In the spring of 2011, Virginia first lady Maureen McDonnell flew to New York and was treated to a high-end shopping spree courtesy of Star Scientific CEO Jonnie Williams Sr.
During the trip, McDonnell spent time at the Manhattan showroom of famed designer Oscar de la Renta, where she tried on a suede jacket that cost at least $10,000. Williams put the garment on his tab.
Williams also bought the first lady two pairs of designer shoes, a Louis Vuitton leather handbag and a designer dress, according to sources familiar with the ongoing investigations into her husband, Gov. Bob McDonnell.
The presents did not appear on the statements of economic interest the governor filed for that year — and they did not have to. Virginia’s disclosure laws do not require officeholders to report gifts given to family members or gifts given by friends.
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But the revelation of big spending on the first lady casts a harsher light on the relationship between the governor and Williams — whose troubled Henrico County-based dietary supplement maker and former tobacco company has lost money for 10 years, is in litigation with the state over a $700,000 tax assessment, and is the subject of a federal securities investigation.
Williams’ attorney, Jerry W. Kilgore, did not offer a response to disclosure of the shopping spree.
McDonnell spokesman Tucker Martin also did not comment on the New York shopping trip, which sources said took place in coordination with an official visit by the governor to the New York area sometime between mid-April and the first week of May 2011.
McDonnell is under state and federal investigations over the gifts he has received during his time in office, whether he properly reported them, and whether he used the resources of the office or his influence to benefit those who were generous to him and his family.
Sources said the investigations could extend beyond the relationship with Williams and his company to include gifts that others provided to the first family, ranging from jewelry to furniture.
An indication of the breadth of those inquiries came to light recently when Del. David Ramadan, R-Loudoun, acknowledged that investigators have subpoenaed him to testify before a federal grand jury.
Sources said investigators also have subpoenaed Charlottesville socialite Patricia Kluge to testify before the federal grand jury next month. Kluge, former owner of the Kluge winery, was appointed by McDonnell to serve on the advisory committee that oversees the Executive Mansion — the official residence of Virginia’s governor.
Kluge’s attorney, Edward B. MacMahon Jr., could not be reached Monday evening.
In a story Saturday, he told The Washington Post: “The government is apparently looking into lots of Mrs. McDonnell’s friends, but any insinuation that Kluge has any knowledge of anything illegal or improper done by either the governor or the first lady is entirely wrong.”
The governor has declined to explain whether he or his family received additional gifts from Williams or others that were not put on his statements of economic interest — yearly disclosures that must be filed with the Secretary of the Commonwealth’s Office.
But McDonnell has insisted that neither Williams and Star Scientific, nor any other donor or company, has improperly benefited or received special treatment during his term in office.
“I think it’s important that the people of Virginia know that nothing has been done with regard to my relationship with Mr. Williams or his company, Star Scientific, to give any kind of special benefits to him or his company — or frankly any other person or any other company during the time that I’ve been governor,” McDonnell said in late April on WTOP, a Washington radio station.
Among the items under investigation is a $15,000 check provided by Williams that was used to cover most of the catering cost for the June 2011 Executive Mansion wedding of the McDonnells’ daughter Cailin.
Despite signing the catering contract and making thousands in deposits, McDonnell did not disclose the check on his forms because he said it was a gift to his daughter.
Later that summer, the Executive Mansion played host to a rollout of Star Scientific’s anti-inflammatory supplement, Anatabloc, at a lunch organized by Maureen McDonnell and paid for by the governor’s political action committee.
The luncheon followed a trip Maureen McDonnell took to Florida with Williams right before the wedding, during which the first lady spoke about the supplement.
Later that fall, Maureen McDonnell was listed as a “featured speaker” in a posting about a Richmond launch for Anatabloc held at a Broad Street hotel. And travel records indicate she journeyed to Flint, Mich., later in the year at the same time Star Scientific had another Anatabloc rollout at a nearby country club.
The governor’s office has refused to answer repeated questions as to whether Williams or Star Scientific have compensated the first lady.
Holding the unpaid position of first lady has not kept Maureen McDonnell from bringing home a paycheck.
She was paid $36,000 last year to attend several meetings as a consultant to a charity run by the United Co., a Bristol-based coal business.
The governor listed his wife as a paid trustee of the Frances G. and James W. McGlothlin Foundation on his economic disclosure forms in 2011 and 2012.
But in an interview in The Washington Post, James McGlothlin said the foundation never named McDonnell to its board but asked her to become an adviser to the charity and the company.
By reporting that his wife was on the board, the governor did not have to indicate on the forms the amount of money she was paid.
Staff writer Olympia Meola contributed to this report.