VIRGINIA

McDonnell says $15K was wedding gift to daughter, not political donation

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Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell insists his daughter and her now-husband paid for their own wedding, adding a campaign donor's gift of $15,000 did not have to be disclosed.

At this point, no illegalities, such as failure to disclose political donations, have been proven. But the situation certainly puts the governor in a tough position, where the political consequences could be more significant than any legal repercussions.

McDonnell says he learned of his daughter and son-in-law's decision to pay for their 2011 wedding after he had already signed a catering contract and made two payments.Virginia businessman Jonnie Williams later paid  the $15,000 catering bill, claiming the money was a gift to the governor's daughter, not the governor.

"The facts here don't smell right... It is entirely possible that an objective observer would conclude that someone gave a very large gift to the governor of Virginia...," said George Mason University Public Policy Professor Jeremy Mayer.

Just before the wedding, the governor's wife endorsed a nutritional product made by Williams' company and later threw a launch party for the product at the Governor's Mansion.

"The involvement of the governor's family in promoting this company's product three days before the catering expenses were proffered -- it makes a lot more smoke added to this fire...," Mayer continued

The wedding caterer eventually returned several thousand dollars to the governor's wife - money that was also not reported. The governor's office claims "all of Mr. Williams' gift was applied to catering and was not part of Mrs. McDonnell's refund."

Mayer added, "At the national scale, this is pretty small beans, but let me add a caveat - if this is the first shoe to drop and then we find out this has been a pattern of behavior for much of his public life, then we have a problem..."

One other outcome from this situation could be a change in Virginia's gift laws to be more in line with those in place for Congress. Currently, members of Congress must also report gifts to family members.

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