Special session on ethics reform unlikely in Virginia

WASHINGTON – The loans and gifts scandal that has engulfed Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell, and has had a significant impact on the race to replace him, continues to produce calls for a special session of the General Assembly to address financial disclosure and ethics reforms.

But a special session may not happen this year, according to Speaker of the House William Howell.

Howell says it would be better to tackle with any ethics reforms during the 2014 legislative session, which begins in January – after the election for Virginia governor is over.

Del. David Ramadan, R-Loudoun, is the latest to ask for the special session. He says ethics reforms are needed to restore trust.

McDonnell indicated earlier this month that his staff has been working on some suggestions, and two candidates for governor — Republican Ken Cuccinelli and Democrat Terry McAuliffe — say they support reforms. But neither has specified what those reforms would entail.

A good example of the scope of the issue came from Cuccinelli, who is the current attorney general.

Reporters asked him last week why he has not repaid gifts he received from businessman Jonnie Williams, the same businessman linked to the gift scandal involving McDonnell.

“I’ve returned what I can, which was nothing. The governor got cash, loans, clothes, watch. I just didn’t get anything like that. We used empty houses,” Cuccinelli said.

Cuccinelli has disclosed that he received a catered $1,500 turkey dinner and a Thanksgiving holiday at one of Williams’ vacation homes along with several trips on jet aircraft supplied by Williams totaling about $18,000.

Reporters asked him why he didn’t just write a check to pay Williams back.

“I might just do that, but that’s not something I could do from my family perspective,” he said.

Cuccinelli’s base salary as attorney general is $150,000.

Cuccinelli has also called for a special session of the General Assembly to deal with ethics reform.

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