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VA Attorney General candidates react to gift scandal

6:26 PM, Aug 6, 2013   |    comments
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Gov. Bob McDonnell

SPRINGFIELD, Va. (WUSA9) -- "There is a crisis of confidence," said State Senator Mark Obenshain about the gift scandal plaguing the Governor's office.   

The candidates vying for Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli's job reacted to the gift scandal and Cuccinelli's call for a special session. 

Senator Mark Obenshain, who is running for Attorney General, made it clear when asked several questions that he would not put himself in the same predicament as Cuccinelli. The GOP Gubernatorial candidate is under pressure to return the cost of $18,000 in gifts he received from Star Scientific CEO Jonnie Williams. 

"I think we need to adopt a new law imposing a $100 cap on gifts to elected officials and to members of their household.  And, whether it's passed or not, if I'm elected Attorney General that will be the rule in my office," said Obenshain. 

Cuccinelli has said that he cannot return the gifts, which include trips and a turkey dinner because they are gone.  State Senator Mark Herring, the democrat running for Attorney General says Cuccinelli needs to do it. 

"Ken Cuccinelli is just making excuses by saying this is some kind of bell that can't be unrung.  We know what the fair market value of the gift he failed to disclose and he needs to return them. The public trust is too important," said Herring.  

What if Cuccinelli can't afford to pay back $18,000?

"Then he needs to tighten his belt. And return the gifts.  That's the right thing to do," said Herring.  

Cuccinelli  is asking Governor Bob McDonnell to call a special session now to address ethics and a new disclosure laws.  The Governor has rejected the idea. 

Here's Cuccinelli's response on his website:

"I am disappointed that Governor McDonnell and some others in state government do not support my call for a special session. I'm disappointed because I believe Virginians want solutions right now, not sometime down the road.  The citizens of Virginia would appreciate our responsiveness to their concerns related to trust in their own state government.  If we act successfully now, I'm confident that Virginians will ultimately react favorably; because they will be able to conclude 'wow, I had a real concern with trust in my own state government, and they all got together to not only fix the problem, but to do it quickly.  That's not what I'm used to from government.'

"Working together, there is an opportunity for improvement right now.  I think we can achieve more in August, than we are likely to achieve in January." - Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli

 

Both candidates for Attorney General agree new, tighter laws and gift limits are needed, but neither is pushing for a costly special session. 

"I'm not calling for it, that wasn't my statement yesterday," said Obenshain. 

"I think it takes a lot of moxie for someone like Ken Cuccinelli to call for a special session," said Herring. 

Herring says the general assembly should wait  for the conclusion of the federal investigation into Governor McDonnell's acceptance of more than $200,000 in loans and gifts from Jonnie Williams.

The Governor has apologized and announced that he has repaid the loans and given back the gifts.    

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