Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell on Tuesday announced he had repaid with interest tens of thousands of dollars in loans given to him and his family by a wealthy businessman and, for the first time, apologized for the “embarrassment” the ongoing scandal has brought the state.
“I am deeply sorry for the embarrassment certain members of my family and I brought upon my beloved Virginia and her citizens,” he said in a statement. “I want you to know that I broke no laws and that I am committed to regaining your sacred trust and confidence. I hope today’s action is another step toward that end.”
The statement said the repayments to Jonnie R. Williams, CEO of nutritional supplement maker Star Scientific Inc., included $52,278.17 for a loan made to Mr. McDonnell’s wife in 2011 and $71,837.00 for two loans made last year to the small real estate business owned jointly by Mr. McDonnell and his sister.
All the money used for the repayment came from the governor, the family business itself or his family, the statement said.
The announcement comes as federal and state investigations have been looking into gifts Mr. Williams gave the McDonnell family. The gifts included $15,000 to pay costs associated with Mr. McDonnell’s daughter Cailin’s wedding, a shopping trip for first lady Maureen McDonnell and a Rolex inscribed with the words “71st governor of Virginia” that Mrs. McDonnell gave her husband.
Mr. McDonnell has noted that he is not legally required to disclose gifts to his family members.
A report issued last week by former state Attorney General Anthony F. Troy, a Democrat, found that representatives of Star Scientific met with members of Mr. McDonnell’s Cabinet three times but concluded that neither Mr. Williams nor his company benefited in “public funds, grants, or contracts” from his connection to the McDonnells.
Mr. Troy investigated the matter at the request of Attorney General Kenneth T. Cuccinelli II, who also received thousands of dollars in gifts from Mr. Williams — some of which he failed to properly disclose. Mr. Cuccinelli amended his disclosure reports, and last week Richmond Commonwealth’s Attorney Michael N. Herring cleared him of any criminal wrongdoing.
A chorus of Democratic lawmakers this month urged the governor to resign over the scandal, which has received national attention and emerged as a campaign issue in a year in which the gubernatorial race in Virginia is the only competitive contest in the country.
Asked during the first gubernatorial debate Saturday whether Mr. McDonnell should consider resigning, Mr. Cuccinelli noted that he initiated the state investigation.
“I don’t think it’s appropriate for the sitting attorney general to call for the resignation of the governor,” the Republican said, adding that he thought it was appropriate to ask the governor to think about it.
Democrat Terry McAuliffe said everyone should “stand down” and wait for the results of the investigations.