Thursday, September 04, 2014
Virginia Governor Found Guilty Of Selling Office To Wealthy Contributor
Virginia Gov. Robert McDonnell (R) had a relationship with a wealthy political supporter not unlike the relationship President Barack Obama had with convicted Chicago political fixer Tony Rezko. The difference is that the Obama Justice Department, unlike the Bush Justice Department, chose to prosecute McDonnell and his wife for their alleged crimes. McDonnell was found guilty of 11 corruption charges against him stemming from his relationship with wealthy businessman Jonnie Williams, Sr. He and his wife were found guilty of accepting gifts and loans totaling $177,000 from Williams in exchange for political favors.
It's a rather peculiar case because the prosecution couldn't even tell jurors exactly what it was Williams was seeking in exchange for the gifts and loans. McDonnell was accused of arranging meetings with state officials on Williams' behalf, allowing him to host a reception at the governor's mansion to promote a product he was selling and to shape the list of attendees at another reception at the governor's mansion for health care leaders, not much different than what every recent Indiana governor does with somewhat regularity. During his testimony offered under a grant of immunity, Williams didn't even contend he had struck a bargain with the governor for any specific quid pro quo. What he had wanted--state-funded studies of his product--he never got. Mayor Greg Ballard, for example, accepts overseas trips and gifts worth tens of thousands of dollars from wealthy businessmen and campaign contributors who are the beneficiaries of no-bid contracts with the City of Indianapolis that don't seem to get a head turn here in Indianapolis. Tony Rezko conferred a financial benefit worth hundreds of thousands of dollars on Barack and Michelle Obama when he and his wife helped the Obamas purchase their stately $1.65 million home in a tony south side Chicago neighborhood.
McDonnell's attorneys will no doubt appeal today's guilty verdicts. I'm still anxiously awaiting the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals' decision regarding former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich's appeal. Judge Frank Easterbrook left attorneys arguing the case during oral arguments with the impression that he had serious doubts about whether the government had proven specific corrupt acts the former governor had committed in fulfillment of any bribery scheme like the case government prosecutors also successfully made against McDonnell. McDonnell becomes the first governor in Virginia's history found guilty of political corruption for acts undertaken while in office.