WJTV News Channel 12 - Cuccinelli releases omitted gifts, following Star Scientific con

Cuccinelli releases omitted gifts, following Star Scientific controversy

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BOB LEWIS
AP Political Writer

    
RICHMOND, Va. (AP) - Attorney General and Republican gubernatorial candidate Ken Cuccinelli omitted more than $13,000 worth of gifts including private jet flights and free vacation lodgings from his required state disclosure forms for a period of four years, Cuccinelli acknowledged Friday.
    
Cuccinelli provided reporters with amended statements of economic interest for elected officials for the years 2009 through last year, saying he found five gifts he should have reported earlier but simply overlooked.
    
They include a $3,000 summer vacation and $1,500 family Thanksgiving stay at a lake house owned by Jonnie Williams, head of Star Scientific Inc., and a political backer of Cuccinelli and Republican Gov. Bob McDonnell. He also added a flight worth $628 that he and Williams took in 2009 to a Jewish Community Center event in New York.
    
Cuccinelli also amended one entry in his 2011 economic disclosure form to change the source of $6,712 worth of nutritional supplements from Williams to his company, a maker of nutritional supplements that is now the subject of a federal securities investigation and two shareholder lawsuits.
    
"What can I tell you? I didn't think of them at the time I filed them," Cuccinelli told about a half-dozen print reporters invited to the news conference with the condition that no video or audio could later be broadcast or used online. "I declared everything I remembered at the time I filled out the forms. It happens that some of the things that I forgot were Jonnie Williams-related."
    
That boosts the total value of gifts Cuccinelli has reported from Williams since 2005 from about $13,000 to more than $18,000. Besides the gifts, Cuccinelli in 2010 and 2011 acquired 8,660 shares of Star Scientific stock. At the time, it represented Cuccinelli's sole stock investment. He sold the shares last year and earlier this month at a net capital loss of about $3,000.
    
Despite the gifts and stock holdings, Cuccinelli's office represented Virginia's Department of Taxation in a lawsuit that Star Scientific filed in July 2011 over a $700,000 tax dispute. In August 2011, Cuccinelli bought more Star Scientific stock, saying afterward he was not aware of the company's lawsuit. He recused his office from the case this month under mounting media scrutiny and political pressure and turned the case over to private attorneys.
    
Williams also lavished gifts on McDonnell's family, giving the governor's daughter, Cailin McDonnell, a $15,000 check to help cover catering expenses for her June 2011 wedding reception at Virginia's Executive Mansion. McDonnell did not report the gift on his statement of economic interests, either, noting that state law requires only that gifts to elected officials themselves, not their families, must be reported.
    
Two other gifts Cuccinelli added to his reports were a cross-state flight he took with his parents in 2010 on coal producer Alpha Natural Resources' private jet for a Virginia Mining Association event and another flight worth $795 to Southwestern Virginia last year for a speech at a rally by the pro-coal group FACES of Coal - the Federation of American Coal Energy & Security.
    
With his campaign struggling to explain why Virginia government's top lawyer and the state's chief law-enforcement officer failed to meet disclosure requirements, Cuccinelli said he will seek changes in Virginia's economic disclosure laws for statewide elected officials. He proposed, if elected, requiring 10-day reporting of any gift worth $500 or more and requiring that gifts to immediate family members be included. He also proposed turning the review of the attorney general's economic interest statements - a job his office now handles - over to the state police. And he is asking the Richmond commonwealth's attorney to review his newly amended economic interest statements.
    
The disclosures ended a busy and bizarre week in Virginia gubernatorial politics.
    
Cuccinelli's opponent, former electric-car company executive Terry McAuliffe, on Tuesday released summaries of three years' worth of federal income tax returns that showed he paid $3.6 million in U.S. taxes on $16.8 million in income from 2009 through 2011. But he provided no state returns or details of how or from whom he earned the money, raising more questions than it answered. Cuccinelli last week fully disclosed eight years' worth of income tax returns.
    
On Wednesday, Cuccinelli asked a judge to recuse his office from prosecuting former Executive Mansion chef Todd Schneider, whose private company catered Cailin McDonnell's 2010 wedding, citing an unspecified conflict of interest. Schneider faces four felony embezzlement counts arising from a Virginia State Police investigation into the mansion's kitchen operations.
    
Cuccinelli's withdrawal came a day after Schneider's lawyer filed a motion demanding the state provide information about the relationship between McDonnell and Williams, and whether members of McDonnell's family took provisions the state paid for from the mansion's kitchen, along with any evidence that Schneider was told to take food from the mansion as payment for his services.
    
On Friday, Cuccinelli said Star Scientific had nothing to do with his legal basis for turning the Schneider prosecution over to Prince William County Commonwealth's Attorney Paul Ebert. Cuccinelli said that once Schneider's discovery motion made it clear he sought to implicate McDonnell in the case, the attorney general had to exit the case because the governor is his office's chief client.

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