Chris Graham: The Chef Scientific scandal will weigh on Bob McDonnell

bob-mcdonnell-linksFair or unfair, the growing scandal involving Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell involving a former Governor’s Mansion chef facing criminal charges and political contributor now under investigation by the Securities Exchange Commission is not going to go away, maybe ever.

I’m not saying that assuming at all that McDonnell is going to face anything more than what we know now – namely, an ongoing FBI investigation into allegations that Todd Schneider, the former Governor’s Mansion chef, who now faces charges that he stole state-purchased food, had information related to “wrongdoing” involving Gov. McDonnell and Jonnie Williams, the CEO of a company, Star Scientific, that rolled out a food supplement in 2011 that Schneider said was the focus of a launch party hosted at the Governor’s Mansion for doctors at the Medical College of Virginia.

I doubt seriously that this investigation is going to go any further than where it is now – with investigators asking questions, taking notes, and then I assume moving on to the next issue of the day.

All we have to go on in the here and now is the appearance of impropriety – in that Williams apparently provided $15,000 toward the cost of a McDonnell daughter wedding at the Mansion in 2011 that didn’t end up making it onto the governor’s Statement of Economic Interests, among the allegations from Schneider, who also says the CEO provided a summer vacation and use of luxury cars and a private jet.

My sense is that this one is going to end up on the cutting-room floor. I really don’t see the feds getting any more involved in an election-year dustup than they already are, especially with the chef, Schneider, trying to drag Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, the presumptive 2013 Republican Party gubernatorial nominee, into the fracas.

As long as the situation stays where it is now, though, McDonnell stands to get more than a little bit dinged, and at precisely the worst time for that to happen, on the heels of his successful 2013 General Aasembly breakthrough that ended with a transportation compromise that had eluded his Democratic predecessors, Mark Warner and Tim Kaine, who now happen to stand in the way of McDonnell’s future employment as a Virginia politician.

For McDonnell to have any hope of unseating Warner in the 2014 Senate race, he needed to have full-sails momentum heading out of his gubernatorial term, and that’s not going to happen now.

With the next statewide federal race not coming until 2018, when Kaine’s Senate seat is up, we may be witnessing the end of the Bob McDonnell meteor.



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