A Richmond prosecutor has cleared Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli of criminal wrongdoing for failing to promptly report thousands of dollars in personal gifts he had received years earlier on his required state economic interest statements.
Richmond Commonwealth's Attorney Mike Herring said Thursday there is no evidence that Cuccinelli, the Republican candidate for governor, violated any laws with his belated disclosures.
Cuccinelli omitted more than $13,000 worth of gifts including private jet flights and free vacation lodgings from his required state disclosure forms for a period of four years. He amended his filings from 2009 through 2012 in late April, saying he simply overlooked the gifts earlier.
Cuccinelli asked Herring to examine whether he'd committed a crime.
Among the gifts that slipped Cuccinelli's mind were a $3,000 summer family vacation last year and a catered $1,500 Thanksgiving dinner in 2010 at the waterside mansion of Jonnie R. Williams Sr., the chief executive of the troubled nutritional supplements manufacturer Star Scientific Inc.
State and federal officials are investigating the link between Williams and his company and Gov. Bob McDonnell, whose family accepted thousands of dollars in unreported gifts from Williams, including a $15,000 check to his daughter Cailin at her 2011 wedding. McDonnell has defended withholding the gifts from his statements of economic interest because state law requires only that gifts directly to state officeholders -- not their family members -- be disclosed.
Other honoraria added to Cuccinelli's amended forms included a chartered flight for him and his parents to a Virginia Mining Association ceremony at the expense of coal giant Alpha Natural Resources and transportation valued at $795 for a southwestern Virginia rally last year paid by the Federation of American Coal Energy and Security, or FACES of Coal.
Herring's report removes one impediment from Cuccinelli's campaign against Democrat Terry R. McAuliffe in the nation's only competitive gubernatorial contest this year.
But Herring now shifts his focus to a review of gifts to the McDonnells and whether the governor's decision not to disclose them violated a Virginia conflicts-of-interest law for public officials that is consistently ranked by public interest organizations among the nation's worst.
Even if investigators determine that McDonnell deliberately withheld information that should have been made public, an infraction of the economic disclosure law is only a misdemeanor.