Robert McDonnell

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Bob McDonnell
McDonnell Port HiRes.jpg
Former Governor of Virginia
From: January 16, 2010 - January 11, 2014
Predecessor Tim Kaine
Successor Terry McAuliffe
Party Republican
Spouse(s) Maureen Patricia McDonnell
Religion Roman Catholic

Robert F. "Bob" McDonnell (born June 15, 1954) was the 71st Governor of Virginia, having won the 2009 election by a 59%-41% landslide. McDonnell's Democratic opponent was state Senator Creigh Deeds, whom he defeated in 2005 for attorney general. He had consistently led Deeds in the polls by wide margins.[1][2][3][4] Previously McDonnell served as a Lieutenant Colonel in the United States Army, and a U.S. prosecutor. He was state Attorney General from 2006-2009, before resigning to focus full-time on his gubernatorial campaign.


Born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and raised in northern Virginia, he attended the University of Notre Dame on an ROTC scholarship. During his twenty-one years in the Army, McDonnell spent four years running a medical clinic in Germany. After marrying and raising a family, he graduated from Regent University in Virginia Beach in 1989 with a law degree and became a prosecutor in the Virginia Beach Commonwealth's Attorney's Office. McDonnell was first elected to the Virginia House of Delegates in 1992, defeating a twenty-year incumbent. He would go on to be reelected seven times, and would rise to the position of Assistant Majority Leader and Chairman of the House Courts of Justice Committee. During his tenure he passed parental notification law for abortions, drunk driving laws and legislation to abolish the death tax.

As Attorney General McDonnell saw 83 of his 94 legislative proposals become law, including passing "Jessica's Law" which established a 25-year mandatory minimum sentence for certain sexual predators who commit violent crimes against children.


McDonnell was selected to give the Republican response to President Barack Obama's 2010 state of the Union address.[5] McDonnell ran for governor as a conservative, but in 2013, he betrayed conservatives by signing into law the largest tax increase in Virginia history.[6] He shifted the gasoline tax from a retail tax that was collected at the pump as cents per gallon to a wholesale tax that was collected as a percentage of the wholesale price of gas. As a result, the wholesale gasoline tax will automatically grow with inflation, while the former tax was limited because the state legislature refused to increase it for decades.

McDonnell rewarded political friends with a contract to build a proposed tollroad parallel to U.S. 460 between Cheasapeake and Petersburg. Under the contract, Virginia paid the developers for work on designing and building the road regardless of whether it was ever built. The federal government refused to grant permits to build the road through wetlands effectively killing the project. Yet, the developers billed Virginia $300 million for their work on the project under the McDonnell Administration.[7]

When the Virginia House of Delegates had passed a bill to make a transvaginal ultrasound a prerequisite for having an abortion in Virginia, McDonnell watered down the final law to remove that particular requirement.[8]

McDonnell accepted a $5,000 campaign donation from "Bobby Thompson" who was head of the United States Navy Veterans Association (USNVA), a organization who had been refused registration to allow it to solicit charitable contributions in Virginia. USNVA's lobbyists then got the General Assembly to pass a bill that would exempt such veterans groups from the regulations applicable to all other charities. While the law was awaiting Gov. McDonnell's signature, the St. Petersburg Times ran a series of investigative stories on how the USNVA was a fraud. The sponsor of the bill in the State Senate asked McDonnell to veto the bill, but he signed it anyway. Later his campaign donated the $5,000 to a real veterans' charity.[9] Thompson was later convicted of fraud and identity theft in Ohio in conjunction with his nationwide scam.[10][11]

At the time McDonnell was elected Governor, he faced financial pressures because he had invested in rental properties at the peak of property values which began a sharp decline in 2008. He then sought a series of personal loans. One loan came from a friend to whom he offered an appointment to a regulatory board.[12] He also received loans and various gifts from Jonnie R. Williams, the CEO of a company which produces a dietary supplement. These included a $6,500 Rolex watch, $15,000 for catering the wedding of McDonnell's daughter and a $10,000 engagement gift to McDonnell's other daughter. Mrs. McDonnell purchased $15,000 worth of clothing on a New York city shopping spree paid for by Mr. Williams. Mrs. McDonnell made public appearances on behalf of the product, and the Governor hosted an event at the Governor's Mansion to promote the product. McDonnell claims that all of his actions were legal, and has returned the gifts and repaid the loans.[13] Ken Cuccinelli, the current Republican candidate for Governor, asked McDonnell to call a special session to strengthen Virginia's ethic laws, but McDonnell declined.

Eleven days after leaving office, McDonnell and his wife were indicted by a federal grand jury in conjunction with their relationship with Williams.[14][15] The trial of McDonnell and his wife began on July 28. 2014. The indictment alleged that McDonnell's actions on behalf of Williams deprived the public of his honest services under the wire fraud statute.[16] During the trial McDonnell took the stand for five days to claim that his marriage was so troubled that he could not have conspired with his wife to accept gifts. He also claimed that he did not perform any official acts to benefit Williams. After a five-week trial, the jury convicted McDonnell on 11 counts and acquitted him on two, while Mrs. McDonnell was convicted of nine counts and acquitted on four. McDonnell was sentenced to two years in prison on January 6, 2015,[17] and Mr. and Mrs. McDonnell can appeal their convictions after sentencing.[18][19]


  7. McCartney, Robert. "Robert McDonnell’s other big scandal: Bum deal on U.S. 460 project cost Virginia plenty", Washington Post, October 11, 2014. Retrieved on October 13, 2014. 
  8. "Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell Backs off the Invasive Ultrasound Law", Slate, February 22, 2012. Retrieved on August 16, 2013. 
  9. Sluss, Michael. "McDonnell to give away $5K from Navy vets charity", Roanoke Times, 18 May 2010. Retrieved on September 5, 2014. 
  10. Nonprofit under investigation wins registration exemption in Virginia. (22 May 2010). Retrieved on September 5, 2014.
  11. "Fla. contributor to Va. campaigns raises questions", Roanoke Times, 16 May 2010. 
  12. Helderman, Rosalind. "Lender was offered Va. post", Washington Post, August 9, 2013, p. B1. 
  13. Helderman, Rosalind. "McDonnell: All 'tangible' gifts returned to supporter", Washington Post, August 14, 2013, p. B1. 
  14. O'Dell, Larry. "Former Va. Gov. Bob McDonnell, Wife Indicted", January 21, 2014. 
  15. Helderman, Rosalind. "Former Va. Gov. McDonnell and wife charged in gifts case", January 21, 2014. 
  16. MARTZ, MICHAEL. "Trial comes down to Bob McDonnell’s conduct", Richmond Times Dispatch, July 26, 2014. Retrieved on July 27, 2014. 
  17. Template error: argument title is required. 
  18. Cohen, Tom. "Former Virginia governor found guilty in influence-peddling case", CNN, September 4, 2014. Retrieved on September 5, 2014. 
  19. Sherfinski, David. "Bob McDonnell’s fall from grace ends in felony convictions", Washington Times, September 4, 2014. Retrieved on September 5, 2014. 

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