Virginia’s legislation on political gift is extremely lax, making it essential for government officials to accurately report all gifts given to them.
In a case that gained popularity in the media, former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell has been found guilty of failing to disclose gifts and money in excess of $177,000, given to him by a Virginia businessman. According to USA Today, the governor and his wife were accused of promoting dietary supplements created by the businessman's company, Star Scientific in exchange for the money, loans and gifts. In addition to luxurious trips, shopping sprees and golfing gifts, money given was used to fund his daughter's wedding. The former governor and his wife faced 14 counts of corruption and bribery.
McDonnell maintained his innocence throughout trial and has vowed to appeal, and in his white collar criminal defense, claims that he had no personal liability for the loans made to a business he and his sister owned and to his wife and her business. He did admit that he should have reported the gift of a personalized golf bag and outings to a golf course, but the oversight was not deliberate. The former governor also testified that he did not give the businessman's company any more access to connections than he would have other businesses, in accordance with state guidelines, and that he gave the man no special treatment. Furthermore, the loans were repaid to the businessman a year later.
Virginia's public official gift law
Virginia's laws regarding gifts given to public officials are some of the most lenient in the country, USA Today points out. While they are allowed to receive gifts of any value, public officials are required to disclose all gifts they receive that are valued at $50 or higher, according to Virginia law. They must also list all smaller gifts that add up to a total of $100 or higher. However, they are not required to report gifts or loans made to immediate family members.
The National Conference of State Legislatures defines gifts as any discount, entertainment, gratuity, loan, hospitality or any other gift that has monetary value. Services, such as meals, transportation and lodgings are also considered gifts.
Virginia law also states that federal and state employees and officers are prohibited from:
- Accepting money or gifts to use for personal gain rather than funding political duties.
- Accepting money or gifts as a way to gain employment or promotion.
- Accepting money or gifts that may influence their ability to rule in favor of a person or business.
- Accepting jobs or professional opportunities that are offered as a result of the person's political status.
Failure to comply with these laws can result in criminal charges being filed against the politician or public officer for corruption.
When to contact an attorney
People who have been accused of professional wrongdoings, such as fraud, embezzlement, identity theft, money laundering and forgery, may want to seek legal advice from an established criminal defense attorney. An attorney may be able to help you build a strong defense in your case.
Keywords: white collar, crime, defense