The Federal Bureau of Investigation is probing the close relationship between Gov. Bob McDonnell, R-Va., and a donor who paid $15,000 to cover catering expenses at the June 2011 wedding of McDonnell's daughter, according to news reports. McDonnell declined to specifically address the probe on Tuesday, but explained his relationship with the donor on WTOP Radio's "Ask the Governor" program by saying, "I've been blessed to have a lot of friends."
"There's nothing going on at all that impairs my ability to serve," said McDonnell. "I don't think it would be appropriate to comment on any investigations or potential investigations. I haven't read the accounts this morning, I can only say I don't comment on when there is or isn't an investigation."
Investigators are looking for evidence of quid-pro-quo dealings between the governor and Star Scientific chief executive Jonnie R. Williams Sr., the Post reports. Both reports say that the FBI is questioning people about the relationship in a probe that began as a securities investigation into Star Scientific.
In March, the Post reported that Williams paid for the 2011 wedding catering bill. At the time, Williams's company was introducing Anatabloc, a tobacco-derived dietary supplement, the Post reported, and Virginia's first family was actively involved in promoting the product.
The governor signed the catering contract and put down a deposit of around $8,000, the Post reported in April, citing the document. When Williams donated $15,000 to cover the costs of the catering bill, an overpayment of $3,500 was reimbursed to McDonnell's wife.
The governor did not publicly report the $3,500 as a gift. "Gifts that come to me I regularly, diligently report those. But gifts that come to other family members under the current law, are not reportable," McDonnell told WTVR earlier this month.
In addition to the wedding donation, Williams's company donated $28,500 worth of flights to McDonnell's successful 2009 campaign for governor and $80,000 worth of air travel to his political action committee after the election, the Post reported. Williams also allowed the governor's family to borrow a Ferrari and stay at a western Virginia vacation home he owns in July 2011. The vacation was disclosed by the governor and McDonnell's office told the Post he takes one every year on the donor's dime.
McDonnell hosted a kickoff event at the governor's mansion for the dietary supplement Anatabloc in August 2011. McDonnell's wife reportedly traveled to Florida to speak about the supplement's key ingredient to investors and scientists just three days before her daughter's wedding.
The AP reports that Todd Schneider, a former chef awaiting trial for four felony counts of stealing from the governor's mansion, claimed in court filings Monday that he contacted the FBI and state police about the McDonnell wedding reimbursement last year.