Drip, drip, drip…the Washington Post continues its slow and steady assault on Gov. Bob McDonnell, via his wife, First Lady Maureen McDonnell. Shopping sprees for clothes, jewelry…and now the gift — unreported — of a Rolex to the Governor.
It has the reek of scandal, or so some hope it does. Was any of it illegal? The state’s ethics laws are just loose enough to make it possible for anyone to ply a politician or his or her family with gifts and no harm done — so long as they are reported and there was no quid pro quo. Unlike the case with Del. Phil Hamilton, who was convicted on charges of bribery and extortion in his quest to set up a snug teaching job for himself at Old Dominion University, there is, so far, no indication that either the Governor or Mrs. McDonnell used their positions to grant state favors to Star Scientific.
But it is unseemly. And to use a good old Southern phrase, it’s also tacky.
We could ask questions about who is leaking all this information to the Post. Is it score settling? Is it CYA? It’s almost beside the point. The information is out there. Is it doing the Governor harm? Opinion polls show conflicting results. When the Star Scientific/McDonnell tiff first broke, I suggested that this all be viewed through the lens of the 2014 Senate race. Bob McDonnell, though never really warming to a run against incumbent Sen. Mark Warner, would have been a somewhat formidable candidate.
Not anymore. Each new story about the First Lady’s dealings with Jonnie Williams is an additional nail in McDonnell’s political coffin. And the press will make sure those nails are driven deep.
At least one Republican is ready to thrown in the towel:
If this stuff is true, it's time for McDonnell to resign. http://t.co/UFQLk0ge8l
— Jeff Frederick (@JeffFrederick) June 26, 2013
Take that for what you will. McDonnell helped drive Frederick from his perch at the RPV, so this can be seen as tit-for-tat.
But I will be on the lookout for others bailing on the Governor, and telling their stories, real, imagined and otherwise, to anyone who will listen.
And I will also be looking for the proof that baubles and fabric swayed McDonnell to pull strings for Star Scientific. Without that proof, all we have is a tale of middle class grasping. Unseemly. Tacky. Downright offensive. But not illegal. Not yet.
The coldest comfort on a hot day.