When he and his wife accepted $177,000 worth of gifts and loans from a wealthy man seeking the governor's help on a business venture, the overworked and indebted governor of Virginia "appreciated" his generosity. But the former governor, Bob McDonnell, says he would not accept such gifts if he could do it all over again. Bill Whitaker interviews McDonnell and reports on his conviction for corruption and the influential Supreme Court ruling that reversed it on the next edition of 60 Minutes Sunday, April 30 at 7 p.m. ET/PT.
Ten days after leaving office, McDonnell and his wife, Maureen, were indicted for public corruption related to their acceptance of the gifts, including vacations, golf equipment, expensive clothes and a Rolex watch. "If I do it over again, I was governor, I wouldn't take any gifts. I didn't need them," he says. Why did he take them? "You know, having a family vacation after working 15 hours a day at a nice lake resort with my family…I appreciated that," McDonnell tells Whitaker.
He was within the state law then -- laws that Virginia has changed in the wake of his case. "I knew in my heart I was governing myself properly. I knew I was complying with Virginia law. And I knew I was making all the appropriate disclosures." Virginia law didn't require disclosure of gifts to family members, so McDonnell didn't report most of the gifts, including a $15,000 check to cover the catering for his daughter's wedding and the $6,500 Rolex watch the businessman gave to his wife so she could give it to the governor for Christmas.
"If I do it over again, I was governor, I wouldn't take any gifts. I didn't need them."
The McDonnells had up to $90,000 in credit card debt and the governor told 60 Minutes he needed business loans. Asked if he wondered how his wife obtained the Rolex, McDonnell said, "With all my heart I believed it was from her. She told me it was from her. I didn't know what a Rolex cost to be honest. I've had the same two Seikos for the last 25 years. I'm a Seiko and Timex guy…"
The businessman also took McDonnell's wife on a shopping spree to the tune of $20,000. When Maureen showed up with all the bags from the fancy stores, didn't he wonder about how she paid for them, asks Whitaker? "I'm just not the kind of person that probably paid enough attention on some of those things," says McDonnell.
A Virginia jury convicted the McDonnells of public corruption. It was the right verdict says former Deputy Attorney General Jim Cole, who oversaw the case for the U.S. Dept. of Justice. "He used his office for personal gain. … Here is somebody who took over $170,000 to do things that he could only do because he was the governor of the state."
When the appeal of his conviction failed, McDonnell took his case to the U.S. Supreme Court, which reversed it, but did not condone his actions. In his opinion, Chief Justice John Roberts wrote his conduct did not "typify normal political interaction…far from it." He also called the case's details "tawdry." Does he think the Supreme Court vindicated him? "You know, the words are what the words are. I accept 100 percent of the opinion. And so, you know-- with my own conscience that's really between I guess me and God about how I did."