STATEMENT OF FORMER GOVERNOR ROBERT F. MCDONNELL
My fellow Virginians, I come before you this evening as someone who has been falsely accused and whose public service has been wrongfully attacked. Earlier today, federal prosecutors filed criminal charges against me and my wife Maureen, alleging that we violated federal law by accepting gifts and loans from Jonnie Williams, the former CEO of Star Scientific. I deeply regret accepting legal gifts and loans from Mr. Williams, all of which have been repaid with interest, and I have apologized for my poor judgment for which I take full responsibility. However, I repeat emphatically that I did nothing illegal for Mr. Williams in exchange for what I believed was his personal generosity and friendship.
I never promised – and Mr. Williams and his company never received – any government benefit of any kind from me or my Administration: no contract, loan, grant, funding, legislation, budget appropriation, regulation, board or commission appointment, or any other official state benefit. I never promised or attempted to influence anyone to give Mr. Williams or his company any official state benefit. I did not try to hide or deceive anyone about my friendship with Mr. Williams. Two independent and non-political investigations have confirmed that Mr. Williams and Star Scientific received nothing from the State, and not one penny of taxpayer money went to him or Star Scientific during my Administration.
Not one penny.
Star Scientific publicly confirmed last spring that it neither sought nor received any special benefits from any official. The federal government’s case rests entirely on a misguided legal theory: that facilitating an introduction or meeting, appearing at a reception, or expressing support for a Virginia business is a serious federal crime for an office holder if it involves a political donor or someone who gave a gift or loan. The U.S. Supreme Court has already rejected this radical idea and for good reason: if it were applied evenhandedly to every elected official, nearly all of them, from President Obama on down, would have to be charged for providing tangible benefits to donors. My administration provided Mr. Williams the same routine courtesies and access to state government that I – and every other Governor before me – afforded to thousands of individuals, companies, charities, and other organizations, whether they were donors or not. No other elected official has ever been successfully prosecuted for such conduct, yet federal officials in Washington, in their zeal to find a basis to charge Maureen and me, have decided to stretch the law to its breaking point.
For 37 years, I have loyally and enthusiastically served my country and state as a U.S. Army Officer, a state prosecutor, a Member of the House of Delegates, Attorney General, and as your Governor. Serving as Governor of Virginia has been the highest professional honor of my life, and I have given my heart and soul to help the people of Virginia. My actions over the past four years were completely dedicated to providing common sense and compassionate solutions to the challenges Virginians face. My team and I worked successfully with Republicans and Democrats to support our citizens, and our work produced good results – creating jobs and record budget surpluses, enacting major education reforms, fixing our state’s transportation and pension systems crises, and taking care of foster children, the homeless, and the mentally ill.
Although the federal investigation of my family has been indescribably agonizing, I believe the facts and the law are on our side, and we will face these false accusations with strength and firm resolve. I have great faith in God, who has blessed me immensely with positions of public trust, a loving family, and devoted friends. I also have great faith in the American justice system. I will use every available resource and advocate I have for as long as it takes to fight these false allegations, and to prevail against this unjust overreach of the federal government.
There is no way for me to fully convey how much I appreciate the ongoing steadfast support and encouragement of friends and countless fellow Virginians through this most difficult and unexpected test of my life. My family and I are most grateful for your prayers and affections.
Thank you for listening to me.