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News Virginian: No Jail Time for Former Gov. McDonnell Doesn’t Mean He Escapes Disgrace

Ex-Gov. Bob McDonnell

Ex-Gov. Bob McDonnell

By Editorial Board
The News Virginian

After four years of dragging Virginia and his family through the mud with tawdry tales of what any layman would recognize as bribery, it turns out the punishment of former Gov. Bob McDonnell will not be prison time, but abject disgrace.

That’s the effect of the Justice Department’s decision last week to drop the official corruption case against McDonnell, despite recommendations by federal prosecutors in Virginia, who still believed they could secure a felony conviction against him.

The case’s resolution also lifts the threat of further prosecution against McDonnell’s wife, Maureen, whose brief tenure as Virginia’s first lady endowed her with a titanic sense of entitlement.

The Justice Department’s decision follows a decision by the Supreme Court in June vacating McDonnell’s conviction and leaving prosecutors with little realistic chance of securing a conviction under the court’s crabbed definition of official corruption.

The court’s ruling provides comfort for future sticky-fingered politicians, who will find it easier to line their pockets while leading supplicants and suitors by the nose. The McDonnells’ story is as hackneyed as any in America’s lurid history of political graft. A politician of some talent and unobjectionable views, whose good looks and respectable bearing are judged worthy by voters, is elevated by stages to lofty office. Once installed, he performs his official duties competently while, hidden from public view, he rubs shoulders with a conga line of well-heeled, solicitous and ethically agnostic favor seekers.

In the McDonnells’ case, one of them, businessman Jonnie R. Williams Sr., saw advantage in plying the first couple with tens of thousands of dollars in loans, gifts, favors and vacations, a potpourri of generosity in return for which he clearly hoped for favorable state treatment for his company’s tobacco-based nutritional supplement.

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