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Virginia Republican Who Accepted Thousands In Gifts Suddenly Endorses Limits

By Josh Israel  

"Virginia Republican Who Accepted Thousands In Gifts Suddenly Endorses Limits"

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Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli II (R-VA)

Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli II (R-VA)

As controversy continues to swell around Gov. Bob McDonnell (R-VA) and Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli II (R) over their questionable relationships with a wealthy supporter, Cuccinelli is trying to distance himself from McDonnell. But while he called Wednesday for new restrictions on the gifts Virginia politicians can accept, Cuccinelli personally has accepted more than $69,000 in gifts during his political career.

Under Virginia law, public officials may accept gifts of any amount — even from lobbyists and people with business before the state — as long as they publicly disclose anything they receive worth $50 or more. In light of revelations that McDonnell and Cuccinelli accepted major gifts from Star Scientific CEO Jonnie R. Williams Sr., Democratic nominee Terry McAuliffe has called for a $100 gift limit. While Cuccinelli, who is running to succeed McDonnell as governor and has his endorsement, has not embraced that proposal, he said Wednesday: “All of this emphasizes the need for clearer and faster disclosures that cover the whole family, as well as a cap on the size and types of gifts.”

But Cuccinelli accepted at least $18,893 worth of gifts from Williams — his most generous benefactor — between 2009 and 2012, including free lodging at Williams’ homes, $6,711 worth of dietary supplements, transportation to New York City and Kentucky, and an elaborate Thanksgiving dinner. All totaled, Cuccinelli reported accepting at least $18,893 in gifts from Williams between 2009 and 2012.

And the presents did not stop there. In 2011, he reported that John G. Rocovich Jr., a Roanoke lawyer best known for pushing to strip protections against discrimination based on sexual orientation during his tenure as rector of Virginia Tech, provided him with transportation to a forum in South Carolina, valued at $10,000. While his disclosure did not indicate date or venue, Cuccinelli wrote to supporters in September 2011 that he had “had the pleasure of attending” a South Carolina Republican presidential forum hosted by the right-right American Principles Project

In 2012, he reported receiving a $8,056 gift of a Texas hunting weekend and football tickets. His benefactor was Foster Friess, the multi-millionaire financial investor who bankrolled a pro-Rick Santorum Super PAC and proposed that women use Bayer Aspirin in lieu on contraception. Cuccinelli’s record has also been one of opposing scientifically accurate sex education.

In 2010, Cuccinelli accepted travel valued at $7,751 from Alpha Natural Resources, a major coal company, for himself and his parents. The flight took him to a ceremony held by the Virginia Mining Association in Southwest Virginia, where he spoke. Cuccinelli, the Virginia’s top lawyer, failed to disclose this trip — as was legally required — until April of this year, an error he claimed was inadvertent. Climate change denial has been a hallmark of Cuccinelli’s political career — encouraging audiences to exhale more carbon dioxide to annoy the Environmental Protection Agency, promoting fossil fuel use, unsuccessfully suing the EPA to block greenhouse gas regulations, and attempting an illegal fishing exposition into a climate change scientist’s work.

And, Williams’ Star Scientific was not Cuccinelli’s sole tobacco industry angel. Between 2007 and 2011, Altria Group Inc., the parent company of Philip Morris and the makers of Marlboro, Parliament, and Virginia Slims cigarettes, provided him with more than $3900 worth of travel, food and beverages. Cuccinelli toed the tobacco industry’s line, repeatedly voting against the state’s ban on smoking in restaurants and bars.

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