June 24, 2013
It's unclear why federal and state authorities have issued a subpoena for a well-known Central Virginia winemaker to testify in an investigation into gifts to Gov. Bob McDonnell.
"It's one thing to be influenced, but it's another where people can actually accuse of being bribed or influenced," said Geoffrey Skelley, an analyst at the University of Virginia's Center for Politics.
Gifts to McDonnell and his family are the focus of the investigation. Authorities want to know how much he's benefited from the political gifts personally and what donors may have gotten in return.
"It amounts to almost a bribery investigation, whether a businessman made contributions to the governor's campaign or made private gifts in exchange for a benefit that the State of Virginia gave to those people," attorney Scott Goodman said.
The Washington Post reported that Virginia socialite Patricia Kluge is among those subpoenaed by a grand jury to testify.
"Patricia Kluge was involved as part of running her vineyard with a transaction having her vineyard sold to Donald Trump," Goodman said. "The governor was involved in the promotion of the winery."
Kluge was widely known to be a friend of the McDonnells. While employed last year at the Trump Winery, the same vineyard she used to own, she hosted Virginia First Lady Maureen McDonnell and her guests as part of a wine tour.
While there's no limit on gifts given to politicians in Virginia, so long as they're reported, what does matter is if the donors have been given any special treatment.
"I do think that if we elect officials, we do perhaps have a higher expectation of them to be above-board all the time," Skelley said.
The investigation began after the disclosure of a gift from the CEO of Star Scientific, who gave $15,000 to go toward the wedding of the governor's daughter.
Kluge's lawyer has said his client has done nothing wrong. It's unclear exactly what information the grand jury is seeking.