Gift-gate: Star Scientific, Jonnie Williams & a governor in hot water.

By Peter Galuszka

Their expressions say it all. Making their entrance at a recent midday celebration of Virginia wine at the Executive Mansion, Gov. Robert F. McDonnell and his wife, Maureen, appear as dark as a glass of burgundy.

Greeting their guests, the first couple toasts a special vintage to commemorate the 200th anniversary of the governor’s house, but they can’t shake the tension. For months, the McDonnells and their children have endured a series of tawdry disclosures of gifts: cash, a lush wedding meal for one McDonnell daughter and a $10,000 wedding gift to another, Oscar de la Renta clothing, a Louis Vuitton handbag, rides in a $190,000 Ferrari, a Rolex watch, Final Four basketball tickets, private jet trips and other items. The latest disclosures are loans totaling $120,000 to Maureen McDonnell and a real estate partnership owned by the governor and his sister.

All of this came from Jonnie R. Williams Sr., the 58-year-old founder and chief executive of Star Scientific, an obscure and struggling Henrico County company. Though the gifts legally aren’t required to be disclosed— because of Virginia’s lax laws— the possibility of a quid pro quo has resulted in an investigation by the Richmond commonwealth’s attorney. The FBI also is investigating Star Scientific’s securities trading since 2006 and McDonnell’s relationship with Williams.

The worst-case scenario is that McDonnell could be indicted or forced to resign. At the least, his reputation as a wholesome, can-do Republican moderate with presidential timber has taken a terrible drubbing.

The man in the spotlight is defined now by the man in the shadows. The close relationship between McDonnell and Williams raises many disturbing questions about why the McDonnells would risk so much politically for a rich but relative small fry like Williams.

The barrel-chested, silver-tongued salesman from Spotsylvania County is often described by those who know him as extraordinarily bright and generous. His largesse has been much in evidence with his intimate friends— the McDonnell family and Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, who once held–– but didn’t fully disclose–– in Star Scientific. Cuccinelli, the Republican candidate for governor, has been forced to recuse himself in several legal cases because of his links to Williams.

Williams, who declines to be interviewed for this story, seems a bundle of contradictions. An outsider from humble beginnings who loves the good life, Williams has played Pied Piper to the powerful, mesmerizing them with his entrepreneurial ideas.

"Jonnie is a genius,” says Patrick McSweeney, an influential Richmond lawyer and Republican Party operative, who was a director of one of Williams’ companies a decade ago. “He has an uncanny ability to see a central path to a solution that other highly trained people have missed.”

With a two-year business school degree and an uncommon talent for wooing potential investors, Williams has started businesses as wide-ranging as an eyeglass shop in the late 1970s, laser eye surgery technology, and the manufacture of cigarettes with fewer cancer-causing nitrosamines. Now out of the tobacco business, Williams is pitching Star’s Anatabloc, a tobacco-based dietary supplement and skin cream he says helps with inflammation and a host of other ailments.

Along the way, he’s surrounded himself with bright, talented people says Samuel P. Sears Jr., a Boston lawyer, who was once president of Star Tobacco and Pharmaceuticals, a Williams company. “He’d set up the companies but he wouldn’t operate them. He did the introductions.”

Yet Williams’ record is marred by a number of flops and probes. Williams has run afoul of regulators, consumers, and shareholders. As a young businessman, he had scrapes when his strip mall eyeglass shop went out of business. During the 1980s, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission prosecuted Williams for hiring a newsletter analyst to write research reports plugging a stock whose price he was trying to pump up.

“He’s basically a promoter,” says his former co-defendant Victor Kashner, a Sarasota, Florida, banker who ended up being suspended from trading for three months in the late 1980s by the SEC for his role in the bogus stock-report incident. Williams settled the case for $295,000 without admitting guilt. Kashner also paid a fine without admitting guilt.

The current controversy involves three lawsuits by shareholders claiming Star didn’t keep them abreast of federal subpoenas the company received early this year for financial data going back to 2006. One of the suits also alleges Star misled investors by falsely suggesting the famed Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine had officially vetted its research.

Meanwhile, the firm has lost a whopping $231.5 million during the past 10 years, according to securities filings with the SEC. “They’re running out of money,” says Adam Feuerstein, a biotech company analyst who writes critically about Star at and broke the story regarding Star’s claims about the Johns Hopkins research.

Despite such missteps, Williams manages to keep strong and long-lasting relationships with business associates whose educational and career accomplishments far surpass his. “He’s not intimidated by them and they respect him,” Sears says.

The board chairman and president of Star Scientific, for example, is Paul L. Perito, 75, a graduate of Harvard Law School, a former federal prosecutor and official in the Nixon White House in the early 1970s. A Star board member is Christopher C. Chapman Jr., 60, a graduate of Georgetown University medical school, who’s been a senior researcher at drug giants Quintiles/BRI and Regeneron Pharmaceuticals. Style was unable to reach Perito for comment, and Chapman declined comment on the advice of his lawyers, he says: “We’re not supposed to talk about the case.”

Another close associate is Richard Sharp, long regarded as one of the brightest minds in the Richmond business scene. Sharp helped drive the growth of mass retailer Circuit City and founded the highly successful CarMax. He was appointed to Star’s board in early 2011. He has since left the board. Sharp is suffering from the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease, and he and his family are aggressively raising funds for Alzheimer's research through the Stay Sharp Fund. According to a blog kept by Sharp's daughters,, the businessman had been taking the supplement with hopes that it would relieve the symptoms of his condition, but stopped in 2012 after suffering side effects including weight loss and experiencing no improvements. Operative Patrick McSweeney and his wife, however, take it regularly. “It’s really good for your health,” he says.
It had better be. Star’s survival depends upon on its revenues. Although sales for the product are picking up, the company lost $8.2 million in this year’s first quarter in a long string of profit-negative quarters. Star may run out of cash by early 2014 unless more revenues start flowing, according to its 2012 annual corporate filings. “Our future prospects, therefore, are dependent on the expanded distribution and consumer acceptance of our dietary supplement products and cosmetic products,” it states in its 2012 annual securities filings.

Williams wasn’t the largest contributor to McDonnell’s campaigns. From 2008 to 2013, Star and Williams donated $145,000 to McDonnell and his political groups, not including the gifts, according to the Virginia Public Access Project. But McDonnell has received much more money from coal giant Consol ($357,010), cigarette maker Altria ($287,465) and utility Dominion ($256,291), among other large corporations and wealthy individuals. Companies such as these have a lot more to gain from contacts in the governor’s office than does Star, which deals more with federal rather than state regulators.

While declining to give any details about Williams’ largesse, McDonnell repeatedly has said he’s done nothing to help Williams nor has he used his state powers to promote him or his company. The governor is reported, however, to have helped set up a meeting for Williams with a top state health and human services policy official in August 2011. Two weeks later, Maureen McDonnell asked Williams for a $6,500 Rolex, which she gave to her husband. McDonnell has declined comment about the watch and has hired Washington lawyer and troubleshooter Earnest T. Flood, who advised former President Bill Clinton on his impeachment hearings.

After a recent radio interview at WRVA-AM 1140 for his “Ask the Governor” show, McDonnell told this reporter he met Williams “five or six years ago. He’s a donor for me and my PACs [political action committees]. My wife and I are friends with him, and his wife and we’ve had dinner. He’s also the CEO of a publicly-held company in Virginia so of course I know him. I try to know the heads of all public companies in the state.”

Williams’ chief conduit into the governor’s inner circles appears to be McDonnell’s wife. A former cheerleader for the Washington Redskins football team, Maureen McDonnell knows about marketing. She’s a health enthusiast who ran a small business selling creams and other ointments for 13 years. On May 23, 2011, the Washington Post reports, Williams wrote a $50,000 check to her, described as a loan. The purpose is unclear. The governor and his sister later received $70,000 in loans from Williams to help with faltering beachfront properties they own in a corporation called MoBo Real Estate Partners, according to the Post.
Williams, the son of a former sailor who became a Philip Morris worker, grew up in rural Spotsylvania County. As a young man, he wanted to get rich— fast— by tapping his remarkable brain and ability to persuade people to buy what he was selling. His only formal education is a two-year business degree from Johnson and Wales University in Providence, R.I., according to Bloomberg News.

In his 20s, he sold cars at a local Ford dealership in Fredericksburg, where he often was spotted tooling around town in a Mercedes-Benz 450L. He seemed the hero protagonist from a modern-day Horatio Alger novel and was featured in a Fredericksburg Free Lance-Star newspaper article headlined, “Super Salesman.” He was quoted as saying, “Money can be fun— spending it is most definitely fun— but it’s not the most important thing to me.”

After selling cars he entered the eyeglasses business. His firm, Colonial Opticians, a strip mall eyeglass store, eventually went bust. Lenders were stuck with thousands of dollars in unpaid loans. Some employees found that their paychecks bounced. One who asked not to be identified told the Free Lance-Star in a 1981 article: “Jonnie could sell a snowball to an Eskimo. But when it came to backing up what he was selling, now that was another story.”

Still a lover of the finer things, Williams owns multiple houses. His main residence is an estate once owned by noted Ohio industrialist Henry Figgie. Figgie moved his empire from Cleveland briefly to Richmond and built Virginia Commons before business turned sour in the 1980s. His conglomerates later went bust.

The Manakin-Sabot home at 1 Starwood Lane in Goochland County covers 28 acres in the middle of the venerable Hermitage Country Club, which features one of Richmond’s premier golf courses. The property faces a fairway and includes a swimming pool, tennis court and baseball diamond. It’s worth about $2 million. Cuccinelli and some of his aides stayed temporarily at Williams’ Goochland home when they were moving into the attorney general’s office in 2010. “Jonnie met Ken when Ken was in the General Assembly,” McSweeney says. “He is very fond of him.”

Williams also owns two homes on Smith Mountain Lake, including one on a peninsula with a boathouse and a commanding view of the water. Similar to the Goochland property, the gray, clapboard-sided building is part of a well-groomed golf community called the Water’s Edge. McDonnell and his family have vacationed at his lakefront property, and Cuccinelli celebrated Thanksgiving there.

An experienced pilot, Williams also earned enough money years ago to buy his own corporate jet, a Bombardier aircraft, according to Bloomberg News. The plane is registered to Starwood Aviation, a firm based in Sarasota, near where Williams also owns condominiums in the Florida Gulf Coast town of Bradenton. Williams regularly flies between Florida and Richmond.

The foray into the eyeglass business may have been a debacle, but it sparked his fascination with health and technology, especially with treating disorders of the human eye. During the 1980s, he reached out to medical doctors and technical experts treating eye ailments. It was one of these ventures that landed Williams and Kashner in trouble with the SEC.

But Williams rightly predicted that providing technology for laser surgery to correct near-sightedness would be a booming business. He sold some of his machinery rights to Abbott Laboratories Inc. for a whopping $300 million, says John Faessel, a retired dentist in La Jolla, California, who blogs about investments for “He is very, very, very inventive,” says Faessel, who writes favorably of Williams and is quick to note he receives no money from him.
Abbott was Williams’ biggest score. It secured a life of luxury and his reputation as the one who always grabbed the restaurant bill first. The Abbott proceeds also helped Williams’ advance another one of his scientific fascinations— tobacco.

In the early 1990s, he helped found Star Tobacco and Pharmaceuticals with an office in Petersburg and warehouses in southern Virginia. He took some of the profits from the manufacture and sale of tobacco and plowed them into research studying tobacco-specific nitrosamines. So-called TSNAs are toxins that make tobacco smoke carcinogenic and deadly. Williams was among a number of researchers who theorized that if TSNAs could be reduced, cigarette smoke would be safer.

Living in the Richmond area had other benefits, McSweeney says. Apparently, Virginia’s capital is just the right size to contain the right number of sufficiently intelligent people. “He couldn’t live in a population center of less than one million people because he’d need at least six people capable of talking to him,” McSweeney says.

Williams was so determined to reduce TSNAs in the leaf-curing process that he used his kitchen microwave to nuke leaves and then test results, according to McSweeney. At the time, billions of dollars in lawsuits were crashing down upon the big tobacco makers. If smoke could be made safer, the burden would be lifted and the path to making even bigger profits would be cleared.

Williams patented some of his TSNA curing methods, notably one called “Star-Cured.” He initiated a patent battle with Brown & Williamson Tobacco Co. and then with Reynolds American after it bought B&W. “It is a classic story of an upstart company threatening the giants of tobacco and pharmaceuticals,” McSweeney says. “Jonnie was a genius up against some powerful forces.”

Williams ended up pouring millions into legal fees to fight Reynolds. He’d been reassuring shareholders and potential investors that a lawsuit settlement would pump hundreds of millions of dollars into the firm, says Feuerstein, the analyst who tracks biotech stocks for Instead, the lawsuit dragged on, and in September, Williams’ company won a measly $5 million settlement.

Meanwhile, Williams tried to keep Star above water by peddling other tobacco-related products such as a low-TSNA cigarette called Advance, tobacco lozenges, smokeless tobacco and a product designed to stop the crave to smoke, trademarked CigRx.

None of them went anywhere financially, but, as always, Williams had another idea. He became fascinated with an alkaloid substance called anatabine commonly found in tobacco and also in other plants such as tomatoes and eggplant. He became intrigued after reading various research reports suggesting anatabine could help cure a variety of diseases including Alzheimer’s, schizophrenia, Parkinson’s disease and multiple sclerosis, among others.

He followed closely the work of Dr. Paul Ladenson, a highly regarded endocrinologist at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. In 2004, Ladenson studied flight attendants who had chronic exposure to cigarette smoke while working aboard long-haul airplanes. They seemed to have lower instances of a destructive autoimmune thyroiditis called Hashimoto’s disease that tends to strike women more than men. Another report by the Harvard School of Public Health showed smokers were 73 percent less likely to suffer from Parkinson’s disease. Studies in England, Colorado, and at Minnesota’s Mayo Clinic suggested smoking may ease ulcerative colitis.

The point wasn’t that smoking is beneficial; rather that something in tobacco smoke may have health benefits. Williams believed that agent was anatabine, and he started shedding his other tobacco-related research and products to focus on it. In 2007, he founded Rock Creek Pharmaceuticals as part of Star. In June 2012, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office issued a patent to Rock Creek. It now operates large-scale commercial production of anatabine.

Much of the product is destined for Anatabloc pills and creams that are sold over the counter through outlets such as GNC health stores. Such products don’t require approval for medical use by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. They don’t need to meet higher criteria. Marketing claims aren’t held to higher FDA standards. “As a nutritional supplement, you are going to get away with a lot,” Feuerstein says. “Watch the ads on late-night TV. Not one of the claims has been tested by the FDA.”

Williams launched a sales blitz for his Anatabloc product lines. He hired as sales ambassadors PGA golf pro Fred Couples and professional tennis player John Isner. The business blogosphere buzzed and word circulated that the effectiveness of Star’s anatabine had been supported by Johns Hopkins research. In fact, the research in question had been conducted by physician Ladenson, acting independently of the medical school. It was paid for by Star.

Feuerstein exposed the claim in a Jan. 23 story on titled “Star Scientific’s Made-Up, Misleading Relationship with Johns Hopkins.” Contacted by Style, a Johns Hopkins spokesman says: “Johns Hopkins did not review or approve any Star Scientific clinical study. No Star Scientific clinical studies were conducted at any Johns Hopkins location, and no Johns Hopkins investigators were involved in a Star Scientific clinical study.”

So far, Anatabloc, the product plugged by Maureen McDonnell, seems to have avoided controversy. A bottle of cream sells for about $300 and 300 tablets run about $100. Thomas Gallagher, president of the Richmond Better Business Bureau, says a national search of BBB records shows no reported problems with the product.

The question is whether anatabine can be taken to the next level, if there is one. For that, Star and subsidiary Rock Creek would have to come up with a drug that would be considered for testing by the FDA— a process that could take millions of dollars and many years. Stock analyst Faessel says it’s likely such potential drugs are on their way to clinical trials and FDA review, but the company won’t comment.

Doubters, such as Feuerstein, believe anatabine might well prove to be a “pseudo-science.”

It all could be moot if grand juries bring indictments against the businessman for illegal gift giving to McDonnell or for securities violations. If the governor, too, were indicted, it would be a tragic and history-making ending to what’s been a successful term. And if Williams must mount an expensive legal defense, it will be difficult for him to pull Star out of its deep financial hole. It could be his last big idea.

Peter Galuszka is a freelance writer in Richmond and a contributing editor to Style Weekly magazine, where this article first appeared along with the accompanying photos by Scott Bass.


Star Scientific = Democratic Front Group

Before dismissing Anatabloc it's worth taking a quick look at these four peer reviewed studies. One of them is co-authored by Dr. Paul Ladenson. My conclusion is that there may be something important here.

Peer Reviewed Articles Exploring Star Scientific’s Anatabine* Compound

Title: Amelioration of Experimental Autoimmune Encephalomyelitis by Anatabine
Publication: PLOS ONE
This study, conducted by researchers at the Roskamp Institute, evaluated the effects of anatabine on the development of a standard mouse model of multiple sclerosis (MS) known as experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis (EAE). Results showed that orally administered anatabine significantly reduced neurological disability and improved motor coordination of EAE mice; suppressed the production of several pro-inflammatory molecules (cytokines) in the blood and in the spleen of the mice; suppressed STAT3 and NF-kB activation in the spleen and the brain; and reduced the infiltration of inflammatory cells in the brain, and significantly prevented demyelination in the spinal cord of the EAE mice.

Title: Anti-inflammatory Activity of Anatabine via Inhibition of STAT3 Phosphorylation
Publication: European Journal of Pharmacology
In a series of studies, researchers at the Roskamp Institute demonstrated that anatabine can suppress brain inflammation in animal models of Alzheimer’s disease, inflammation in the blood in mice, and inflammation induced in human blood once removed from the body. This peer-reviewed data supporting the view that anatabine has widespread anti-inflammatory properties was published in a paper, titled, “Anti-inflammatory Activity of Anatabine via Inhibition of STAT3 Phosphorylation”.

Title: Anatabine Ameliorates Experimental Autoimmune Thyroiditis
Publication: Endocrinology
A pre-clinical investigator-initiated and independently funded study from Johns Hopkins University researchers examined the effect of anatabine supplementation in a mouse model of autoimmune thyroiditis. The results were published in September 2012 in an article entitled, “Anatabine Ameliorates Experimental Autoimmune Thyroiditis” in the Endocrine Society’s journal, Endocrinology. (Endocrinology. 2012 Sep; 153(9):4580-7.)

Title: Anatabine Lowers Alzheimer’s Aß Production in vitro and in vivo
Publication: European Journal of Pharmacology
This peer-reviewed article explores the in vitro and in vivo activity of anatabine in Alzheimer’s disease. It states that anatabine lowers Alzheimer’s A-beta production in vitro and in vivo. The article is authored by scientists at the Roskamp Institute and is electronically published in the European Journal of Pharmacology (2011 Sept 19).

*The anatabine used in the studies above is made under Star Scientific’s patented process and is the main ingredient in its Anatabloc® dietary supplement.

Get some now. Thank me later.

Virginians are pretty forgiving.

Remember when Dominion Power was allowed to rip off each of its customers 40 cents for every dollar it over charged? Our representatives in Richmond allowed for this travesty and people hardly raised a peep about it.

Some low-level corruption may finish the Governor on the national level, but Virginians have shown time and time again to be exactly the population of docile, complacent, and obedient citizens that such corruption thrives in. Some gifts to the governor for a little quid pro quo? Bahh... he's got a nice smile, nice hair, and blue eyes.

Virginians will give him a pass...

Why all the effort to impugn Mr. William's attempts to innovate? The way I see it, is he's a very ambitious, astute and determined man...a true American success story. Why are certain media outlets so bent on bringing him down? Is it because certain industries with large investments in the status quo (i.e., tobacco and pharmaceuticals) are scared of him?

I'm telling you folks, this Anatabloc stuff works. I can say this because I was very skeptical of these "nutritional supplements" (due to the way they're portrayed in the media). However, after using this stuff for 6 months now, I'm a true believer. It's not only changed my life (I feel 20 years younger), but it's also eliminated my 13-year old daughter's Alopecia condition. So, it's not a placebo affect.

Check out the testimonials all over the web about this Anatabloc product and inform yourself. It's very subtle, so take it for a month and then decide. This article says it costs $100 for 300 lozenges, but you can get it at several places for $80 or less. I take 6 tablets per day, so one bottle lasts 50 days. That comes to ~$1.60 per day.

Mr. Williams should be commended and praised for his foresight and persistence. Instead, these paid-for media outlets continue to smear his name. He's forced to resort to these extreme measures in order to compete with the deep-pocketed companies that are threatened by his innovations. Job well done, Mr. Williams. And thank you from both myself as well as from my daughter.

At some point, one of these authors will figure out that the phantom scandals are a smokescreen; Anatabine is the story. Take a little time and read the scientific studies on the company website. Then look at the testimonials on the GNC site, Amazon, or local news reports. It is an amazing product. Then if you have any inflamatory health issues, try it for a month. I have enjoyed relief from allergy, lupus and arthritis symptoms. It is far and away the best $80 bucks I spend each month.

The efficacy of Anatabloc is a tiny footnote to this story. The real story, of course, is political corruption. Looks like the governor went for the short con--rather than realizing that the real money is there to be had after the term is over--as long as you don't completely screw up the end of your term.

Anatabloc flacks, you may stand down--this scandal is likely good for your product as people have now at least heard of it and many people will try anything--effective or not.

As a former shareholder of Star I bought because of two reasons. Firstly people I know swore by anatabloc and secondly for the potential gain from their lawsuit with RJR. The latter resulted in a cop out by Jonnie as they bailed on the law suit after spending millions. Anatabloc it seems does work for many people but it can be copied by any big pharma if it becomes a big seller. As an investor that's a problem. Star has a patent on the process of producing Anatabloc but not on the actual ingredient, anatabine. Any future competitor can come up with another process to produce anatabine synthetically. It's not rocket science and there's nothing Star can do since they were unable to protect their patent against RJR. Essentially, it's a commodity.

As for Adam Feurstein, he's just a hack and has as many wrong calls and has little respect with professional biotech investors.

I got smacked twice. I owned Star stock and it went nowhere and I voted for our ultrasound Governor who has turned out to be a cheap politician. I'm disgusted by both parties because none of them have any integrity and they have no principles, just like UVA. Totally corrupt and inept.

I'm going for Sarvis this time in the hope that Virginians grow an independent mind and stop thinking like the herd.

Patent law's "doctrine of equivalents" may pertain to any attempt to claim, or use, another pathway to the synthesis of anatabine. Possible subtleties are such that I can't be sure, but this is definitely interesting. — excerpt:

"Ireland appears to subscribe to a doctrine of equivalents. In Farbwerke Hoechst v Intercontinental Pharmaceuticals (Eire) Ltd (1968), a case involving a patent of a chemical process, the High Court found that the defendant had infringed the plaintiff's patent despite the fact that the defendant had substituted the starting material specified in the patent claim for another material. Expert evidence showed that any technician who failed to obtain a good result using the specified starting material would try the replacement material. The two materials were therefore held to be chemically equivalent, and the replacement of one with the other by the defendant did not prevent a finding and injunction against him."

Maybe some of the Antabloc enthusiasts commenting here have a financial stake in the company, Star Scientific, that makes it. Maybe some have tried Antabloc and have experienced "positive" effects (though other users have experienced some negative ones).

But the simple fact is that Antabloc remains scientifically unproven.

A new article in The Richmond times Dispatch notes that "Earlier this year, Star Scientific disclosed a federal investigation of its securities transactions, and several of the company’s shareholders have subsequently filed lawsuits in federal court — and this month in Richmond Circuit Court — alleging that the company misled its investors about scientific research on Anatabloc."

The article continues: "The lawsuits have focused on the company’s statements about research by two scientists who work at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. The research looked at anatabine’s potential for treating certain types of thyroid disease, but Star Scientific’s stock price took a hit after Johns Hopkins University said the researchers were acting as consultants for the company and not on behalf of the university."


Consultants for companies usually say whatever the paymaster tells them to say. They are mouthpieces. And one of the biggest mouthpieces for Antabloic is the Roskamp Institute. Roskamp is a private research that is searching eagerly for funding. And it has a financial arrangement with Star Scientific, which pays "5 percent of its Anatabloc sales to a for-profit affiliate of the institute." That affiliate was also given 100.000 shares of stock in Star Scientific. In addition, Roskamp founder, Robert Roskamp, "bought thousands of shares of Star Scientific’s common stock, according to regulatory filings."

Can you say conflict of interest? Good science avoids it. But that's not what we have here.

And that was the point of this Hook article, which detailed the ever-increasing conflict of interest between Virginia's governor, Bob McDonnell, and his wife and family, with Jonnie Williams of Star Scientific. And it's a whooper of a conflict. It illuminates the shady nature and character of McDonnell (and wife Maureen). And it exposes Williams for what he is (and "genius" isn't it).

Bob McDonnell should come clean, stop evading and stonewalling, and tell the citizens of the Commonwealth the truth about all the money and gift's he's taken while allegedly representing the interests of "the good people of Virginia." The Virginia Constitution tells us that the governor is not entitled to "separate emoluments or privileges." But the accumulating evidence shows us that McDonnell used to governorship to cash in...while still in office.

It's time he resigned.

I'll be the last one to defend the Governor. But mame us one politician that doesn't endulge in "separate emoluments or privileges." They all find ways to skirt the laws and if not what are campaign donations anyway? It's just the anglo-saxon version of backshish. UVA does it with local law enforcement by giving spouses and relatives jobs. Perhaps its time to really look at our entire system since it is corrupt to the core with a fake facade. Anyone who goes unchecked is going to indulge.

As a rep for the largest pharmaceutical company in the world; if docs didn't tow company line -- they were out -- no more $10,000 speaker's fees. We squashed studies more often than we published them. We paid 'yes' docs from India (easy prey); who endorsed our products, hundred's of thousands of dollars and gave them the slide shows to prove our drug's SIGNIFICANCE over placebo / 5% yippy for that (what a threshold, really?)! We for paid trips to world class 5 star hotels In San Francisco, just for them to say what we wanted. If docs/institutions didn't comply; well, then they were off the "list". I remember taking one doc to Yosemite via a limo; stayed at the 5 star hotel; skied all day; maybe displayed my company's products a few hours; ate, drank and expensed a $25,000 weekend. What fun!

Maybe a few human's felt better...whatever, my purpose was to prostitute myself on behalf of the company; as long as I said the drug name; I could legally expense anything...

Need I say more? My monthly expenses exceeded $25,000. My sale's counterpart had shin-digs aboard the Tahoe Queen...she sponsored golf tourneys at the best courses in the grande USA! Expenses paid.

UCD wouldn't allow one of our drugs on formuary; nor the MediCal formulary due to the fact that we squashed a study (hid the study) because it showed we we about the same as our competitor. These things happen. When pharm. reps and managers are smart enough, and have a degree of integrity; well, they eventually quit. When I quit, I was the number ONE sales person in the entire country. Many awards. Rolex watches, free trips for family, waterford chrystal, upgraded company car; more free vacations; American Express Gift Cards & a lot of them...more and more gifts; rooms alone instead of a roommate situation; free spa; free golf; free cocktails; monte blanc pens; ipods, ipads, unlimited expense accounts...I became so disgusted with my ability to "help" patients...that I finally quit the charade.

@ Experience with UVa: You say that all politicians indulge in "separate emoluments or privileges." So how about providing the specific information that you have.

@ PharmRep: You outline some serious problems with the pharmaceutical industry in the U.S., the essence of which is that those who populate it will do almost anything for money. But what exactly is your point regarding this article about Bob McDonnell and Star Scientific?

@ democracy

I'm not sure which planet you live on but your question either shows how naive you are or you are a politician yourself and unable to understand the term ethical standards.

You say that all politicians indulge in "separate emoluments or privileges."

Read this article:

In any other industry or business this would be considered "stealing" but politicians allow themselves to spend campaign funds on their own personal expenses. Oh, they're expected to pay taxes on such appropriations, but how many do even that? Audits? Oversight? God forbid!

Let's all run for office and get our own little piggy bank!

@ UVa:

Please don't misrepresent what I've said.

I did NOT say "all politicians indulge in 'separate emoluments or privileges'." You did (though you spelled indulge as "endulge.").

What I said was very clear, and I repeat: " The Virginia Constitution tells us that the governor is not entitled to "separate emoluments or privileges." But the accumulating evidence shows us that McDonnell used to governorship to cash in...while still in office."

That is the crux of my comment, and it's the essence of this Hook article on McDonnell and Star Scientific.

By the way, I happen to agree with main point of the Illinois News-Gazette editorial you cited, which is this:

"It's time to get a handle on the use of campaign funds at the state and congressional levels. Unless laws are changed to allow deeper scrutiny of how this money is spent, abusers won't have much concern about getting caught."

That's true in Illinois no less than it's true in Virginia, which has one the laxest campaign finance laws in the country. And people like Bob McDonell are exploiting it. Though Bob got caught. Conservatives on the Supreme Court did the citizenry no favors in saying that corporations are people and have the same free speech "rights" as individuals....and this from people like Scalia and Alito and Thomas who claim to believe in an "originalist" reading of the Constitution.

I repeat also my final comment on this sordid affair: Bob McDonnelll should do the right thing and resign from office.

I agree with you that the Governor should resign. However, for someone who purports to be so enlightened and just your statement belies your political bias. So are we to assume you are a Democrat? and that they are the panacea the Supreme Court and our country has been waiting for?

The article like yourself was focused on bashing the Governor as a Republican. As you so eloquently put it that was the crux of the article. The crux of my post, which you clearly missed or chose to ignore was that the side you support, since that is what our country has been reduced to (one is either an R or a D) indulges in exactly the same behavior and that no one party has exclusivity in matters concerning 'separate emoluments or privileges'.

At the risk of repetition, both are very culpable in over indulgence in this area and so I did not "misrepresent" what you said. Au contraire, you underscored my point in your last post by emphasizing your predisposition for Democrats.

PS. Does misspelling "indulge" once in my post somehow diminish my point? If so I apologize profusely!

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