U.S. Sen. Tim Kaine has been widely reported as being atop the list of Hillary Clinton’s potential running mates, but he faces a swirl of negative stories in national media about gifts he took when he was governor and lieutenant governor.
The recent round of stories seem to originate with a piece by Politico on June 30, which notes that as a top Virginia official Kaine accepted $160,000 in vacations, travel and clothing, among other gifts.
None of the gifts is apparently illegal under the state’s permissive ethics laws and they seem to have been reported properly. Some of the gifts were reported locally for years.
The timing couldn’t be worse. Clinton is ramping up for the Democratic convention later this month in Philadelphia, Kaine’s name is coming up for vice president and earlier this week the U.S. Supreme Court vacated all 11 federal corruption convictions against Republican former Gov. Bob McDonnell.
McDonnell had accepted more than $175,000 in loans, cash, a Rolex watch, travel and other gifts from vitamin supplement maker Jonnie R. Williams Sr., who wanted McDonnell to connect him with state university researchers to study one of his products.
Contrasts between the two former governors are inevitable, given that Kaine is undergoing routine scrutiny in the chance that he might be in a position that could make him president. The Kaine gifts story is being reported by ABC, CBS and CNBC, among various other news outlets.
Kaine declined an interview with Style, but his office has issued the statement: “During his eight years as lieutenant governor and governor, Sen. Kaine went beyond the requirements of Virginia law, even publicly disclosing gifts of value beneath the reporting threshold. He’s confident that he met both the letter and the spirit of Virginia’s ethical standards.”
Among other gifts, Kaine reported a weeklong vacation in 2005 that he and his family took after he was elected governor. They visited the West Indies island of Mustique, staying in a house owned by Charlottesville investor James B. Murray Jr.
The vacation was valued at $18,000. Murray was once rector at the College of William & Mayor and has served on a state higher education council.
In 2003 and 2005, Kaine accepted $5,500 worth of clothes from Stuart C. Siegel, a clothier and Kaine supporter, according to Politico and Virginia Public Access Project reports.
Among other gifts were travel worth $2,000 from utility Dominion for trips to governors meetings and to an NCAA Final Four basketball game. Others who gave gifts were Teva Pharmaceuticals, BET co-founder Sheila C. Johnson and ADR software chief executive E. Scott Kasprowicz.
Some of these gifts already have been widely reported. Kaine’s West Indies island vacation has long been criticized in various election campaigns.