Republican controversy over Star Scientific thickens

Posted at 11:29 PM, Apr 29, 2013

RICHMOND, VA (WTVR) -- Republican candidate for governor and current Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli has admitted he failed to disclose all of the gifts Star Scientific CEO Jonnie R. Williams gave him.

In a session with reporters late Friday, a session in which no cameras or recording devices were allowed, Cuccinelli said he failed to disclose vacations his family took at a Williams home as well as a flight to New York. The value of the undisclosed items is estimated to be over $4,000 dollars.

The controversy is unusually high because the donor of the omitted gifts - Jonnie Williams Sr. -  is the same donor that is suing the state over a tax issue.

When it was revealed Cuccinelli at one time held stock in Williams' company, he recused himself from the case, forcing the state to hire private attorneys.

Additionally, Williams is also involved in the ongoing controversy with Governor Bob McDonnell - a controversy in which Williams gave $15,000 dollars to McDonnell's daughter for her wedding.

McDonnell is not required to report that under Virginia law since it was meant for his daughter, however some have argued the gift was indirectly a gift to him since he is the father of the bride. McDonnnell also signed and put down money for a deposit for the reception.

In regards to the Cuccinelli omission, Democrats are jumping on it since Cuccinelli is the presumed Republican nominee for governor.

"I don't like the way he did it, I think its unconscionable, and I don't understand the notion of forgetting he received gifts," Democrat State Senator Don McEachin said.

McEachin has called for Cuccinelli's resignation.

CBS 6 Political Analyst Dr. Bob Holsworth says there are no legal consequences if a politician fails to disclose a gift in Virginia.

"The only consequence is a political one," Holsworth says.

Holsworth added that because Cuccinelli admitted the error himself it will help him in the long run.

"It is hard to believe this was a deliberate withholding on the part of the attorney general because he did disclose other gifts," Holsworth says.

Regardless of whether a gift should of been disclosed or not, the controversy with Star Scientific and Republican politicians is shedding light on Virginia's unlimited contributions law.

Virginia is one of only 10 states that allow unlimited contributions from donors to candidates.

Some politicians have said the state needs to tighten up those laws in the wake of recent disclosure controversy.

Tucker Martin, a spokesman for Governor Bob McDonnell, issued the following statement on the idea of new regulation.

"The governor strongly supports all efforts to ensure that state government is transparent and open. He has followed Virginia's existing laws regarding the reporting of gifts to state officeholders and officials. He would be open to supporting future changes in Virginia's disclosure laws to ensure greater transparency, and to require the reporting of gifts to immediate family members.  He looks forward to working with lawmakers to determine what future policies would best increase transparency in state government and could be effectively implemented."

Ken Cuccinnelli spokeswoman, Anna Nix issued the following statement last Friday regarding the failure to disclose.

“Ken Cuccinelli has always deeply believed in honesty, transparency, and maintaining the public’s trust. This philosophy is not just something he talks about; it is a central component of how he performs his job. Recently, Ken voluntarily and personally undertook a thorough review of all travel records and scheduling information to determine if there were any instances not reported in his financial disclosures.

“Today, upon completion of that review, Ken came forward and released additional information."  Anna Nix, Cuccinelli for Governor Spokeswoman