In a sharp reversal, Virginia attorney general and Republican candidate for governor Ken Cuccinelli announced Tuesday that he had donated the value of gifts he received from Star Scientific CEO Jonnie Williams to charity.
"I wanted you to know that in recent days, I've managed to arrange to send a check of over $18,000 to a Richmond-based charity. I did this to resolve any questions surrounding the matter concerning Star Scientific," Cuccinelli said in a video released by his campaign. "This is something that I would have liked to have done sooner, but like most Virginians, writing a check for more than $18,000 is not a simple matter for my family and me. It's taken a while to get our funds together."
Cuccinelli accepted $18,000 in gifts from Williams, according to the attorney general's amended disclosure forms, including a $1,500 Thanksgiving dinner and $6,700 worth of the nutritional supplement Star Scientific makes.
Cuccinelli had previously argued that he could not return the gifts because they were not tangible items and he did not have the resources to return them. "You know, there's some bells you can't unring. You can't untake an airplane flight, you know?" he said in July.
"I’ve returned what I can, which was nothing,” he said in August.
Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell (R) and his family have faced significantly more trouble for the gifts they received from Williams, including grand jury and FBI investigations. Gifts to the McDonnells, which included more than $120,000 in loans to a family business, created a major scandal that has threatened the governor's remaining tenure.
Cuccinelli has tried to distance himself from that scandal, even as it was revealed he had accepted gifts from the same donor. "What we've all been seeing is very painful for Virginia, and it's completely inconsistent with Virginia's very reserved traditions," he said in a July statement.
The attorney general has been slipping in the polls against Democratic nominee Terry McAuliffe.