Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Arrogance Led to Mcdonnell's Demise

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Arrogance Led to Mcdonnell's Demise

Article excerpt

WASHINGTON - Most politicians, I'm convinced, believe they can talk their way out of anything. Whether it is arrogance, over confidence or just plain stupidity, this trait often seems to lead them into disaster when facing serious legal challenges to their conduct in office.

The latest example of this, of course, is that of former Virginia Gov. Robert McDonnell and his wife, both of whom are now facing massive jail sentences for accepting gifts from a multimillionaire owner of a company who wanted their influence to help promote his firm's products.

The McDonnells' convictions after a sensational trial on federal charges that didn't include bribery or any of the normal quid pro quo allegations of corruption in these matters is likely, legal analysts say, to expand significantly the temptation for prosecutors to take on cases against public officials they had heretofore decided to skip as too difficult. In instructing the jury, the judge all but declared that anything done while in office can be counted "an official act." The jury literally decided the McDonnells had sold the prestige of the office.

But that's to be settled in the appeals process that will take months. The governor and his wife, apparently now estranged, are scheduled to be sentenced in January and are expected to remain free on bond until a higher court takes a stance.

The real point of this is that we now have learned that most of the governor's troubles and all of those heaped on his wife Maureen in one of the more bizarre defenses ever offered in the trial of an elected official at this level, could have gone away last December. He defended himself by pointing his finger at his former cheerleader wife of many years. Is the word "cad" appropriate here?

Prosecutors offered the first governor in the history of Virginia to face such charges an opportunity to plead to one count of lying to a bank if he would merely stipulate in a signed statement that he was helping Johnnie Williams' company at the same time Mr. Williams was providing him and Ms. McDonnell an estimated $177,000 in gifts. Ms. McDonnell would not have been charged with anything and the worst Mr. …

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