Former Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell and his wife were found guilty yesterday of charges related to their acceptance of gifts from a businessman named Jonnie Williams, Sr. They are most likely going to prison where meals, soap and everything else will be free. Unfortunately, Virginia taxpayers will be paying the price for their misrule long after they are released.
McDonnell’s transportation plan, signed in 2013, puts a huge tax burden on ordinary citizens and helped corrupt Virginia politics. It obligates taxpayers to funding projects like the recently opened Metro Silver Line, which will never come close to breaking even. Made possible by the issuance of bonds (debt), these capital-intensive projects cannot simply repealed by the Legislature and another Governor. We are stuck with them, and the costs, forever.
The beneficiaries are unions, bond traders, and all the real estate developers whose properties near transportation projects will skyrocket in value.
I’ve met Bob McDonnell. He struck me as a decent person. I did not expect to see him in this kind of predicament. He seemed a lot different from his successor Terry McAuliffe, for whom scandal is easily imaginable, and probably inevitable.
It was certainly painful to see McDonnell in tears in a courtroom. The McDonnell’s suffered from marital discord. It is really the worst kind of pain, and on that basis, they are entitled to some sympathy. The jury, however, did not buy the assertion that this particular distress was it was an excuse for the corrupt acts.
The only caveat is that the McDonnells were certainly the targets of selective persecution. I do not say they were “victims,” because it is clear they are guilty of the acts of which they were accused. The indictment and prosecution of a sitting Governor most certainly required the approval of Attorney General Eric Holder, whose Justice Department has failed to prosecute members of Congress like Charles Rangel, Alan Mollohan (now former) and Gregory Meeks, who are guilty of more serious corruption. The injustice is not that the McDonnells have been prosecuted, but that these others have not.
The acceptance of gifts by the Governor is not illegal in Virginia. What was proven in the McDonnell case is so often lacking in others, namely the existence of a quid pro quo. When favors are exchanged for official acts, it is best done with a wink and nod. The prosecutors in the McDonnell case proved, to the jury at least, that the relationship with Williams went well beyond that.
Thus, the only real injustice here is what has been done to Virginia taxpayers.