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Va. governor takes $99K in travel, gifts in 2011

Monday - 1/30/2012, 6:29pm  ET

By BOB LEWIS
AP Political Writer

RICHMOND, Va. - Gov. Bob McDonnell reported more than $43,000 worth of travel underwritten last year by taxpayers pursuing his administration's priority, economic development, according to personal financial disclosures state officials filed.

Financial disclosure forms from elected officials show that travel and gifts the governor received during the past year totaled $99,092, slightly more than the $90,000 former Gov. Tim Kaine reported four years ago.

That's according to records and analysis by the Virginia Public Access Project, a nonpartisan tracker of money in state politics.

More than four-fifths of the state-paid travel was trade missions to Asia, Israel and the Paris Air Show paid by the Virginia Economic Development Partnership. Other VEDP trips took him on marketing trips to Chicago and Boston, and twice to New York to meet with bond-rating firms such as Moody's and Standard & Poors, which determine the commonwealth's creditworthiness and the interest the state pays to borrow money.

In the 12 years VPAP has tracked state-paid spending by governors, no governor has come close to spending as much. The previous high was slightly more than $18,000 by Kaine in 2008.

McDonnell's administration said the junkets more than paid for themselves.

"They were responsible for more than 1,800 jobs new jobs created in Virginia, $21 million in new capital investment made in Virginia, and more than $75 million in new agricultural exports from Virginia, all in 2011 alone," said J. Tucker Martin, chief spokesman for the governor.

"Many of the gifts, and the overwhelming majority of the travel expenses, were associated with official economic development missions that the Governor led for the Commonwealth of Virginia," Martin said.

Gifts included:

_ A $4,000 pair of night-vision goggles from ITT Defense and Information Solutions that he said were intended for State Police use;

_ Eight tickets to Washington Nationals baseball games in the District of Columbia, gratis of credit card giant Capital One;

_ Ten tickets to a play from the Kennedy Center for Performing Arts in Washington;

_ A $425 miniature train set from freight railroad giant Norfolk Southern;

_ A $665 suit jacket, pants and shirt courtesy of national clothier J Crew in New York City;

_ Slightly more than $14,500 worth of travel, lodging and events at his alma mater, the University of Notre Dame, including tickets to watch the Fighting Irish play football.

Eighty-five percent of his trips and lodging in South Bend, Ind., was covered by fellow Notre Dame alumnus Alexander B. McMurtrie Jr., a Chesterfield lawyer and former state dleegate who gave McDonnell's gubernatorial campaign $15,000 in 2009 and now sits on McDonnell's Government Reform and Restructuring Commission. McDonnell was a speaker at Notre Dame during one trip.

McDonnell was meticulous in his reporting, itemizing gifts valued at $50 or more, right down to a dinner and gift basket from Scott County.

Monday's filings also indicate the governor is not fabulously wealthy. He reported holding an interest in three rental property companies in Hampton Roads that together netted income ranging from a minimum of $100,000 to slightly more than $500,000 in 2011. He reported liabilities ranging from a minimum of $10,000 to $50,000.

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Online:

Virginia Public Access Project: http://bit.ly/zMRwWo


(Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)