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Cuccinelli to donate value of Star Scientific gifts to charity

Republican gubernatorial candidate Ken Cuccinelli will donate the value of gifts he received from nutritional supplement maker Star Scientific and its CEO, Jonnie Williams, to charity.

The Associated Press reports that Cuccinelli will donate $18,000 to Cross Over Ministry — a free health care clinic in Richmond — and that he’s announcing the donation in a video to supporters today.

Williams and Star Scientific are at the center of an ethics investigation into Gov. Bob McDonnell and his relationship with Williams. According to press reports, Williams has given McDonnell and his family members thousands of dollars worth of trips and gifts, including checks for two McDonnell daughters’ weddings, a Rolex for McDonnell and clothing for Maureen McDonnell. Williams also loaned the McDonnells money.

McDonnell announced last month that he would return the money and gifts, and since them Democrats have been pressuring Cuccinelli to do the same.

Cuccinelli had said previously that it would be difficult to return what he received from Williams as attorney general, since most of it was intangible — a holiday weekend at a lake house, a Thanksgiving dinner, stays at Williams’ house. 

Democrats have pushed him to return the value of the gifts, and also criticized Cuccinelli for taking such gifts while his office was dealing with Star Scientific in a court case over unpaid taxes.

In a transcript of today’s video provided by the campaign, Cuccinelli says he decided to donate the money “to resolve any questions surrounding the matter concerning Star Scientific.”

“I made the decision to send the check because it is the right thing to do, plain and simple,” Cuccinelli says. “This is something that I would have liked to have done sooner, but like most Virginians, writing a check for $18,000 is not a simple matter for my family and me.  It’s taken a while to get our funds together.  

For those who’ve been disappointed in this situation or how I’ve handled it, I apologize.  It’s been a humbling set of lessons for me.”

Democratic Party of Virginia communications director Brian Coy issued a statement calling Cuccinelli’s action “late” and “a clearly political act.”

“Cuccinelli’s pattern of ethical behavior is always the same: get caught in scandals, do nothing for months, and then buckle to pressure for his own political reasons,” Josh Schwerin, spokesman for Democrat Terry McAuliffe’s gubernatorial campaign, said in a statement. “Cuccinelli’s actions today are a reminder that he failed to seriously pursue Star Scientific for the $1.7 million they owed in back taxes at the same time that he was taking lavish gifts, luxury vacations and extravagant meals from the company’s CEO.

The full transcript of Cuccinelli’s video statement is below, with the full McAuliffe campaign response below that. The video can be viewed here:

Hi.  This is Ken Cuccinelli.

 

As many of you know, I’ve spent my entire career fighting for Virginia.

 

I’m proud of the work I’ve done to stand up for our first principles and the most vulnerable in our society.

 

Whether it’s fighting to stop ObamaCare so you can keep control of your health care, standing up to an overreaching EPA so we can keep opportunity alive, working for mental health reforms or fighting human traffickers and Internet child predators—I’ve always put the best interests of our Commonwealth above my own.

 

And while you won’t agree with me on every single issue, you will always know where I stand.

 

In that spirit, I wanted you to know that in recent days, I’ve managed to arrange to send a check of $18,000 to a Richmond based charity.  I did this to resolve any questions surrounding the matter concerning Star Scientific.

 

I made the decision to send the check because it is the right thing to do, plain and simple. 

 

This is something that I would have liked to have done sooner, but like most Virginians, writing a check for $18,000 is not a simple matter for my family and me.  It’s taken a while to get our funds together.

 

For those who’ve been disappointed in this situation or how I’ve handled it, I apologize.  It’s been a humbling set of lessons for me.

 

In the remaining weeks of this campaign, I intend to focus my campaign on what I have done and what I intend to do for the people of Virginia. That means lowering tax and regulatory burdens, keeping energy prices manageable and ensuring that parents have more control over their kids’ education.

 

I’m the only candidate in this race with a substantive, positive vision for Virginia’s future who has stood up for the people of the Commonwealth over and over and over.

 

I don’t have to tell you how important this race is for the future of our Commonwealth. If elected, I will work harder than ever to make sure our children inherit a stronger Virginia full of greater opportunity.

 

I appreciate you taking the time to watch this video. I hope you will share it with your friends and family.

 

Thanks very much.

 

Full McAuliffe campaign statement:

“Ken Cuccinelli has led the most scandal-plagued Attorney General’s office in recent memory – his tenure defined by scandal and conflicts that embarrass Virginia like Star Scientific, Bobby Thompson and helping out-of-state energy companies in their battle against Virginia landowners,” said McAuliffe spokesperson Josh Schwerin. “Cuccinelli’s pattern of ethical behavior is always the same: get caught in scandals, do nothing for months, and then buckle to pressure for his own political reasons. Cuccinelli’s actions today are a reminder that he failed to seriously pursue Star Scientific for the $1.7 million they owed in back taxes at the same time that he was taking lavish gifts, luxury vacations and extravagant meals from the company’s CEO.”

 

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