Virginia attorney general and presumptive Republican gubernatorial nominee Ken Cuccinelli may have unloaded his remaining shares of Star Scientific stock earlier this month, but that will hardly hush state Sen. Mark Herring’s calls for a federal investigation into the financial dealings between Cuccinelli, Gov. Bob McDonnell and Star Scientific CEO Jonnie Williams.
The political favors-driven Star Scientific controversy has been splashed throughout statewide headlines for much of April. Both Cuccinelli and McDonnell, Republicans, hold significant financial ties to the Glen Allen-based supplement manufacturing company -- Star Scientific -- and its CEO Jonnie Williams. Cuccinelli owned thousands of dollars in stock in Star Scientific at the same time his office was representing the commonwealth in a Star Scientific lawsuit against the state.
As for McDonnell, the Washington Post on March 30 reported Williams paid the $15,000 catering tab for the governor’s daughter’s wedding in 2011. McDonnell and his wife Maureen have since touted the Star Scientific brand and traveled on Williams’ plane.
Herring, a Democrat who’s seeking his party’s nomination for attorney general in November’s election, has been persistent in keeping the issue in the limelight. The Democrat earlier this month launched a petition on his campaign website, pressing the public to weigh in on what he calls the “Star Scientific scandal.” He also sent a letter to the U.S. Department of Justice urging an investigation.
Herring spokesman Adam Zuckerman on Tuesday said the fact that Cuccinelli divested the Star Scientific stock won’t halt Herring’s call for an independent examination of the financial links between Williams and the attorney general and the governor.
“Virginians deserve the truth about McDonnell, Cuccinelli and [Williams],” Herring, who represents parts of Loudoun and Fairfax, stated in an email, adding he wants to see “tougher anti-corruption rules” in Virginia.
Herring pointed out a recent nationwide study by the Center for Public Integrity, Global Integrity and Public Radio International in which Virginia received a failing mark for state government transparency and accountability. Virginia was one of eight states receiving an “F” in the report.
Cuccinelli campaign spokeswoman Anna Nix confirmed the attorney general has sold off his stock in the supplement company, but she referred further questions to the Office of the Attorney General spokesman Brian Gottstein, who declined to comment on the matter.
Herring isn’t alone in his call for an outside investigation into Cuccinelli, McDonnell and Williams. Virginia Democrats across the commonwealth have blasted out a slew of emails calling for Cuccinelli to appoint a special investigator or even resign.
“This weekend Ken Cuccinelli asked Virginians simply to trust his judgment that he saw no need to investigate whether he or Governor Bob McDonnell violated state law when they failed to properly disclose gifts, stock and free trips related to Jonnie Williams,” state Sen. Mamie Locke (D-Dist 2) said in an email April 22. “That sort of insider dealing is below the standard that Virginians expect for transparency and accountability in government.”