Gifts to governor toned down under McAuliffe

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — The days of Virginia governors taking big-ticket gifts — like a Caribbean vacation or a suite at a Redskins game — appear to be over.

Gov. Terry McAuliffe instituted a $100 gift cap when he took office in January as a way of trying to restore Virginia’s reputation after a gift scandal enveloped his predecessor. He recently submitted his annual statement of economic interest showing he’s received gifts of only limited value.

They include dozens of mostly trinkets related to trade missions and other official duties. McAuliffe’s list does not include access to posh vacation homes or tickets to high-priced sporting events that were frequently given to previous Virginia governors.

For instance, McAuliffe reported receiving a $50 “corporate mascot figurine” from the China-based e-commerce giant Alibaba during a trade mission. Stone Brewing Co., one of the nation’s top craft breweries that is receiving a $5 million grant from the Governor’s Opportunity Fund to relocate to Richmond, gave McAuliffe a case of IPA beer worth $76.88.

“Transparency and accountability in government are central to Governor McAuliffe’s vision for a new Virginia economy,” said Brian Coy, the governor’s spokesman.

Virginia politicians are still reeling from the fallout of former Gov. Bob McDonnell’s federal corruption conviction. The trial highlighted how a wealthy businessman lavished the McDonnell family with expensive gifts. Jonnie Williams, the former CEO of a dietary supplement maker, gave the McDonnells designer clothes, a Rolex and access to his Ferrari, among other things. A jury found McDonnell and his wife, Maureen, guilty of illegally helping promote Williams’ products in exchange for more than $165,000 in gifts and loans. They are set to be sentenced next year.

McDonnell also reported accepting large gifts from others besides Williams. They include tickets to sporting events worth thousands of dollars, including a reported $19,000 gift from the Washington Redskins for a suite at a game.

As part of their defense, McDonnell’s legal team focused on gifts received by U.S. Sen. Tim Kaine, who was Virginia’s governor prior to McDonnell. According to court records and published news media accounts, those gifts included use of a free vacation home on a private Caribbean island called “Mustique” from a businessman, a gift valued at $18,000.

Lawmakers have pledged to tighten gift rules following the guilty verdict in the McDonnell trial, and House Republicans recently said they support a $100 gift cap similar to what McAuliffe has imposed on himself.

___

Due to a typo, previous versions of this story incorrectly stated that House Republicans said they support a $100 gift gap. They support a $100 gift cap.

 

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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