Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell has rejected a request from Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli to call a special legislative session to close holes in state ethics laws, especially those related to gift and financial disclosure requirements.
Virginia's disclosure rules are at the center of a recent scandal McDonnell got caught up in after it was reported that his family received more than $120,000 in gifts from Virginia businessman Jonnie Williams. Cuccinelli also received $18,000 in gifts from Williams, according to The Washington Post.
But neither the Republican governor nor the Republican attorney general who hopes to replace him have been accused of breaking any laws by not disclosing the gifts.
Still, Cuccinelli insisted in an interview with the Post that the laws regarding disclosure rules should be tightened so that all state officials are clear about what is acceptable and what is not.
"Trust is something that is easy to lose and hard to recover," Cuccinelli told The Post. "I think the longer we let this go, the more difficult it is for Virginians to achieve the level of faith in their government that I think they're accustomed to. And I think that's something we can achieve if we move quickly."
For his part, McDonnell announced last week that he is drawing up his own ethics-reform proposal and believes that legislative action can wait until the General Assembly returns in January.
"He was informed of the attorney general's position on this matter," said McDonnell spokesman Tucker Martin. "However, he believes the proper time and place for consideration of such changes would be during the next session of the General Assembly, which begins in January."
Virginia's disclosure laws are considered among the weakest in the country, according to the Post, which broke the story on the Williams gifts to McDonnell and Cuccinelli early this year. The laws allow state officials to receive gifts of less than $50 without reporting them, and does not require them to report gifts to family members.
Williams' gifts to McDonnell and his family included $15,000 in wedding catering costs for one of his daughters, a $6,500 Rolex watch, and a $10,000 engagement present for another daughter.
While the governor has not been charged with any wrongdoing, his popularity has fallen steadily. He issued an apology
in July and has paid Williams $120,000 to cover loans that his family apparently received from the businessman.
Cuccinelli, meanwhile, has insisted that it was an oversight on his part that stock he owns in a Williams company and $4,500 in travel and lodging-related gifts to his family were not reported. He was cleared of any wrongdoing by an internal investigation conducted by his office, but his ties to Williams continue to be an issue in his campaign against Democratic gubernatorial candidate Terry McAuliffe.
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