Maureen McDonnell made a heck of a fashion splash in that 14-count federal indictment filed Monday in Virginia.
A designer diva, this mother of five, including twin boys, didn’t want her husband — their father, the governor of Virginia — tooling around the state in a black market knockoff or “gently worn” Rolex bought off eBay.
And he certainly couldn’t pop into a Ferrari with a non-designer golf shirt bought on the sale table at Dillard’s in Richmond.
Everything comes with a price, and in the case of Mr. and Mrs. Robert McDonnell, immediate-past first couple of the commonwealth of Virginia, the price could be steep.
Each of the principled Republicans could serve up to 20 years in prison if found guilty of charges of allegedly accepting expensive gifts and donations in exchange for helping a wealthy friend, businessman Jonnie Williams.
The McDonnells also face other charges: The Mister for failing to report a $50,000 loan from Mr. Williams; and the Missus for trying to return some articles of clothing to Mr. Williams after an investigation had already begun.
The charges of political favors being carried out by Mr. McDonnell once he became governor are one thing, but some of the most shocking facts in the indictment point to the behavior of Mrs. McDonnell beforehand.
Among them, to the tune of at least $140,805:
• Louis Vuitton this and Louis Vuitton that, including a matching purse and wallet.
• Peter Millar apparel. Enough said.
• Other designer apparel, including a button-up Ralph Lauren shirt (got to have at least one), two gold Oscar de la Renta dresses and a gold Oscar de la Renta sweater. (A girl can never have too much Oscar.)
Maureen McDonnell has expensive taste — and it stuck out like a sore thumb because her husband had been a public servant since 1992 — serving in the Virginia House of Delegates before becoming attorney general and, subsequently, the governor — and earning a public servant’s salary.
A designer diva can become wrapped up in contrived imaging, which is part and parcel of being a politician’s wife. And if her husband is a next-in-line Republican, as Mr. McDonnell was before the style hit the fan, then perhaps somebody needed to gently tap the wife on the shoulder and simply say, “Political substance over town-and-country taste.”
One of the most damning allegations that came out of the closet on Tuesday was an email from the then-soon-to-be first lady. According to the 43-page indictment, Mrs. McDonnell wrote to an aide in December 2009: “I need to talk to you about Inaugural clothing budget. I need answers and Bob is screaming about the thousands I’m charging up in credit card debt. We are broke, have an unconscionable amount in credit card debt already, and this Inaugural is killing us!! I need answers and I need help, and I need to get this done.”
Beer money and champagne taste — it’s a political killer.
“Bob is screaming,” she wrote.
“We are broke,” she wrote.
“I need help,” she wrote.
America’s prisons aren’t exactly known for their behavior modification programs.
• Deborah Simmons can be reached at email@example.com