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Virginia Democrats renew call for Cuccinelli to resign
Question of the Day
RICHMOND — Virginia Democrats renewed their demands Monday that Attorney General Kenneth T. Cuccinelli resign after the Republican gubernatorial candidate belatedly disclosed about $13,000 worth of gifts on Friday that he claimed he forgot to note in four years’ worth of economic disclosure reports.
State Sen. A. Donald McEachin and Delegate David J. Toscano responded in a conference call to Mr. Cuccinelli’s revelation Friday afternoon that he failed to report five gifts from 2009 through last year. He spoke to a handful of mostly print journalists who had agreed not to broadcast any audio or video recordings of the conference and use them only to augment the accuracy of their own notes.
Three of them were from Jonnie Williams, the CEO of troubled nutritional supplement maker Star Scientific and a political contributor to Mr. Cuccinelli. They included a $3,000 vacation stay and $1,500 Thanksgiving retreat and dinner at Mr. Williams‘ Smith Mountain Lake vacation home.
Mr. Cuccinelli also made a nominal revision to his 2011 filing to show that $6,711 worth of nutritional supplements he received that year came from Star Scientific, not from Mr. Williams as he had previously reported.
The annual reports listing their business interests, assets, honoraria and gifts are required of elected officials each January under Virginia law. A deliberate violation is a misdemeanor, but an unintended error or omission is not an offense.
Friday’s disclosures boost the value of Mr. Cuccinelli’s reported gifts from either Mr. Williams or his company over the past four years from $13,000 to more than $18,000. In addition to the gifts, Star Scientific was the only company in which Mr. Cuccinelli held stock before he sold some of his shares last year, and the rest earlier this month.
Mr. McEachin, Henrico Democrat, and Mr. Toscano, Charlottesville Democrat, were incredulous about Mr. Cuccinelli’s come-clean moment done at an hour of the week tailored to minimize its exposure through traditional news outlets.
“He just happened to forget thousands [of dollars] in gifts from the CEO who sued the state over unpaid taxes and in whose company he held stock,” said Mr. Toscano, the House minority leader.
“How many of your friends and neighbors would forget a big company funding a big trip for you and your family or paying for a vacation for you or paying for an air flight to New York City,” Mr. Toscano said.
Mr. Cuccinelli came under fire late last month for allowing his office to defend the Virginia Department of Taxation in Star Scientific’s lawsuit over $700,000 in disputed state taxes. But he relented this month and allowed two lawyers in private practice to take over the case.
Mr. McEachin called the continuing disclosures about Mr. Cuccinelli’s past ties to the company that is now the subject of a federal securities investigation and two shareholder lawsuits “an embarrassment to the commonwealth and reason enough for Ken Cuccinelli to step aside.”
“The attorney general … does not have the intestinal fortitude to stand before the cameras, to allow recording devices into the room while he tells the people of Virginia how he forgot to obey the law,” Mr. McEachin said.
But neither Democratic lawmaker was willing to press their party’s gubernatorial nominee, former electric-car executive and former Democratic National Committee Chairman Terry McAuliffe, to be as forthcoming as Mr. Cuccinelli has in disclosing his income tax returns. Virginia law places no legal requirement on candidates to make their tax returns public.
Mr. Cuccinelli two weeks ago allowed reporters to examine his complete federal and state income tax returns, including itemized sources of income as well as deductions. After more than a week of public pressure, Mr. McAuliffe released only summaries — the first two pages of his federal returns — to reporters, but withheld all information about the sources of his income and the deductions and exemptions he enjoyed.
“Terry’s made the decision he’s chosen to make and it certainly shows where he’s gotten his money from, and if he chooses to do more, that’s fine, and if he doesn’t choose to do more, we’re more than proud to be his ticket mates,” Mr. McEachin said.
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