Why the damage to McAuliffe could already be done

Posted at 7:00 PM, May 24, 2016
and last updated 2016-05-24 19:00:02-04

RICHMOND, Va - Even if federal investigators find no wrong doing in relation to the reported campaign donation made by a Chinese billionaire to Governor Terry McAuliffe, the damage may already be done, political experts said.

CNN first reported that the FBI and U.S. Department of Justice opened a probe into a campaign contribution made to McAuliffe's 2013 gubernatorial campaign by Wang Wenliang, a Chinese construction mogul. The investigation has been ongoing for more than a year and is examining McAuliffe's personal finances as well, reports indicated.

"The headline was far more damaging than anything that came out in the story," said CBS 6 political analyst Dr. Bob Holsworth.

Still, Holsworth said headlines could impact the public perception of McAuliffe during the last half of his time in office.

On a more immediate note, Holsworth said he expects GOP presidential frontrunner Donald Trump to use the story to attack Hillary Clinton, who's foundation has been criticized in the past for accepting money from Mr. Wang's businesses. McAulliffe is a longtime friend and ally of the Clintons and worked as a volunteer executive for the Clinton Foundation prior to holding office in Virginia.

"Anytime there is a FBI investigation going on there is a cloud of that kind of besmirches things," Holsworth said.

In his first public remarks since news of the federal probe broke, McAuliffe said he was "shocked" and that he had not been contacted about the investigation.

"I personally didn't get the check. I rely on the people who did the vetting for [Wang]. They said he had a green card from 2007," McAuliffe said. "The contribution came in, and they have unequivocally said he was entitled to write a check, so he wrote a check."

Local voters CBS 6 spoke with Tuesday said they were sadly not surprised by the news of a federal investigation surrounding the governor's office because the corruption case surrounding McAuliffe's predecessor, Bob McDonnell, is still fresh in their minds.

"I've already had one governor get in trouble, so it's obviously not a good record for Virginia," said Jim Flores.

"My actions aren't going to have an effect on a system that is so long gone and clearly corrupt," said Matt Waller.