Political fallout from Bob McDonnell verdict

state-capitol2You have to wonder how Phil Puckett and Terry Kilgore reacted to the news that former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell and his wife, Maureen, were convicted on multiple federal corruption charges related to $170,000 in loans and gifts that the former First Couple received from a state businessman.

Puckett is a former Democratic state senator who abruptly resigned from office in June, publicly citing a desire to clear the way for the General Assembly to approve a judicial appointment for his daughter, even as details emerged that he was being considered for a job with a state commission whose chair is Kilgore, a top House Republican.

The job never materialized after Puckett pulled his name from consideration amid the fallout from his resignation announcement, but the issue drew the interest of the FBI, which may have more to look into regarding Kilgore and the tobacco commission that he heads, based on reports that the commission has doled out millions of dollars in grants to entities run by Kilgore’s brother and father.

The tenuous nexus of quid pro quo that got the McDonnells convicted – they accepted loans and gifts, and helped set up meetings for the businessman who gave them with state and public university officials that didn’t lead to anything – has to have the attention of Kilgore, Puckett and other Virginia pols, in a state that has notoriously vague and weak ethics laws that still nonetheless have ensnared a once-popular, indeed seemingly presidential former governor.

Nobody saw this coming, and you might be able to include on the short list of nobody the prosecutors who pundits assumed up to the moment that the first jury verdict was being read were about to have their wings clipped. It seemed inevitable that they were due for several rounds of criticism about engaging in prosecutorial overreach and wasting public money on a political witch trial, as the beginning to the end of any and all future ethics investigations.

Convictions in hand, one can now assume that prosecutors in this case and all over are going to be emboldened in efforts to look more closely at situations like the ones involving Puckett and Kilgore, who specifically might have to worry about their own fates in the context of what just happened to Bob McDonnell.

– Column by Chris Graham


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