Who’s Cheating America? The Smoke-Filled Room

Cheaters – they’re everywhere! Politicians promise us up and down they’re going to put an end to cheating. Work Hard and Play By the Rules, Americans! Isn’t that the motto? Do that and you’ll be fine.

Except… when the politicians are themselves the cheaters. And the story of their cheating has a twist you could not make up. Ladies and Gentlemen, meet the McDonnells:

“I deeply regret accepting legal gifts and loans from Mr. Williams, all of which have been repaid with interest, and I have apologized for my poor judgment, for which I take full responsibility,” [former Virginia Governor Robert] McDonnell said in a statement in the Washington Post.

Wait, “legal gifts and loans”? What’s wrong with that?

“However, I repeat emphatically that I did nothing illegal for Mr. Williams in exchange for what I believed was his personal generosity and friendship. I never promised — and Mr. Williams and his company never received — any government benefit of any kind from me or my administration,” McDonnell said.

Personal generosity and friendship? Who was cheated here? Maybe this former governor was himself the cheatee! He supplied some friendship to his fellow man… a little warmth, a little bonhomie… and in return he gets hit with the wrong end of the scandal stick. What did he take in return?

According to the indictment, the McDonnells met Williams — identified in the document as JW — in 2009, when McDonnell allegedly began using Williams’ private jet during his gubernatorial campaign.

A private jet? Well, maybe he was just headed out to see constituents…

At the time, Robert owned a 50 percent stake in MoBo Real Estate Partners, owners of vacation rental homes in Virginia Beach, Va., which weren’t earning enough money to keep up with the mortgages, the indictment said.

Uh-oh. Sounds like someone had some incentive to cheat. But still! Traveling to visit constituents is justifiable!

After hearing about the McDonnells’ financial woes, Williams allegedly offered to buy Maureen an Oscar de la Renta dress for Robert’s inauguration, and gave the couple two loans — $50,000 to cover the Virginia Beach debts and another $15,000 for their daughter’s upcoming wedding, the indictment said.

Oh boy. A dress? A wedding? Personal loans? This is not sounding good.

Except… wait! This is all for family! That justifies it, right?

Virginia’s first couple and their family purportedly took vacations and luxury golf outings on Williams’ dime. … In 2012, Williams allegedly loaned the McDonnells another $50,000 to cover expenses at MoBo Properties, and in May that same year he loaned McDonnell another $20,000. Maureen also convinced Williams to purchase Robert a Rolex watch with the words ”71st Governor of Virginia” engraved on the back, which she gave him for Christmas in 2011, the indictment said.

Oh, geez. A watch? Luxury golf? Okay. But as far as quid pro quo goes, this isn’t the worst thing I’ve heard. No cash in the freezer. No strippers in Vegas. The quid isn’t so bad, really. Kind of cute. Almost harmless! Rolex makes nice watches! Golf is a healthy activity! Daughters have beautiful weddings?

What is the quo? [Grimaces and closes eyes.]

Former Virginia Governor Robert McDonnell and his wife, Maureen, were indicted Tuesday for illegally accepting more than $135,000 in donations, luxury gifts and vacation getaways in exchange for touting a donor’s tobacco-based health supplement.

A tobacco-based health supplement? What is this, The Onion?

At the same time, [Williams’s company] was allegedly seeking ways to legitimize two of its tobacco-based products — CigRx, a smoking cessation supplement, and Anatabloc, which claimed to reduce inflammation in the body.

Yes, that’s right. Health supplements. Made out of tobacco. Let’s get the research rolling on that! And then we’ll drink crude-oil milkshakes and wear workout gear made from bacon fat and smog.

The quid is run-of-the-mill. The quo gives the governor a spot in our Cheater Hall of Fame.

Previous in our Who’s Cheating America? series:

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