|PHOTO - BOB BROWN/TIMES-DISPATCH|
As the sentencing of former Governor and now convicted felon, Bob McDonnell approaches, the unseemly soap opera "family values" of the Virginia GOP continue to make the stomach turn. Earlier in the week, as reported by the Richmond Times Dispatch, two of the McDonnell children, Jeanine McDonnell Zubowsky and Cailin Young, threw their mother under the bus in a letter to the Court asking for leniency for their father. As a column in the same paper notes, however, all of the McDonnells were in on the take and showed a rapacious greed that reflects on the true "conservative Christian values" of the Virginia Republican establishment. First, highlights on the trashing of Maureen McDonnell:
Two children of former Virginia governor Robert F. McDonnell say his stunning downfall and conviction on public corruption charges can largely be attributed to the corrosive effects of just one person: Their mother.
Jeanine McDonnell Zubowsky and Cailin Young wrote in blunt — and at times scathing — letters to a federal judge that it was former first lady Maureen McDonnell's materialism and mental-health issues that derailed the rising political career of her husband. The letters of support for Robert McDonnell were part of a trove of 440 submitted by his attorneys, who are seeking leniency at his Jan. 6 sentencing in Richmond.The column in today's Times Dispatch gives a truer view of the matter. Here are highlights:
"My mom . . . has always been concerned about getting discounts or freebees," McDonnell Zubowsky wrote. "She hid her coordination with people for free or discounted things or services and she didn't communicate with my dad because she knew he would not approve. . . . The testimony about my mom was not just part of a defense strategy and was not an attempt to 'throw her under the bus,' but unfortunately, was the reality."
One of the more dramatic moments of the Bob and Maureen McDonnell corruption trial was the testimony of an FBI agent who was asked by a prosecutor to identify item-by-item the Rolex wristwatch, golf equipment, designer clothes, shoes and handbags that Jonnie Williams Sr. showered on the former first family.
For more than a half-hour, the swag was paraded across the courtroom, handed by the bailiff to jurors for their examination. It was a display of legal theater that made clear the eye-popping, cash register-ringing scale of Williams’ beneficence.
Christmas, it seems, came almost every day for the McDonnells — all of them.
It’s a point overshadowed, if not altogether lost, by the orchestrated appeals of the five McDonnell children for leniency for their father. In letters to the federal judge who next week could send him to prison — 10 to 12 years for trading on his office, if the prosecution gets its way — the three daughters and twin sons, all recipients of Williams’ sometimes-garish largesse, say that Bob McDonnell doesn’t deserve to be locked away.
If it was OK for mom and dad to avail themselves of Williams’ generosity, then it was OK for the kids, too. Children learn from their parents, especially from their parents’ conduct. Some of the most powerful lessons from this are absorbed by children when parents don’t think the children are watching.
Privately, Bob McDonnell set a different example. There are few indications that, before the former first couple came under federal scrutiny, they or their children fully considered how unseemly it was to accept or solicit gift after gift after gift from a rich man looking for favors from the government that McDonnell led. But maybe that’s because the family, in general, and McDonnell, in particular, didn’t think anyone would notice.
Under Virginia law, it was up to McDonnell — and McDonnell, alone — to make public the goodies that he and his family harvested from Williams. Two features of the ethics statutes allowed him to obscure, if not conceal, the gifts and sweetheart loans: First, the law relies on the official to police himself or herself. Second, that allows the official to determine whether a benefactor is a relative or personal friend. Gifts from either do not have to be disclosed.
Are not their [the McDonnell children] appeals to Spencer, while emotionally moving and emblematic of a deep devotion to their father, somewhat diminished by a troubling fact? They were a party to this tawdry enterprise.
Cailin’s 2011 wedding at the Executive Mansion was paid for, in part, with $15,000 from Williams. Daughter Jeanine and her husband took $10,000 from Williams as a wedding present, only returning it — as Jeanine testified in a scripted utterance at her parents’ trial — “after we realized he was a criminal.”
Sons Sean and Bobby were given golf clubs, a bag and shoes by Williams as well as occasional privileges at his exclusive country club outside Richmond. The twins, both of whom have had dust-ups with police over their after-hours conduct, resisted pressure from their father to return the equipment. They dismissed his concerns that it was inappropriate for them to accept it.