VIRGINIA BEACH--With one week to go until his criminal trial on federal corruption charges, former Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell's friends, supporters and admirers have amassed a considerable legal defense fund.
According to the Virginia Public Access Project, a non-partisan tracker of money in state politics, the Restoration Fund has collected more than a quarter of a million dollars, more than $93,000 of that coming in the second quarter of 2014.
Big name contributors include former Republican presidential candidate and Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, who gave $10,000; State Senator Jeff McWaters of Virginia Beach, who gave $5,000; and Teri Rigell, wife of Virginia Second District Representative Scott Rigell, who gave $5,000.
McDonnell and his wife, Maureen were charged in January in a 14-count indictment that alleges they lent the prestige of the governor's office to a Richmond area businessman and former chief executive officer of a dietary supplement company.
The Justice Department alleges the McDonnells arranged meetings for Star Scientific CEO Jonnie Williams with state health officials and promoted his company's products and, in exchange, Williams lavished the couple with money and gifts, including vacations, golf outings, clothing, a Rolex watch, and $15,000-worth of catering for their daughter's wedding reception.
McDonnell is believed to be the first current or former governor of Virginia be indicted on a federal criminal charge. The McDonnells have pleaded not guilty.
The trial, which has been projected to last six weeks, is scheduled to begin in U.S. District Court in Richmond on Monday, July 28th. Twelve of the charges are punishable by up to 20 years in prison, two by up to 30 years in prison. Possible fines range for $250,000 to $1 million.
The Restoration fund was created to help the McDonnells pay their legal bills, which have been estimated to exceed $1 million. The Restoration Fund is a non-profit corporation that operates as a political organization.