|71st Governor of Virginia|
January 16, 2010 – January 11, 2014
|Preceded by||Tim Kaine|
|Succeeded by||Terry McAuliffe|
|45th Attorney General of Virginia|
January 14, 2006 – February 20, 2009
|Preceded by||Judith Jagdmann|
|Succeeded by||Bill Mims|
|Member of the Virginia House of Delegates
from the 84th district
January 3, 1992 – January 14, 2006
|Preceded by||Glenn McClanan|
|Succeeded by||Sal Iaquinto|
|Born||Robert Francis McDonnell
June 15, 1954
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, U.S.
|Alma mater||University of Notre Dame
|Service/branch||United States Army|
|Years of service||Active: 1976–1981
Robert Francis "Bob" McDonnell (born June 15, 1954) is a Republican politician. He was the 71st Governor of Virginia. McDonnell served on the executive committee of the Republican Governors Association. McDonnell was a lieutenant colonel in the United States Army. He served in the Virginia House of Delegates from 1992 to 2006, and was Attorney General of Virginia from 2006 to 2009.
McDonnell was elected Governor of Virginia on the back of the campaign slogan, "Bob's for Jobs", defeating Democratic state Senator Creigh Deeds by a 17-point margin in a 2009 general election marked by the late-2000s recession. McDonnell succeeded Democrat Tim Kaine. Due to Virginia law, he was not allowed to run for reelection as the state does not allow any sitting governor to serve more than one term at a time.
Since taking office, McDonnell had pushed for privatization and promoted offshore drilling for Virginia. He moved to extend a contract to outsource the state's computer operations and has sought to fund transportation improvements from non-traditional revenues sources including the proposal to auction-off Virginia Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control liquor stores. The state's unemployment rate declined from 7.4% in January 2010, when McDonnell took office, to 5.2% in December 2013, similar to the decline in percentage terms in the national unemployment rate from 9.8% to 6.7% during the same period.
McDonnell's governorship ended with a 55% to 32% approval to disapproval rating among registered voters. On January 21, 2014, McDonnell and his wife, Maureen, were indicted on federal corruption charges.
- 1 Early life, education, and family
- 2 Political career
- 3 2009 campaign for governor
- 4 Governor of Virginia
- 5 Controversies
- 6 Electoral history
- 7 References
- 8 Further reading
- 9 External links
Early life, education, and family
McDonnell was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the son of Emma B. Meta (née Meiller; 1928-1994) and Lt. Col. John Francis McDonnell USAF Ret. (1916-2010). His father was of Irish descent, and his maternal grandparents were Germans from Alsace-Lorraine. His family moved to Fairfax County, Virginia, in 1955 when he was a year old. He spent four years of his early childhood in Germany when his father, a United States Air Force officer, was sent out on assignment. After returning to Virginia, the McDonnells permanently established residence in Fairfax County. McDonnell's mother worked at Mount Vernon. McDonnell graduated from Bishop Ireton High School in Alexandria, Virginia, in 1972.
McDonnell attended the University of Notre Dame in Notre Dame, Indiana, on an ROTC scholarship, graduating with a B.B.A. in management in 1976. Immediately following graduation, he served as a medical supply officer in the United States Army for four years. His military posts were medical clinics in Germany from 1976 to 1979, and in Newport News, Virginia, from 1979 to 1981. In addition, he took night classes and received an M.B.A. from Boston University in 1980. After leaving active duty in 1981, McDonnell worked for the American Hospital Supply Corporation, primarily in the custom products regional division.
His career path shifted from business to law and public policy when he selected a joint degree program at Christian Broadcasting Network University now known as Regent University. He obtained an M.A./J.D. there in 1989. During his studies, McDonnell interned under Congressman Jerry Lewis (R-California).
McDonnell is married to Maureen Patricia McDonnell (née Gardner), with whom he has five children. The oldest, Jeanine, served as a U.S. Army Signal Corps officer in Iraq. Their younger daughter, Cailin, coordinated youth outreach for the Republican Party of Virginia's election efforts in 2009. McDonnell has twin sons, both of whom are athletes in the class of 2014 at the University of Virginia.
House of Delegates (1992–2006)
McDonnell first ran and was elected to the Virginia House of Delegates in 1991, defeating Democratic incumbent Glenn McClanan 53%-47%. He won re-election in 1993 against Thomas Carnes 64%-36%, and was unopposed in 1995, 1997, 1999, 2001, and 2003, serving seven terms. He represented the 84th district in Virginia Beach. Under the 1998–2001 power-sharing arrangement between House Republicans and Democrats, he was Co-Chair of the Committee on the Chesapeake and its Tributaries in 2000–2001. He became Chair of the Courts of Justice Committee in 2003. He also served on the Rules Committee 2000–2005, and was Assistant Majority Leader. While serving in state office, McDonnell continued to serve in the Army Reserve as a JAG officer until retiring as a lieutenant colonel in 1997. In 1994 McDonnell supported and was a major co-sponsor of George Allen's initiative to abolish parole for those convicted of a felony.
Attorney General (2006-2009)
In 2005, McDonnell ran for Attorney General. He campaigned on issues including protecting children from sexual predators, drug enforcement, identity theft, gang violence, and terrorism. The first result showed him with a victory of 323 votes, out of over 1.9 million votes cast, over his opponent, Democratic state Senator Creigh Deeds. Deeds filed for a recount, which began on December 20, 2005. A court decision limited the recount to just recompiling vote totals instead of examining individual optically scanned ballots. After preliminary figures revealed 37 more votes for McDonnell and that Deeds could not make up the difference, he conceded the next day, giving McDonnell a 323 vote margin of victory. McDonnell outspent Deeds in the general election by nearly $1 million. He was inaugurated on January 14, 2006, in Williamsburg along with Democratic Governor Tim Kaine and Republican Lieutenant Governor Bill Bolling.
In 2007, McDonnell "played a key role in early negotiations" on the transportation package that was the key issue of contention in the General Assembly. However, subsequently the package was declared unconstitutional based on a challenge filed by a Republican state senator.
Prior to a performance of the Sex Workers' Art Show at the College of William and Mary in 2008, McDonnell forbade the sale of the group's books on school grounds. McDonnell took the side of defecting Northern Virginia Episcopalians in a property lawsuit over the right of the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia to retain church property.
2009 campaign for governor
McDonnell announced his candidacy for the 2009 Virginia Gubernatorial election at American Legion's Boy's State of Virginia 2007, making him the seventh consecutive elected Attorney General to run. The statewide candidates, including McDonnell as Governor, were selected at a Republican State convention rather than a primary. Fewer than two weeks later, State Senator R. Creigh Deeds won his party’s nomination in a primary, setting up a "rematch" from the state attorney general's race four years earlier.
In early June, Creigh Deeds possessed a slight edge with a 47%-41% advantage in the early polls. As the campaign continued to progress, the polls shifted toward McDonnell's favor, with several giving him a commanding lead. When the Washington Post released McDonnell's thesis from Regent University, McDonnell's lead dwindled to only two percentage points per Rasmussen polling. As the election proceeded, McDonnell's campaign regained steam. McDonnell defeated opponent Creigh Deeds in the general election by a vote of 59%-41%, receiving the highest percentage of the vote for any candidate for governor since 1961. At the same time, the other two statewide offices on the ballot were also won by Republicans.
In a political and economic climate marked by the late-2000s recession, McDonnell promised that his priority as Governor would be employment for Virginians, with such campaign slogans as, "Bob's for Jobs". He supported right-to-work laws, low operating cost of government and a simplified tax code. Having lived in various parts of the state, his road-side billboard varied with geographic location, describing him as "Tidewater's Own", "Northern Virginia's Own" and "Fairfax's Own".
The McDonnell campaign strategy cast itself as focusing on economic issues, transportation, and public safety. Bob McDonnell's proposals included new job initiatives, boosting Virginia’s tourism, hospitality, and film industries, making Wallops Island the top commercial spaceport in America, and expanding growth in rural Virginia. McDonnell proposed measures that would move $480 million per year from school administration and put it directly into the classroom; establish more specialised high schools to support high-demand industries; increase online learning through virtual schools; and support educational mentoring programs. McDonnell has frequently expressed his support for President Barack Obama’s ideas on increasing parental choice through charter schools.
Identifying as pro-life, McDonnell campaigned as an opponent of elective abortion. He has not favored standard exceptions on abortion in cases of rape and incest. As a state legislator, he was the lead sponsor for legislation that would have banned partial birth abortions, as well as legislation requiring parental consent before a minor has an abortion and informed consent for women seeking an abortion. He opposed state and federal government funding for elective abortions.
McDonnell advocated making Virginia the energy capital of the East Coast. He supported drilling for oil off of the coast of Virginia while simultaneously developing new technologies for wind, solar, biomass, and other renewable energy resources. He intends to expand investments in renewable energy sources and incentivize green job creation.
According to Mayors Against Illegal Guns, McDonnell sent personal letters to the governors of the remaining 49 states urging them to follow his state in closing loopholes that allows mentally unstable people to purchase guns. Since the Virginia Tech shooting five years prior, Virginia has made this issue a top priority. McDonnell writes in his letter; "I believe that we can all work together to help prevent these acts from occurring again anywhere in our Nation. I write to ask for your support in providing critical information to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System".
McDonnell opposes legalizing marijuana. He signed a bill which criminalized the use of synthetic cannabis. It was approved unanimously on both the house and the senate by both political parties.
McDonnell's campaign also turned to transportation, a major issue in heavily congested areas of Virginia, advocating issuing $3 billion in transportation bonds that had been approved by the Virginia General Assembly in 2007 but not funded with a revenue source, modernizing the Virginia Department of Transportation, and encouraging public-private partnerships to improve infrastructure. He has supported widening I-66 inside the Beltway, improving I-95, and finishing the Metrorail to Dulles Airport project.
During McDonnell's campaign, he criticized then-Governor Tim Kaine for not disclosing his full schedule and for making out-of-state political appearances as Chair of the Democratic National Committee. McDonnell stated, "The citizens must be certain that the governor is attending to the duties for which he was elected. The governor is Virginia's chief executive and represents the commonwealth at all times." In March 2010, McDonnell received similar criticism for disclosing very few meetings or political appearances on his publicly released schedule.
McDonnell's 1989 thesis for Regent University was a 93-page document titled The Republican Party's Vision for the Family: The Compelling Issue of The Decade. The document explored the rise in the numbers of divorces and illegitimate births, and examined public policies that may have contributed to that increase and proposed solutions. The document gained attention in the campaign because it outlined a 15-point conservative agenda, including 10 points McDonnell pursued during his years in the General Assembly, according to press analysis.
This agenda includes opposition to abortion, support for school vouchers and covenant marriage, and tax policies that favor heterosexual families. In his thesis, McDonnell wrote "government policy should favor married couples over 'cohabitators, homosexuals or fornicators.'" McDonnell "described working women and feminists as 'detrimental' to the family."
McDonnell "criticized a landmark 1965 Supreme Court decision" which legalized the use of contraceptives, writing that "man's basic nature is inclined towards evil, and when the exercise of liberty takes the shape of pornography, drug abuse, or homosexuality, the government must restrain, punish, and deter." McDonnell responded to the article, stating "Virginians will judge me on my 18-year record as a legislator and attorney general and the specific plans I have laid out for our future -- not on a decades-old academic paper I wrote as a student during the Reagan era and haven't thought about in years."
The Washington Post reported that McDonnell maintained: "Like everybody, my views on many issues have changed as I have gotten older." McDonnell says his evolved position on family policy is best represented by his 1995 welfare reform legislation where he "worked to include child day care in the bill so women would have greater freedom to work".
Campaign organization and financial support
McDonnell's campaign headquarters was located in Richmond. His campaign finance report for September 15, 2009 indicates that he had nearly 1,500 more new donors than the Deeds campaign had total donors, a total of 6,239 donors, 4,946 of them new. During the campaign, McDonnell's largest individual donor was former coal magnate Richard Baxter Gilliam, who was also McDonnell's fifth largest overall donor after the United States Chamber of Commerce. McDonnell received over $1.5 million from the energy and natural resources sector, including $622,198 from coal mining interests.
The McDonnell For Governor campaign printed a variety of bumper stickers appealing to many interest groups, including "Women for McDonnell", "Sportsmen for McDonnell", and "Independents for McDonnell". Some appealed to the diverse minority groups throughout the Commonwealth. Some featured the mascots of select public universities such as the University of Virginia, Virginia Tech, James Madison University, Virginia Military Institute, and Old Dominion University. "Irish for McDonnell" stickers were printed for the select Virginia residents who attended the University of Notre Dame as well. His road-side billboard varied with geographic location, describing him as "Tidewater's Own", "Northern Virginia's Own" and "Fairfax's Own." It is suspected that McDonnell has failed to comply with gift disclosure requirements over a $15,000 gift that a major campaign donor, Jonnie Williams Sr., made to cover the cost of catering for his daughter's wedding. McDonnell himself paid $8,000 towards the catering and a $3,500 refund for overpayment was returned to McDonnell, rather than to his daughter, potentially giving McDonnell a financial stake in the donor's gift. Virginia requires public disclosure of all gifts to public officials over $50.
McDonnell was endorsed by Sheila Johnson, co-founder of Black Entertainment Television and owner of the Washington Mystics; Virginia AgPAC: the Political Action Committee of the Virginia Farm Bureau, representing over 147,000 members; the Virginia Association of Realtors, the largest trade association in Virginia with over 33,000 members; The Virginia Credit Union League, a trade association representing the Commonwealth’s 194 not-for-profit credit unions and the 3 million member-owners residing in Virginia; The Virginia Chapter of the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB), a group whose membership consists of over 6,000 small businesses across Virginia; and the National Rifle Association, which reversed its pro-Deeds 2005 endorsement for Attorney General.
Governor of Virginia
On January 16, 2010, McDonnell was inaugurated as the 71st governor of the Commonwealth of Virginia, succeeding Kaine as governor. This was the first inaugural ceremony to occur on the newly renovated steps of the Virginia State Capitol. In keeping with tradition, McDonnell signed executive orders after taking the oath. Instead of keeping with a 30-year practice by signing an executive order banning discrimination in state employment (which he later signed on February 5), McDonnell signed orders establishing a Commission on job creation and a Virginia Commission on Government Reform and Restructuring.
Two of McDonnell's appointments drew criticism. On May 7, 2010, McDonnell appointed Fred Malek to chair a 31-member advisory commission on reforming state government. On May 10, 2010, several Democratic members of the Legislature criticized the appointment due to Malek's controversial actions while personnel director in the Nixon administration and due to a 2007 SEC investigation settlement. On May 25, 2010, McDonnell was asked about the Malek appointment and stated that he was unaware of Malek's role in the Nixon administration, a remark which State Senator A. Donald McEachin (D-Richmond) told the Washington Post that McDonnell's claim was "absolutely stunning and, frankly, beyond belief." McDonnell also nominated Robert C. Sledd to Secretary of Commerce and Trade, but withdrew the nomination in the face of bipartisan opposition prompted by Sledd's refusal to give up paid outside corporate directorships.
On January 27, 2010, McDonnell delivered the Republican response to President Barack Obama's State of the Union Address. The response was delivered to GOP lawmakers and invited friends in the chamber of the Virginia House of Delegates. Critics have argued that the use of House chamber for McDonnell's speech did not comply with House Rule 82.
Since McDonnell's election as Governor in November 2009, he has shifted his fundraising activities to his "Opportunity Virginia PAC" which has raised $1,194,934 through June 2010. Many of these donations came from industries regulated by the state.
In April 2010, McDonnell renegotiated and extended a contract for outsourcing the state's computer operations to Northrop Grumman. At that time, McDonnell proposed legislation which was adopted to have the Virginia Information Technologies Agency report directly to the Governor instead of to an independent board. Subsequently, McDonnell was criticized when the Northrup computer systems experienced a week-long computer outage from August 25 through September 2, 2010. As a result, 45,000 people were unable to renew their drivers licenses. Computer systems for nearly a third of the state's agencies were affected. Over 4,000 people had to return to the Department of Motor Vehicles to get their photos retaken after an August 25 computer outage left their original photos unrecoverable. The system also experienced an unrelated outage on August 9. Subsequently, Northrop Grumman agreed to pay $250,000 to fund a state investigation of the computer outage.
The 2010 session of the General Assembly passed a bill exempting certain veterans' organizations from the registration and reporting requirements that apply to most charities which solicit donations in Virginia. The bill was introduced at the request of Bobby Thompson, director of the U.S. Navy Veterans Association (USNVA), who has made large contributions to certain Republican candidates. After the bill passed both the House and Senate, newspaper accounts of that charity's questionable practices caused a sponsor of the bill to request McDonnell to veto it, however the governor signed the bill into law notwithstanding those requests. As a result, the organization, which is under investigation in New Mexico (which barred the USNVA before the Virginia bill was signed), Florida and Missouri, as well as other non profit veterans' organizations, will not have to report to Virginia on how they spend the donations that they receive. However, McDonnell later donated to charity the $5,000 campaign contribution that he had received from Thompson. In August 2010, Ohio Attorney General Richard Cordray announced that a nation-wide arrest warrant had been issued for Bobby Thompson, who had stolen the identity and Social Security Number of a victim who was not connected to the USNVA. Corday stated, "We know he bilked Ohioans out of at least $1.9 million, and we estimate that nationally he collected at least $20 million."
In January 14, 2011, McDonnell issued a directive ordering the Department of Conservation and Recreation to cease enforcing regulations that prohibit carrying firearms in state parks. He also gave preliminary approval to amend the regulations to allow people to carry open or concealed firearms in state forests. The regulations were already amended in 2003 to allow concealed weapons on park property.
On April 2, 2010, at the request of the Sons of Confederate Veterans, McDonnell issued a proclamation designating April 2010 as "Confederate History Month" following similar designations by two of his Republican predecessors, George Allen and James S. Gilmore. However, the last two governors, who were Democrats, did not designate such a month. Unlike Gilmore's proclamation, which included anti-slavery language, McDonnell's initial proclamation left out any direct mention of slavery, drawing criticism from the Virginia Legislative Black Caucus and the NAACP. When initially asked why he had made the omission, McDonnell stated that "there were any number of aspects to that conflict between the states. Obviously, it involved slavery. It involved other issues. But I focused on the ones I thought were most significant for Virginia."
On April 7, 2010, McDonnell conceded that omitting slavery from his proclamation was "a major omission", apologized and amended the document. McDonnell had previously refused to rule out the possibility that he would run for Vice President in 2012; while news analysts Chris Cillizza, Mark Plotkin, and Teddy Davis have speculated that the mistake may have a significant adverse impact on McDonnell's chances for a future Vice Presidential nomination, a May 22 Time Magazine article described McDonnell as "a politician who inexplicably kneecapped himself is clawing his way back." On September 24, 2010, McDonnell addressed an academic conference on slavery and announced that he will declare April 2011 as "Civil War in Virginia" month rather than "Confederate History Month". He also called the April 2010 proclamation an "error of haste and not of heart."
In December 2009, Governor Tim Kaine had started a process which would extend Virginia employee health benefits to same-sex partners. At McDonnell's request, Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli issued a legal opinion that this change to the coverage of the state's health plan could not be made without explicit legislation authorizing it, thereby halting the administrative process to make the change. However, McDonnell did sign a law which would allow Virginia employers to offer private insurance coverage for employees' same-sex partners, after the bill passed with bipartisan support.
In a decision that drew controversy, McDonnell declined to commute the death sentence to life imprisonment in the case of Teresa Lewis, who was executed on September 23, 2010. She was the first woman executed in Virginia since 1912. Calls had been made for leniency, citing her below average mental capacity.
In 2012, national attention was focused on a bill before the Virginia state legislature, controlled by Republicans, to require a trans-vaginal ultrasound for any woman contemplating an abortion in Virginia. McDonnell initially supported the bill, but backed off after public protests. He persuaded the legislators to pass instead a slightly watered-down version of the bill requiring less invasive abdominal ultrasound before an abortion and exempting women who were pregnant as a result of rape or incest, provided they reported it to the police. The redrafted bill was opposed by pro-choice groups and a minority in the legislature, but McDonnell signed it into law on March 7, 2012. McDonnell was called "Governor Vagina", "Governor Ultrasound", and other similar monikers by legislators opposing the controversial bill.
Voting rights restoration for felons
In April 2010, McDonnell drew criticism from black leaders and civil rights groups when a draft policy proposal was mistakenly sent to 200 felons, informing them of his decision to require a written essay from each applicant seeking to have voting and other civil rights restored. Previously, applicants were required to fill out a one page application. Only Virginia and Kentucky require the Governor to act on individual requests for restoring voting rights.
On May 21, McDonnell announced new policy on the issue of restoration of rights, imposing a 60-day deadline for his administration to act on an application once all of the required documentation is received from the applicant and the courts; reducing to two years from three years the time nonviolent felons must wait to apply for restoration of rights, and cutting to one year from two years the waiting period for reapplication if a request is denied. Of the new policy, Democratic Delegate David Englin commented, "By establishing a timely and more clearly defined process for non-violent ex-offenders seeking to have their rights restored, the Governor’s new policy has the potential make an important step in the right direction." By the end of his term on January 11, 2014 McDonnell restored the rights of 8,013 ex-felons; more than any Governor in Virginia history.
On April 30, 2010, McDonnell authorized issuing $493 million in transportation bonds in May 2010 and an additional $1.493 billion over the five years to finance previously approved transportation projects. The bonds were a part of a transportation package enacted three years ago, but the bonds were not issued while Republican State Delegate Robert Marshall filed a lawsuit challenging the Constitutionality of that package and while certain transportation notes issued during the Gilmore Administration had not been paid off. Critics note that Virginia lacks a revenue source to amortize these new bonds. On December 9, 2010, McDonnell announced a revised transportation funding plan which includes both $1.8 billion in bonds that had been approved in 2007, as well as an additional $1.1 billion in bonds which McDonnell proposes to pay back from future federal transportation funds. He also proposed to spend $150 million of the 2009-2010 budget surplus and $250 million in reserves protect against gasoline tax revenue shortfalls. On January 9, 2011, McDonnell proposed funding projects to address traffic congestion in Northern Virginia and Hampton roads by diverting 0.25% of the sales tax collected in those areas from the General Fund into the transportation fund. Legislation is required to implement McDonnell's proposal, and Democrats responded that the revenues were needed in the General Fund for schools and public safety and that the projected revenues were insufficient to make a difference on highway needs.
On May 10, 2010, McDonnell filed an application with the Federal Highway Administration (FHA) seeking permission to collect tolls on Interstate 95 near the North Carolina border. The highway had been constructed with taxpayer funds, 90% from the federal government and 10% from Virginia gasoline taxes. However, Virginia claims that they do not have sufficient revenues to maintain I-95 at a safe level and proposes a toll booth to raise a projected $30 to $60 million annually. McDonnell is asking FHA to authorize the toll under its "Interstate System Reconstruction and Rehabilitation Pilot Program."
In 2008, the Federal government and the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) reached an agreement for federal funding of $1.5 billion in capital improvements contingent on Virginia, Maryland and the District of Columbia pledging to develop dedicated funding for the Metro system. WMATA was created by an interstate compact (a kind of agreement between states similar to a treaty or contract which must be approved by the U.S. Congress) founded in 1967 with a board of directors whose members are appointed by each local jurisdiction in its service area, including four from Virginia appointed by the Northern Virginia Transportation Commission (NVTC). In June 2010, McDonnell threatened to withhold Virginia's WMATA funding unless the composition of WMATA's board was modified to allow Virginia's Governor to appoint two of the seats. Currently, the interstate compact establishing WMATA specifies that its Virginia members are selected by the NVTC. In turn, Virginia law specifies that local jurisdictions appoint that Commission's members. Rather than proposing to amend either law, McDonnell merely threatened to withhold Virginia's "dedicated" matching funds if the NVTC did not appoint two people that he selected instead of appointing representatives from local jurisdictions. On June 17, 2010, Federal Transit Administrator Peter Rogoff required a formal commitment from Virginia to match its share of the federal funds if the federal funding is to continue. On June 24, 2010, McDonnell withdrew his request to appoint two members of the Metro Board as a precondition for making the scheduled "dedicated" payment under the 2008 agreement. On July 1, 2010, the WMATA Board of Directors approved an agreement with Virginia to provide matching funds without regard to McDonnell's request for Board seats. Based on this agreement, the federal funds were reconfirmed, and WMATA signed a $886 million contract for 428 new metrorail cars.
In April 2010, McDonnell signed a bill seeking to nullify the insurance purchase requirement in the then proposed federal health care legislation. On March 10, 2010, before Congress finished its final consideration of the package, a bipartisan Virginia Healthcare Freedom Act passed the General Assembly by an 80-17 majority, which McDonnell signed on March 24, 2010. McDonnell supports Virginia's legal challenge to the Constitutionality of the final Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. Although abortion funding was not debated during the regular session of the General Assembly, McDonnell raised the issue through the use of his amendatory veto power. During the April 21, 2010 veto session, the Virginia legislature passed restrictions on state public funding for elective abortion except in the instances of rape, incest, life of the mother, or life-threatening fetal anomaly.
In April 2012 McDonnell vetoed HB 399, which sought to improve neonatal care by fast-tracking implementation of newborn screening for life-threatening congenital heart malformations.
In Virginia, public schools are funded from both local real estate taxes as well as state general funds under a formula that attempts to assure minimum state-wide standards called "The Standards of Quality." Virginia also earmarks revenues from its state lottery for education. Outgoing Governor Tim Kaine proposed $11.4 billion for K-12 education in the 2010-2012 budget. On February 17, 2010, McDonnell proposed $268.8 million in additional cuts. McDonnell's cuts included 1) changing the formula for measuring the ability of localities to pay for education, 2) reducing funding for technology expenditures, and 3) reducing funding under the Standards of Quality.
Because K-12 education comprises 37% of the general fund budget, critics note that McDonnell's proposal to fund transportation bonds from the general fund would result in further education cuts in future years. McDonnell disagrees, saying he’ll lean heavily on growth in revenues rather than pulling from existing money.
Although McDonnell supported the Race to the Top federal education funding program during McDonnell's campaign for governor, on May 26, 2010, McDonnell withdrew Virginia from the second round of "Race to the Top". Virginia had finished 31st out of 41 states in the first round; McDonnell decided that Virginia should not file its application for the second round because he erroneously believed the competition required the use of multi-state education performance standards instead of Virginia's current standards. However, the use of common performance standards were not required and counted for 40 points out of a possible 500 total points in evaluating state proposals. McDonnell later stated on MSNBC that the Race to the Top rules precluded participating states from adopting more rigorous standards in addition to whatever multi-state standards they join. However, the "Race to the Top" regulations award the points even if states adopt standards more rigorous than the optional, common standards.
Previously, the General Assembly passed a bill in 2006 that would allow offshore exploratory gas drilling outside a 50-mile limit. On March 11, 2010, McDonnell signed into law bipartisan offshore drilling legislation that would allow the drilling for oil and gas in federal waters 50 miles or more off the Virginia coast if also permitted by the Federal government. (see Offshore drilling on the US Atlantic coast). The plan has been criticized by some environmentalists and Democrats who argue that tourism and wildlife would be threatened and that oil drilling would not make a difference in achieving long-term energy independence. Congressman Moran, among others, argued further that most of the proposed drilling area was located in an area reserved for naval operations.
McDonnell advocated drilling off the Virginia coast of the Atlantic Ocean as a possible revenue source for the state. However, under current law, Virginia will not receive any revenues from drilling in federal waters, which includes all drilling sites more than 3 miles off the coast. On May 6, 2010, the Department of Interior suspended the proposed auction of offshore Virginia leasing rights. Congressman James P. Moran (D-Va), chair of the House Appropriations Subcommittee with jurisdiction over the Interior Department, issued a statement commending the decision. On May 18, Moran forwarded to McDonnell a Department of Defense report finding that the proposed lease site would interfere with naval operations. On May 25, McDonnell reaffirmed his interest in having oil drilling off the Virginia coast notwithstanding the BP oil spill and the inability of Virginia to get any of the royalty income from such drilling under current law. On May 27, President Obama announced that the offshore Virginia lease sale was cancelled. Subsequently, McDonnell has proposed continuing a federal environmental study of drilling off the Virginia coast or drilling for just gas and not oil. However, a consulting firm has said that liquids are almost always produced with gas offshore and so the proposed idea may not be possible.
On December 18, 2009, outgoing Governor Tim Kaine proposed $76.8 billion of expenditures for adoption by the incoming state legislature. Kaine's budget proposed to rationalize state revenues by increasing the income tax while lowering property taxes and other fees. As incoming Governor, McDonnell refused to publicly recommend any modifications to Kaine's budget and instead worked with the House of Delegates to bring Kaine's plan up for a quick vote and defeat. Privately, McDonnell advocated cutting $300 million from health programs, $730 million from K-12 education, changing the state retirement system, and requiring 10 days of furloughs for state employees, to offset budgetary shortfalls for 2010-2012. On February 17, 2010, after political pressure, the Governor publicly released his proposed cuts. The Senate adopted a budget which restored a number of cuts to education, health and human services, and a House-Senate conference managed to work out a compromise on March 14 containing about $250 million in cuts before the expiration of the legislative session. However, a number of interest groups lobbied the Governor to use his amendatory veto power to alter the adopted budget.
On April 14, 2010, McDonnell proposed 96 budget amendments to the two-year 2010-2012 budget resulting in $42.1 million in spending increases and $51 million in additional budget cuts, tax increases, and court fees for criminals. He proposed to increase spending by $15 million to give incentives for SRI International and Bank of America to keep offices in Virginia. To boost revenue, McDonnell proposed raising $7.2 million by increasing the fines on motorists who exceed the speed limit. He proposes to cut an additional $9.9 million from state funded programs for at-risk and troubled children and proposed cutting $600,000 from state grants to public radio and television stations. McDonnell also issued amendatory vetoes on non-budget legislation. For example, although Virginia has provided free electronic filing of tax returns for years, his veto would outsource electronic filing to firms that would charge a fee for that service. McDonnell also amended a bill that would authorize Planned Parenthood car license plates to prohibit Planned Parenthood from spending the funds raised from those "affinity" license plates on abortions. The Legislature met to vote on the Governor's amendments on April 21. A bipartisan majority accepted some of McDonnell's proposed cuts while rejecting others including those to public broadcasting, the funding for at-risk and troubled children and the shifting of Virginia Medicaid mental health program to a managed-care plan.
Results from 2010 Fiscal Year
The first budget enacted under the McDonnell administration took effect on July 1, 2010. Two of McDonnell's legislative initiatives did increase the surplus for the 2009-2010 fiscal year. First, the budget bill accelerated the payment of state sales taxes resulting in a one-time shift of revenues that would otherwise have been collected in July 2010 into the old fiscal year. Second, the budget bill deferred a $620 million payment to the Virginia Retirement System to future years. The end of year surplus will trigger the payment of a 3% bonus to state employees in December 2010. Members of both parties McDonnell to use the surplus to reverse the Virginia Retirement System deferral.
In August 2010, McDonnell embarked on a promotional tour advocating legislation to sell Virginia's liquor stores to private owners. McDonnell held eight town hall meetings around the state to discuss the plan. McDonnell argued that retail alcohol sales is not an appropriate state activity and proposes that any sales proceeds could be used to finance transportation needs. Opponents noted that the liquor stores generate $248 million per year for Virginia's general fund.
On September 8, 2010, McDonnell presented his plan for auctioning liquor licenses to his government reform commission. Under the plan, the number of stores selling liquor would triple to 1,000, with the licenses to operate these new stores being auctioned. According to the Richmond Times-Dispatch, "Of the 1,000 licenses, 600 would be available to big retailers, whose lawyers and lobbyists helped craft the governor's proposal. An additional 150 licenses would be reserved for package stories, with 250 for small retailers, such as convenience-store operators." McDonnell estimates that winning bidders would pay $265 million for the licenses, and that the state could receive $33 million from selling existing state-owned liquor store properties. In addition $160 million would be collected in wholesale license fees. To make up from the annual loss of general fund revenues from the current state-owned stores, McDonnell proposes a $17.50 per gallon excise tax (which is above the national average and above that charged in neighboring states). He would also charge an annual fee of $500 to $2,000 to each store license holder, and would impose a new 1% gross receipts tax on wholesalers of liquor. Restaurants and bars that chose to purchase alcohol from wholesalers instead of retail outlets would pay a 2.5% tax. Just before the presentation, McDonnell dropped his proposed 1.5% fee on all restaurants and retail establishments that was in earlier drafts of his plan. McDonnell proposed to call a special session of the Virginia legislature in November 2010 to consider the proposal.
The plan drew immediate opposition from conservative lawmakers as a "tax increase". It was also opposed by the Virginia Retail Federation, the Virginia Beer Wholesalers Association, and the Virginia Wine Wholesalers Association. The Baptist General Association of Virginia and the Virginia Interfaith Center for Public Policy oppose the plan out of concerns that it will increase alcohol consumption. The plan is endorsed by the Fraternal Order of Police, the Virginia Transportation Construction Industry, and the Virginia Retail Merchants Association and the Fairfax County Chamber of Commerce.
On the eve of McDonnell taking the plan to the restructuring commission for their endorsement, the Washington Post reported that he modified the plan by dropping the restaurant tax and certain other proposed fees. McDonnell is proposing to set aside over 100 licenses for companies that employ less than 50 people in order to help small, family owned stores. He also wants to give small businesses several years to pay off their auction bids. The Post suggests that "he might call off plans for a November special session" of the General Assembly. On October 4, the Malek commission voted 22 to 3 to endorse McDonnell's modified plan. The Commission proposed a number of cost savings in government operations which would offset the projected $47 million annual revenue loss from selling the ABC liquor stores.
In October 2010, McDonnell's modified plan drew criticism from Republican members of the House of Delegates, including Del. Thomas D. Gear who chairs the House subcommittee that will consider the proposal and Del. Timothy D. Hugo, chair of the House Republican caucus. Concerns heightened when Phil Cox, who heads McDonnell's political action committee, threatened to withhold campaign funds from Republican delegates who fail to support the modified plan. According to the Washington Post, "Delegates have privately complained that the plan was developed with too little input from legislators and too much from lobbyists for retail and alcohol interests." On October 22, 2010, McDonnell decided not call a special session, but to instead appoint a "working group" to further refine the plan so that implementing legislation could be on the first day of the 2011 legislative session. McDonnell's working group of Republican legislators, wholesalers, distillers, and retailers seek to develop a compromise that could win adoption by the legislature.
On November 23, 2010, the Joint Legislative Audit and Review Committee released a report which found that the McDonnell proposal had overstated the expected proceeds of liquor store sales and licenses. In response, McDonnell's spokesman said that he is committed to privatization and is considering alternative plans. McDonnell has hired a consultant to formulate a new privatization plan at a cost of $75,000 prior to the new legislative session in January 2011. The Auditors found that McDonnell's proposal would rise the retail price of distilled spirits 11 to 26 percent, which in turn would lead to a drop in liquor sales that could result in a loss of as much as $15.4 million in sales tax revenues.
In what the Washington Post described as "the biggest legislative defeat of his tenure," both houses of the Virginia General Assembly refused to hold hearings on McDonell's plan during the 2011 legislative session. Both the Republican-controlled House and the Democratic-controlled Senate killed the bill implementing McDonnell's proposal without a vote. McDonnell's director of policy, Eric Finkbeiner told the Post, "Whether we do it this year, next year or the year after, it's going to get done in this administration."
McDonnell amended the budget to increase the incentives that a governor can provide employers to relocate to Virginia or to remain in Virginia. He campaigned to have Northrop Grumman relocate its 300-job headquarters to Virginia, but stated that the renewal of Virginia's computer outsourcing contract was not linked to the relocation decision. When Defense Secretary Robert Gates announced the closing of the 6,000-job Joint Military Command in August, 2010, McDonnell sought private meetings to seek to preserve the jobs. However, McDonnell was disappointed that Secretary Gates would not meet with him to discuss the issue. McDonnell was later included in a meeting between Gates and Virginia's congressional delegation on November 23, 2010.
McDonnell has played a significant role in the reapportionment conducted in response to the 2010 census. McDonnell appointed his own bipartisan advisory commission on redistricting. In a special session of the General Assembly, the redistricting of both the House of Delegates and the State Senate were passed in single bill that was approved by the House with an 86 to 8 vote and the Senate with a 22 to 18 vote. The bill was developed without regard to the advisory commission's recommendations. On April 15, 2011, McDonnell vetoed the reapportionment bill on the grounds that "the Senate plan is the kind of political gerrymandering that Virginians have ask that we leave in the past." Although McDonnell had the power to amend the bill with his veto, he simply sent it back for the General Assembly to either over-ride the veto or adopt a different bill. Because the Democrats lack the 2/3 majority necessary to over-ride the veto, the State Senate must adopt a new plan. At first, Senate Majority Leader Richard L. Saslaw promised to merely readopt the vetoed redistricting map, but has now begun negotiations with the Governor's office regarding a new plan. Republican members of the House and Senate have criticized the Governor for overturning the timetable for approval of new districts prior to the 2011 elections. After lengthy negotiations, on April 28, both houses passed a revised set of district maps and Governor McDonnell announced that he would sign the revised bill.
In June 2013, McDonnell and his wife were the subject of a critical Washington Post article detailing their improper spending at the Executive Mansion, for items such as energy drinks, dog food, and a "detox cleanse". Following the report, a McDonnell spokesman explained that energy drinks were a standard part of their breakfast routine.
In July 2013, according to the Washington Post, McDonnell reimbursed the state about $2,400 for the food and other items that the governor's children, Sean, his twin brother Bobby, and their sister Rachel, had removed from the Executive Mansion to take to their college dorms.
Federal corruption charges
On January 21, 2014, McDonnell and his wife were indicted on federal corruption charges. The charges followed a months-long federal investigation into gifts McDonnell received from a political donor. They were charged with fourteen different counts, relating to their acceptance of more than $135,000 in gifts, loans, trips and other items from Jonnie Williams Sr., former CEO of Star Scientific. In 2013, McDonnell repaid more than $120,000 to Williams and apologized for bringing "embarrassment" to the state. McDonnell insisted he did not break the law and vowed to fight "these false allegations." He became the first Governor of Virginia to be indicted for actions committed during his tenure.
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|Virginia House of Delegates|
|Member of the Virginia House of Delegates
from the 84th district
|Attorney General of Virginia
|Party political offices|
|Republican nominee for Governor of Virginia
|Governor of Virginia