Virginia Taxpayers Stuck With $780,000 Legal Bill For Former Governor
Former Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell’s legal fees will be paid for by the state’s taxpayers.
There are very legitimate reasons why state officials, including very high ranking officials such as McDonnell, should receive state-funded legal counsel. Like all criminal defendants, McDonnell enjoys a presumption of innocence. Unlike other defendants, however, he was responsible for decisions as governor that impact each of Virginia’s more than 8 million residents, and his high position within government makes him a likely target for lawsuits (if not necessarily criminal probes) that could ultimately reveal no wrongdoing. A governor may be unable to focus adequately on their day job if they are consumed by fears that they will not be able to pay their legal bills. (It should be noted, however, that McDonnell also has outside counsel that he is paying for out of a legal defense fund.)
Normally, however, McDonnell would have received legal counsel from the Office of the Attorney General — an office that is staffed by salaried attorneys who charge the state far less for their services than the outside firms hired to handle the McDonnell matter. Former Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli (R-VA) recused his office from working on the McDonnell defense and related matters, however. Though Cuccinelli says that this decision arose due to concerns that he may need to prosecute state officials involved in the case against McDonnell, thus creating a conflict of interest, the fact that Cuccinelli also accepted gifts from the same CEO who allegedly gave generously to McDonnell is widely perceived to have played a role in this recusal as well.