The gifts Gov. Tim Kaine received in the four years he served as Virginia’s chief executive and his time as lieutenant governor before that are certain to be cited by his Republican critics as a sign that Kaine is not as squeaky clean as he portrays himself.
WASHINGTON — Barr Pharmaceuticals gave then-Virginia Gov. Tim Kaine a ride on a private jet to a meeting in Aspen, Colo., in 2006 when it was lobbying him over issues related to its drug sales, state records show.
Dominion Resources, Virginia’s largest electric utility and a lobbying force in the state’s capital, Richmond, picked up the tab for a trip Kaine took that same year to the college basketball Final Four tournament (and a funeral) in Indianapolis, according to the records.
McCandlish Holton, a law and lobbying firm that represented Virginia’s small vineyards and worked closely with Kaine’s office to create a new system for distributing wine produced by the vineyards, presented the governor with four cases of wine in 2007, the records show, the same year he signed the legislation into law.
Under Virginia’s lax ethics rules at the time, the gifts, which had a total value of more than $160,000, were all legal as long as they were disclosed.
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But with Kaine’s selection Friday as Hillary Clinton’s running mate, the gifts he received in the four years he served as Virginia’s chief executive and his time as lieutenant governor before that are certain to be cited by his Republican critics as a sign that Kaine, now a U.S. senator, is not as squeaky clean as he portrays himself.
“It would be naive to think a pharmaceutical company like Teva was not interested in maintaining access to the governor as a result of a gift of that size,” said Andrew Miller, a former Democratic attorney general in Virginia, who now works as an energy-industry lawyer and lobbyist, referring to Teva Pharmaceuticals, which bought Barr in 2008.
Donald Trump, the Republican presidential nominee, wasted little time in starting to attack Kaine, branding him Friday night as “corrupt Kaine” and continuing with the criticism during a Sunday morning news interview.
“He took over $160,000 of gifts. And they said, well they weren’t really gifts. They were suits, and trips and lots of different things. Over $160,000,” Trump said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” “I think to me it is a big problem.”
Kaine’s acceptance of gifts has been reported on at times, dating back to when he was in the governor’s office. But an examination by The New York Times of archival email traffic from Kaine’s tenure as governor shows that he received gifts, in some cases, around the same time he and his staff were considering official government requests from these donors.
In Barr’s case, the email records show that Barr executives asked Kaine to intervene with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on its behalf in August 2006, just days before the flight to Aspen for a meeting of the Democratic Governors Association, later valued at $12,000 in Kaine’s disclosure report.
Kaine signed the letter to the FDA — a draft of which had been written by Barr — as requested before leaving on the trip, and a company lobbyist suggested he was prepared to follow up during the plane ride.
“The Gov will be on a plane on Friday with Phil Smith,” Eileen Filler-Corn, an aide to the governor, wrote in an August 2006 email, after she had met with Smith, then a lobbyist from Barr. “Phil will likely speak with the Gov about him sending a letter in support of the petition in Aspen this weekend, hence this email to ya’ll.”
State records compiled by the Virginia Public Access Project show that a total of 139 companies or individuals gave about 220 gifts or reimbursements for travel to Kaine to work-related conferences while he served as governor from 2006-10 and lieutenant governor from 2002-06.
Amy Dudley, a spokeswoman for Kaine, said two-thirds of the filings were in the work-related travel category, and that Kaine was careful to disclose any gift, even if it was from a family friend, which is not required under the law.
The largest proportion of the gifts Kaine received was for political and campaign-related travel, including the $45,075 it cost for him to campaign around the country in 2008 for Barack Obama.
Other major gifts came from personal friends, including a weeklong stay, worth $18,000, in 2005 shortly after Kaine was elected governor on the exclusive Caribbean island of Mustique, provided by James Murray Jr., a Virginia-based venture capitalist specializing in telecommunications investments. Murray also donated $45,000 to Kaine’s election campaign and to a political-action committee affiliated with Kaine.
Murray owned an oceanside estate named Les Jolies Eaux — which boasts five bedrooms, two pools and, at least nowadays, a chef, butler, housekeeper, maid and gardener, according to a rental listing — that was designed for Princess Margaret, countess of Snowdon, the younger daughter of King George VI and Queen Elizabeth.
Kaine, state records show, was meticulous at filing his gift disclosures, and even listed a set of cuff links — worth $75 — that he was given in 2006 by officials from Kent County, England, to help commemorate the 400th anniversary of the founding of Jamestown, Va., the first permanent English-speaking settlement in the United States.
Other small gifts came from former President Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan (a 3-foot-by-5-foot prayer rug worth $345) and a signed baseball (worth $500) from the Cal Ripken Sr. Foundation.
Wayne Turnage, who served as Kaine’s chief of staff, said his boss did not ask for most of the gifts and gave many away at the end of his term.
“None of these gifts came with any hint of quid pro quo,” he said.
After he was elected to the U.S. Senate, Kaine publicly urged the Virginia Legislature to tighten state ethics laws, saying he had concluded that the more stringent rules in Congress were appropriate.
“The new year presents a superb opportunity to fix a major Virginia weakness: our lax ethical laws,” he wrote in an Op-Ed article published Dec. 31, 2013, in The Washington Post. “Gifts to elected officials can create a subconscious sense of gratitude in even the most upright public servants.”