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Virginia Governor Pays Back Loan, Apologizes To Commonwealth

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Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell gestures as he answers reporters questions in  Richmond, Va.
(AP Photo/Cliff Owen)
Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell gestures as he answers reporters questions in Richmond, Va.

In Virginia, Governor Bob McDonnell is returning $124,000 worth of loans from a wealthy Virginia businessman.

In a statement from McDonnell's private legal and communications team, the governor is apologizing for "the embarrassment certain members of my family and I brought upon my beloved Virginia and her citizens."

The apology comes along with an announcement that he is repaying two loans from wealthy Virginia businessman Jonnie Williams, CEO of Star Scientific, who is at the center of a growing scandal involving undisclosed gifts.

"By doing this, there seems to be some acknowledgement by McDonnell that this has become a big problem for him," says University of Virginia Center for Politics analyst Kyle Kondik.

The governor has not yet announced if he will return the $15,000 catering tab for his daughter's wedding or the $6,500 Rolex watch. One thing the governor wants to be clear about, though, is that he has broken no laws.

"The Swiss cheese of Virginia laws do not require him to return any of this. But this act of contrition can help the governor survive the next several months politically," says University of Mary Washington professor Stephen Farnsworth.

Farnsworth points out that the gifts and loans from Williams come at a time when the wealthy businessman has been fighting a tax bill.

"This scandal has always raised questions about whether there is the potential special treatment for the wealthy in this state," he says.

The issue has come up in the current campaign for governor, and many are calling for a $100 limit for gifts as well as new rules about disclosing gifts to family members. Delegate Rob Krupicka, an Alexandria Democrat, says one course of action that would be a mistake is for legislators to launch a study.

"In my view that's the fastest way to kill ethics reform. A study is simply a way to say you did something and then wait until the noise settles down and move on to something else."

Few expect the noise to be settling down for McDonnell anytime soon.

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