McDonnell defense fund grows

With only one week before his criminal trial on federal corruption charges is set to begin, for­mer Governor Bob McDonnell’s friends, supporters and admirers have amassed a considerable legal defense war chest.

The Virginia Public Access Project, which is a non-partisan tracker of money in state politics, reports that the Restoration Fund has collected more than a quarter of a million dollars for the former governor’s defense expenses, 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, and State Senator Jeff McWaters of Virginia Beach, who gave $5,000.

McDonnell and his wife, Maureen were charged in January in a 14-count indictment alleging the two sold the influence 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 gave the first couple of Virginia money and gifts, including vacations, golf outings, clothing, a Rolex watch, and $15,000-worth of catering for their daughter’s wedding reception.

The Restoration fund, a non-profit political organization, was created to help the McDonnells pay their legal bills, which have been estimated to exceed $1 million.