Terry McAuliffe wants ban on gifts from lobbyists, companies doing business with Virginia

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Local,Virginia,Steve Contorno

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Terry McAuliffe vowed Thursday to not accept any gifts valued at more than $100 while governor and called on lawmakers to pass legislation that required all elected officials to do the same.

The move is a clear shot at McAuliffe's Republican opponent, Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, who received gifts from Star Scientific CEO Jonnie Williams while the company was suing the state. Until recently, Cuccinelli also owned stock in the Henrico-based supplement-maker.

Williams gave thousands of dollars in gifts to Gov. Bob McDonnell, too, and picked up the catering bill for the wedding of McDonnell's daughter. The Republican leader did not disclose the latter on the annual statements of economic interest filed by his office, citing an exemption for gifts to family.

Both Cuccinelli and McDonnell have said the General Assembly should tighten gift laws and explore getting rid of the loophole that allows family members to receive gifts without having to report them. But McAuliffe is looking to one-up them.

Under the legislation proposed by McAuliffe, elected officials would also be barred from accepting gifts from lobbyists and companies doing business with the state.

"Virginia taxpayers deserve to know that their elected officials are representing the commonwealth first," McAuliffe said. "I'm committed to enacting these common-sense rules via executive order when I am elected and working with the General Assembly to make them permanent and cover members of the legislature."

McAuliffe's maneuver comes days after the Democrat fell well short of matching Cuccinelli's decision to unveil eight years of full tax returns. On Tuesday, McAuliffe sent reporters three years of federal income tax summaries, a total of six pages that provided few details.

"Ken Cuccinelli has already stated he supports stricter gift laws to ensure transparency within our government. In fact, in the near future, he will be providing details concerning his approach," said Cuccinelli spokeswoman Anna Nix. "Terry McAuliffe's repackaged policy proposals will not convince anyone familiar with his history as a political dealmaker that he has any credibility on issues related to good government. If McAuliffe wants to demonstrate any level of seriousness concerning transparency, he will immediately make available copies of his tax returns and answer questions about his secretive business dealings starting with GreenTech [Automotive]."

scontorno@washingtonexaminer.com

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