Virginia State Senator Chap Petersen Calls For Governor Bob McDonnell To Resign If He Can't Explain Gifts

6:00 PM, Jul 3, 2013   |    comments
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FAIRFAX, Va. (WUSA9) -- A well-known Virginia State Senator is asking Governor Bob McDonnell to step down, if he cannot explain or deny the thousands of dollars in gifts he allegedly accepted and did not report. 

That includes a six-thousand-dollar Rolex watch and a 15-thousand-dollar gown for his wife, both reportedly purchased by Star Scientific CEO Jonnie Williams. 

Senator Chap Petersen says with the allegations growing, he could not stay silent anymore.

"For me, what really put it over the edge was this story that came out a week ago about the Manhattan shopping trip, and the Rolex watch," said State Senator Chap Peterson, referring to a story in the Washington Post. 

Peterson, a democrat, insists the letter he wrote to Republican Governor Bob McDonnell has nothing to do with politics.

"I give the Governor the benefit of the doubt and that's why I'm asking him to come forward and deny this. And if he can't deny it, and if he can't return these gifts, then I to think he needs to step down," said Petersen.

"It's unfortunate that the Senator would send a letter. I disagree with many of the assertions in the letter. I think many of the reports he's relying on are incorrect," said Governor McDonnell in Richmond today.

McDonnell Press Secretary Taylor Thornley Keeney sent this statement:

"This blatantly political statement from Senator Peterson was not unexpected: The Senator's letter appears to be premised on unconfirmed and inaccurate media reports.

The governor has been diligent over the years in making his financial disclosures. As we have stated before, we are aware of no economic development grants, targeted tax incentives, government contracts or board appointments received by Star Scientific or Jonnie Williams during this Administration. 

As an attorney, certainly Senator Peterson understands this office's not discussing the details of matters pending in the legal process. As a legislator, certainly Senator Peterson is aware that Virginia's disclosure requirements do not pertain to the families of elected officials."

"If he was not culpable, if he accepted this gift unwittingly or unknowingly, he needs to come forward and state that," said Petersen.

"What is compromised right now is this idea that somehow you can make a private gift to a public official, like a governor, and you get access to that official's administration, you get favors from the administration, you get receptions at the governor's mansion, based on private, non-disclosed gifts. That's not acceptable. That's not acceptable for anybody," said Petersen.

Loudoun County Republican Delegate Joe May says Petersen is trying to pre-empt the legal process.

"There's a process for doing it. What I've seen and heard so far doesn't support a resignation, because that would be an admission of guilt and I think we're a long, long way from that," said May.

McDonnell said Petersen should understand his limitations in talking about legal matters under investigation. 

"As an attorney, I know you can talk about something that's under investigation as long as your client can stand behind his statements. If your client can't speak in public because he has something to hide, then you have a problem," said Petersen.

The FBI is investigating the gifts the Governor received and whether anyone or business benefitted from those gifts.

In related topic, today a judge refused a defense request to subpoena Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli and one of his assistants in the embezzlement case against the former chef at the governor's mansion. Chef Todd Schneider says he gave Cuccinelli information about undisclosed gifts to the Governor.

The controversy has many lawmakers talking about reform the disclosure laws. Delegate Bob Marshall (R-13) says the current law is vague. He want the law to require gifts to family members be reported. Here are his proposed changes

1. Reporting any gift of $100 or more from a company or individual with business before the state of Virginia to any adult family member of an elected official or covered state employee, their spouse or legal dependent as well as a person cohabiting with a family member of an elected official or covered employee;
2. A gift not required to be initially reported because it was not made by someone with business before the state, would be required to be reported later if the donor subsequently had business before the state of Virginia where the gift was received within twelve months of such individual or company having business before the state;
3. Any gift received by a member during the regular session of the General Assembly exceeding $100 would have to be reported within five working days of receipt the gift.


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