— -- During the eight years in which Sen. Tim Kaine served as the lieutenant governor and governor of Virginia, he disclosed that he accepted more than $160,000 worth of gifts.
The gifts, which were legal and mostly travel to and from political events, could now come under a harsher spotlight now that Kaine is reportedly one of the top contenders to become Hillary Clinton’s running mate.
But a spokesman today defended the Democrat’s actions while he was in the Virginia statehouse in Richmond. “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,” the spokesman said in a statement.
The statement was in reaction to a story, posted by Politico, that summarized the disclosures Kaine made from 2001 to 2009. Other people, including the conservative NRO commentator Jim Geraghty in 2013, previously wrote about the same gifts.
Kaine’s gifts included over $2,000 from power and energy company Dominion, which services states including Virginia, for travel to and from meetings of the Southern Governors Association and the Democratic Governors Association in 2006 and 2007, respectively.
Dominion also flew him from Virginia to Indianapolis for the 2006 NCAA Final Four game after he reportedly missed his commercial flight there because he was attending the funeral of a former colleague.
He also disclosed the free use of a vacation home, owned by investor James B. Murray, on the tony West Indies island of Mustique in 2005, which Kaine’s staff determined would be valued at $18,000.
The Republican National Committee reacted to the vacation home in an email statement today, blasting a picture of Mustique to reporters, calling it “the exclusive getaway in the West Indies where Tim Kaine vacationed for free with his family at the home of a wealthy campaign donor whom Kaine reappointed to a state board soon after.”
Murray was originally appointed to the Virginia Commission on Higher Education in 2001, when Kaine’s predecessor and now fellow Sen. Mark Warner was governor.
The RNC added that Kaine, 58, was “exploiting Virginia’s lax ethics laws,” and sarcastically said, “He need not worry. As the front-runner to be Hillary Clinton’s running mate, Kaine would join a battle-tested political team that’s spent literally decades pushing back on stories of corruption, blurred ethical lines and accusations of pay to play.”
Kaine’s successor in the statehouse, Gov. Bob McDonnell, was convicted of 11 felony counts in 2014 for failing to disclose hundreds of thousands of dollars’ worth of gifts from a wealthy campaign donor. The conviction was unanimously vacated by the Supreme Court earlier this week.
Writing for the court, Chief Justice John Roberts called McDonnell’s actions “distasteful: it may be worse than that,” but that they did not fit the federal definition of corruption, in which someone in government performs an “official act” in exchange for gifts or services.