginia's very reserved traditions," Cuccinelli said in a statement released Wednesday. "Right now there are two investigations running, one of which began with my referral, and we need to let those play out; however, all of this emphasizes the need for clearer and faster disclosures that cover the whole family, as well as a cap on the size and types of gifts."

The comment came after The Washington Post reported that Jonnie R. Williams Sr., CEO of Star Scientific, had given $120,000 in undisclosed gifts to the McDonnell family. Williams, whose company produces a dietary supplement called Antabloc, is a major campaign donor to McDonnell.

Once mentioned as a possible 2016 contender for the presidency, McDonnell is now fending off resignation rumors. The scandal could also threaten Cuccinelli, who has received gifts from the same donor. In November 2012, Cuccinelli's office launched an investigation into McDonnell's disclosures.

Under Virginia law, public officials must disclose gifts worth more than $50; however, gifts to family members are exempt from the rules.

Cuccinelli belatedly disclosed that he had stock holdings in Star Scientific, saying he had not realized that the holdings had exceeded the $10,000 limit required for disclosure. He was likewise late in revealing gifts from Williams and had to amend his financial disclosure forms.

The Virginia attorney general defended himself Wednesday to reporters. "I'm the one who held a press conference and said, 'Hey, here are all my items, and I missed four or five over the course of four years.' But that's part of my commitment to transparency. When I make mistakes, I own up to them," Cuccinelli said, according to The Washington Post. He did not answer a question on whether McDonnell should step down.

Also on Wednesday, Cuccinelli's campaign released a memo questioning the ethics of his Democratic gubernatorial opponent, Terry McAuliffe.

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