Yesterday, former Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell and his wife Maureen were indicted for soliciting and accepting hundreds of thousands of dollars in loans and gifts from the chief executive officer of the Star Scientific dietary-supplement company, in return for having McDonnell promote Star's products. According to the indictment and various other news sources (primarily the Washington Post):
- Gov. McDonnell set up meetings with state officials for Star Scientific CEO Jonnie R. Williams to promote his products.
- Gov. McDonnell personally promoted Star Scientific's Anatabloc, a purported anti-inflammatory supplement, with state officials during meetings to discuss the state employee health plan (under which Star wanted Anatabloc and other products listed as covered medications).
- Gov. McDonnell tried to persuade state university researchers to design studies into the health benefits of Star's products, and sought to have those studies paid for by the State Tobacco Commission. (Anatabloc uses an alkaloid found in tobacco.)
- At Star Scientific's expense, Mrs. McDonnell flew to a Florida seminar for scientists and investors where she promoted Anatabloc and specifically touted its potential to lower health-care costs in Virginia. (The McDonnells' public support for Anatabloc would be cited by financial analysts boosting Star Scientific stock.)
- Mrs. McDonnell hosted the launch party for Anatabloc at an Executive Mansion luncheon where Star gave out start-up research grants to two state universities. A Star Scientific press release promoting the Anatabloc launch specifically cited interest by Virginia state medical institutions in researching the product's potentials. It was at the Florida seminar where Mrs. McDonnell first offered, publicly, to host the luncheon at the mansion; that same day, she bought $30,000 in Star Scientific stock—from $50,000 Williams had given her a week earlier.
- The McDonnells endeavored to hide the extent of the gifts and loans by channeling them through family members or shell corporations to avoid state disclosure requirements.
- The McDonnells omitted mention of Williams' private loans on applications with two separate lending institutions.
- Mrs. McDonnell lied to government investigators who questioned her about their relationship with Williams.
- The gifts (or loans) included: a total of $135,000 in cash, $7,500 in golf rounds for the McDonnell family and staff, a $6,500 silver Rolex watch specially engraved for the governor (which Mrs. McDonnell specifically asked Williams to buy for him), a $20,000 New York City shopping spree at such tony outfits as Bergdorf Goodman and Louis Vuitton, and $15,000 in catering for daughter Cailin McDonnell's wedding reception.
- Last summer, McDonnell said he was returning all "tangible" gifts and repaying the loans, although the indictment lists property for potential forfeiture that suggests otherwise. (Can't return the rounds of golf or the catering, though.)
Pat Robertson and Bob McDonnell go back at least 15 years, when McDonnell began serving on the Board of Trustees of Robertson's Regent University; and really, almost 30 years, when McDonnell enrolled in the inaugural class of Regent's School of Law in 1986 after matriculating at the university's Robertson School of Government in the previous year. (According to the Washington Post, McDonnell claims that "he and Robertson did not become well acquainted until years after he was first elected to office" in 1991.)
So what does Pat have to say about his friend's indictment?
Well, Pat wasn't on the air today, and hasn't been for two weeks. The 700 Club is currently running one of its periodic telethons, and I guess Pat's too old now to take part in that, or something. (Today's broadcast of The 700 Club omitted any mention of the McDonnells' indictment in the five minutes it devoted to news at the top of the program. Online, CBN News' coverage of the McDonnell indictment spends more time quoting McDonnell's side than it does on the indictment itself.)
“Bob McDonnell's been one of the best governors Virginia's had in recent memory. He's been a superb governor, he's been scrupulously honest—he has, in my opinion, done absolutely nothing wrong. He has a wife who is trying to promote a vitamin company that makes vitamins in Virginia. So the vitamin company owner was very generous with her, but…they really haven't found any evidence that he did anything wrong, that Bob McDonnell, the governor, did anything wrong.
“But you know they say you can indict a ham sandwich if you wanted to… We are litigation-happy, we are indictment-happy, we've got a culture where if you don't like somebody, well, get 'em indicted… I don't think the U.S. Attorney is going to try to push this… I think without question, Bob McDonnell would win, but what an awful expensive thing it would cost, at least a million dollars or more to defend it…
“This thing came up because his wife just really doesn't understand certain of the niceties that go along with that high office, and what you can do in terms of your friends, and people tried to take advantage of her.”
See? Bob McDonnell didn't do anything wrong! He's only in trouble because his silly little wife didn't know she couldn't accept gifts—and you know how women are. Their tiny little minds don't understand politics. They should just stick to the housework. And not have the vote.
After co-host Terry Meeuwsen claims McDonnell's a victim of his political enemies looking for things that could be "exploded in the media," Pat goes on:
“The law is, [if] somebody gives you money and then you give them a state benefit in exchange for it. As far as it can be determined, there was no benefit given to anybody for anything. He got some gifts, his wife did, and daughter. But as far as we can tell, he didn't do anything for the state. They had a reception in the mansion, but that was a private affair paid for by somebody else…”
Keep in mind that most of the facts surrounding the indictment had been disclosed and documented for months before Robertson made these comments. (See, for example, this Washington Post article from March, or this one from July.) Pitching your benefactor's products, providing privileged access to state officials, pushing for state funding for promotional studies, using your office to pump up your benefactor's stock (in which you own shares), lying about it all to investigators—none of that is "wrong"? That's some morality you're preaching there, Pat. "No benefit given"? Access is a benefit. Influence is a benefit. True, Star Scientific might not have ultimately gotten tangible results from the McDonnells' efforts—its products were never covered by the state employee health plan, no studies seem to have been funded, its stock price never made any long-term gains—but that doesn't change the fact that the McDonnells made those efforts in the first place. They tried, and they were paid handsomely for it.
And those million-dollar legal bills Pat was insinuating? He failed to mention the legal defense fund McDonnell's supporters set up back in July, five months before this aired. The attorney who chairs the fund, Stanley Baldwin, is the Executive Vice President of Amerigroup, a health insurance company whose headquarters in Virginia Beach is the anchor tenant of a CBN-owned office park literally across the street from Pat Robertson's CBN headquarters where The 700 Club is produced. One of the fund's other two board members is Tom Knox, former vice president of marketing for CBN. Given these associations and Robertson's historical involvement in Virginia politics—including $738,000 in Republican party and campaign contributions over the last 20 years—it's impossible to believe that Robertson wasn't familiar with McDonnell's legal defense fund when he pitched McConnell's tale of woe. Hell, it's hard to believe that Robertson hasn't contributed, or even been approached to do so. (The fund has yet to release the names of any donors, despite Baldwin's promise to make such disclosures "on a regular basis" when it was launched.)
In 1985, McDonnell enrolled at the Robertson School of Government at what was then called Christian Broadcasting Network University (now Regent University, because "Christian Broadcasting Network University" was always a dumb name); the following year, he enrolled in CBN U.'s then-unaccredited law school, and graduated in 1989 with both an M.A. in Public Policy and a J.D. in Law. McDonnell would go on to serve on Regent's Board of Trustees from 1998 through 2005, and delivered the commencement speech at the School of Law's graduation ceremonies in 2008. In 2010, four months after being elected governor, Regent named McDonnell its "Alumnus of the Year."
In May 2006, four months into his term as Attorney General of Virginia, Pat Robertson interviewed McDonnell on The 700 Club, where Pat called him his "dear friend" as they talked about keeping marriage from the gays, and also his time at Regent University:
Last fall, in the waning months of McDonnell's term as governor, speculation arose that he might be named the new president of Regent University. As Regent and McDonnell denied the rumor, a former Regent professor told Virginia's WAVY-TV, "Pat Robertson and Bob McDonnell have a long-standing and trusting relationship."