POLITICS

Expect drama to unfold in corruption trial of Ex-Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell and wife

Former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell makes a statement as his wife, Maureen, listens. (AP file photo)
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RICHMOND, Va. (WJLA) -- Once upon a time, Grace Slick implored listeners of Jefferson Airplane to “Go ask Alice, when she’s 10 feet tall.”

It was a reference, of course, to Lewis Carroll’s classic “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland,” a novel replete with wanderings into rabbit holes that reveal untold and untangled secrets – whether or not you “just ate some kind of mushroom.”

Which brings us to former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell’s corruption trial, which begins Monday in Richmond.

When McDonnell entered office with a flourish a little more than four years ago, he was figuratively 10 feet tall. These days, though, he’s looking kind of small.

Rabbit hole, indeed.

And while the basic details of the charges against McDonnell and his wife, Maureen, have been well chronicled, that obviously isn’t the case for what both the defense and the prosecution plan to present.

Surprises?

Twists?

No doubt

. All of which leaves Larry Sabato, the University of Virginia’s chief talker for everything regarding Virginia politics, fascinated – if not sadly so.

“I'm as interested as everyone else to see how this turns out,” Sabato said. “I understand the politics of it -- win or lose, Bob McDonnell is not going to be in any major public office again -- but how the judge and jury end up interpreting the McDonnells' actions in the context of Virginia's historically loose laws and practices is another story.

“We'll all find out together.”

In a nutshell, the case against the McDonnells is that they used the influence of the governor’s office to enhance their finances, chiefly through a friendship and relationship with Richmond-area businessman Jonnie R. Williams.

If convicted, they could spend decades in prison and potentially face millions of dollars in fines.

Asked about the looming trial, Virginia Tech political science professor Charles Walcott – a nationally renowned scholar and researcher – pointed to the larger picture and bemoaned the influence money has in politics and how there’s so little that can be done, especially in light of relatively recent Supreme Court rulings.

And the McDonnell trial?

“It's a shame that McDonnell's governorship came to this, and that it will be remembered for scandal more than for accomplishment,” Walcott said. “. . . Not a happy picture, however the trial turns out.

“Our system faces a real problem in the area of money and politics. Simply saying, as the Supreme Court in effect has, "toss more of it around" is not a viable solution.”

The trial is expected to last several weeks.

Feed your head.

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