Bob McDonnell, the republican governor of Virginia, and his wife Maureen, were indicted on federal corruption charges in January 2014 and are currently standing trial. These charges were brought forth following a federal investigation which purported that McDonnell and his wife may have accepted over $165,000 in gifts from political donor Jonnie Williams, Sr, in exchange for political favors. While McDonnell has been quoted as saying he will fight these “false allegations,” he did, in fact, repay more than $120,000 to Williams in 2013 and apologized for bringing “embarrassment” to the state.
What is truly fascinating, however, is the embarrassment McDonnell is still bringing. A key defense in his corruption trial is feigning ignorance, and placing much of the responsibility on his wife, claiming he had no idea where such lavish gifts were coming from. On trial, however, it has been noted that McDonnell was well aware of where most of the cash was coming from, along with his numerous gulf trips, vacations, and sport-car rentals. To add to his embarrassing tactics, another central piece of his defense is that the governor’s marriage was so dysfunctional, there was no way they could have conspired together. He called the marriage “broken down” and stated they were “barely on speaking terms.” The prosecutor was quick to point out, however, that the former first couple was able to go on 18 vacations together in just 22 months.
In the wake of self-professed marital dysfunction, I think it is important to take a look at Bob McDonnell’s track record. In his controversial 1989 Regent University thesis, entitled The Republican Party’s Vision for the Family: The Compelling Issue of The Decade, McDonnell advocated “covenant marriage,” blasted feminists and working women as “detrimental to the family,” and surmised that “government policy should favor married couples over ‘cohabitators, homosexuals or fornicators.” When the thesis went viral in 2009, McDonnell detached from it stating “Virginians will judge me on my 18-year record as a legislator and attorney general and the specific plans I have laid out for our future — not on a decades-old academic paper I wrote as a student during the Reagan era and haven’t thought about in years.” What is interesting to note, however, is that throughout his tenure in public office, McDonnell has pursued at least ten of the policy goals outlined in his thesis, including abortion restrictions, covenant marriage, school vouchers, and tax policies that favor heterosexual marriages.
Governor McDonnell earned the monikers “Governor Vagina” and “Governor Ultrasound” for his fervent support of trans-vaginal ultrasound requirements for women considering abortion. Following public protest, however, the governor chose to instead favor slightly less invasive abdominal ultrasounds, granting exemptions in the case of incest and rape, so long as it was reported to police. That same year, McDonnell vetoed HB 399, which sought to improve neonatal care by fast-tracking implementation of newborn screening for life-threatening congenital heart malformations. So, yes, the man who has pushed legislation to limit grounds for divorce, and has essentially made every move to restrict marital and reproductive rights for couples, is blaming his corruption scandal on marital dysfunction. But oh, wait… It gets even better.
McDonnell has a strong track record of homophobia (which I’m sure you could have guessed, at this point). In fact, one of his very first acts as governor was to rescind an order enacted by his democratic predecessor, which prohibited discrimination based on sexual orientation. He criticized a 1965 Supreme Court decision which legalized the use of contraceptives, stating “man’s basic nature is inclined towards evil, and when the exercise of liberty takes the shape of pornography, drug abuse, or homosexuality, the government must restrain, punish, and deter.” Yet now that his marriage is in “shambles,” McDonnell has testified that he is currently staying with a priest at a local rectory, Rev. Wayne Ball of St. Patrick’s Catholic Church. What is interesting about Rev. Ball is that he was arrested in 2002 for “frequenting a bawdy place.” The priest, along with his male counterpart, pled guilty to a misdemeanor sex offense. The charges were dropped after both men completed 80 hours of community service. Rev. Ball was assigned to a different church.
So, basically, it’s hard to even digest the amount of corruption and controversy that surrounds this trial, and each day it just seems to become more hypocritical – and more hilarious. To be fair, however, I think the closing words should be granted to Rev. Wayne Ball, who blamed his gay sex scandal on a “bout of depression” and has defended McDonnell to the bitter end: “Is there any person at all who would want to stand up in public and tell the whole truth about their life?”