New Disclosure Forms Show Lasting Impact of McDonnell Case

Jul 5, 2017

Former Governor Bob McDonnell, seen here speaking to reporters last year following a Supreme Court ruling that overturned his corruption conviction. That case seems to have left a mark on Virginia's lawmakers, who seem to be receiving far fewer gifts than normal according to new disclosure forms.
Credit AP Photo / Andrew Harnik

The pay-to-play scandal that resulted in the conviction of former Governor Bob McDonnell may have ended when the U.S. Supreme Court overturned the jury’s unanimous decision, but Michael Pope reports that at least one part of that trial has lasting consequences.

Gifts. Every member of the General Assembly is offered an unending parade of them, everything from coffee mugs and award statues to fancy meals and booze. But ever since former Governor Bob McDonnell was convicted of accepting gifts in exchange for official acts, something has changed in Richmond. Quentin Kidd at Christopher Newport University says new disclosure forms show that conviction changed how lawmakers think about gifts.

“As a response to that many of them said look I’m just going to take nothing from nobody and that’s going to be my policy and that way I can’t get in trouble for anything and that’s what this data shows a lot of them have done.”

More than half the lawmakers report receiving no gifts during the two-month General Assembly session, according to a new analysis by the Virginia Public Access Project. And although clerks are legally required to accept the disclosure documents, nobody is required to check to see if they are filled out correctly. So it’s possible all those blank forms might not be totally accurate. And then there’s the other form of influence, one that Carl Tobias at the University of Richmond law school says is more widespread.

“The bigger question is the whole question of donations, where we don’t have much by way of limitations on those.”

The new disclosure forms show the most popular gift this year was a ticket to the Virginia Agribusiness Council banquet. Tickets were $80 each.

This report, provided by Virginia Public Radio, was made possible with support from the Virginia Education Association