Do Virginia laws make gift scandals inevitable?

Posted at 6:23 PM, Jul 17, 2013
and last updated 2013-07-17 19:42:53-04

RICHMOND, Va. (WTVR) -- Some political pundits believe Virginia laws make gift scandals inevitable.

In fact, George Mason University's Mercatus Center has published a thought provoking piece on the subject.

Currently, Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell is engulfed in controversy surrounding hundreds of thousands of gifts received by mega donor Jonnie Williams.

Gifts have ranged from Rolex watches to checks to his daughter for her wedding to loans for previous real estate investments.

McDonnell has repeatedly said that Williams has received nothing in return for the contributions, other than common promotions that all Virginia companies receive.

"It's the same policies that have always been used," McDonnell said during a recent interview with CBS 6.

The FBI continues to investigate whether McDonnell is telling the truth. But is this scandal for McDonnell the result of Virginia's lax campaign laws?

"Everyone has always said we were waiting for a scandal here," CBS 6 political analyst Dr. Bob Holsworth said.

The inevitability of a scandal stems from state contribution laws that allow the governor to take unlimited donations.

Experts said that allows for potential impropriety to occur since the Governor is also responsible for business and job growth.

"We are seeing the weaknesses or the shortcomings of the laws that Virginia has," Holsworth said.

Under Virginia code, the governor has a range of powers that enable him to promote business.

They include the Governor's Opportunity Fund, Governor's Agriculture and Forestry Industries Development Fund, as well as The Governor's Motion Picture Opportunity Fund.

Both gubernatorial candidates Ken Cuccinelli and Terry McAuliffe have pledged tougher gift laws to eliminate potential impropriety.

But Katie Watson, who has written extensively on the subject, says some activists are called for stricter regulations, including the elimination of the governor's financial funds.

"Maybe the governor shouldn't have much of an opportunity to offer out these funds," Watson said while speaking on the subject.