BALTIMORE (WJZ) — The man at the center of one of the biggest political corruption cases in our area in recent history speaks out.
Denise Koch has more from former Virginia governor Bob McDonnell.
McDonnell was a rising star in the republican party when he was twice convicted of conspiracy and bribery and sentenced to two years in prison. He fought all the way to the supreme court and won, but his case raises serious questions about just what constitutes political bribery.
“I listened to 19 guilty verdicts for me and my wife and all I could do was sob,” says McDonnell to 60 Minutes’ Bill Whitaker.
That was in 2014, when McDonnell and his wife Maureen were first convicted of taking 177,000 dollars worth of gifts from businessman Jonnie Williams.
Golf clubs, luxury vacations, use of a Ferrari, $20,000 dollars worth of designer clothes and a Rolex. Williams wanted the governor’s help getting state-sponsored studies of his supplement ‘Anatabloc’.
In an interview with ’60 Minutes,’ McDonnell admits taking the gifts but says it was completely legal under Virginia law.
“My job was just to connect people with government, and I considered it a routine part of what I did for job creation and regular constituent service. That is an everyday occurrence in America and I know that to be true from years in politics,” he says.
“These were not gifts, these were pay-offs,” says Virginia Deputy Attorney General Jim Cole, who prosecuted the case disagrees.
“The key difference here is the money didn’t go to the campaign it went to his pocket,” he says.
“There was never a quid pro quo or any conspiracy or any agreement to help Mr. Williams,” says McDonnell.
And, in the end, the Supreme Court faulted prosecutors for using too broad a definition of “corruption.”
They found nothing illegal, but did condemn McDonnell on ethical grounds saying, “The tawdry tales of Ferraris, Rolexes, and ball gowns did not typify normal political interaction.”
“If I had it to do over again I wouldn’t take any gifts,” says McDonnell to Whitaker.
The Supreme Court ruling is already having repercussions. Politicians found guilty in New York, Pennsylvania, Utah, and Louisiana are using the McDonnell case to fight their bribery convictions.
Charges against McDonnell and his wife Maureen were dismissed. McDonnell is now working for a law firm. He owes $27-million dollars in legal fees.
To see the full interview with Bob McDonnell on 60 Minutes CLICK HERE.