Whether or not prosecutors will prove the 14 count indictment against former Governor Bob McDonnell of Virginia and his wife, Maureen, remains to be seen. The public corruption trial is currently into the second week, and the New York Times has described the evidence as “a parade of embarrassments.” Federal prosecutors need to prove that McDonnell and his wife, who received more than more than $150,000 in designer goods and large loans from wealthy businessman Jonnie R. Williams did so in exchange for currying favors from the governor’s office.
One crucial barrier to convict the McDonnells on this quid pro quo is the fact that under Virginia’s ethics laws at the time, there were no limits on gifts an official could accept. The Washington Post has slammed Virginia state legislators for failing to take decisive action to change the laws after the McDonnell indictment was released:
When the McDonnells’ tawdry scandal burst into the headlines last year, leaders of the General Assembly gave scant thought to convening a special session to address the state’s Swiss cheese ethics laws. And even after the stunning revelations contained in the federal indictment of the McDonnells emerged in January, the legislature took a minimalist approach, leaving Virginia’s rules on gifts and disclosures riddled with enormous loopholes.
Even if the McDonnells prevail at trial, and dodge conviction, the dirty laundry aired in this case will float around them for the rest of their lives. And even if these alleged acts aren’t proven to be criminal, they still don’t pass the sniff test. So, if you are an elected official, please don’t drive the Ferrari and don’t take the Rolex. It could save you—and the taxpayers—a lot of trouble down the road