Potential Clinton VP pick Tim Kaine took advantage of Virginia’s lax gift laws to receive an $18,000 Caribbean vacation, $5,500 in clothes and a trip to watch George Mason University play in the NCAA basketball Final Four during his years as lieutenant governor and governor, according to disclosures he filed.
Now a leading contender to be Hillary Clinton’s running mate, Kaine reported more than $160,000 in gifts from 2001 to 2009, mostly for travel to and from political events and conferences, according to disclosures compiled by the Virginia Public Access Project. The givers included political supporters, a drug company that soon after bought a facility in Virginia, and Dominion, the state’s biggest provider of electricity.
While legal under Virginia’s unusually permissive ethics rules, the gifts could become attack-ad fodder after similar presents led to corruption charges for Gov. Bob McDonnell, whose conviction the Supreme Court overturned Monday. Republicans could also use the records to portray Kaine as part of the self-dealing establishment in a cycle animated by hostility toward the political class.
Kaine’s staff and other defenders are quick to note that his gifts did not contain any suggestion of a quid pro quo trade for official favors — a major difference from the McDonnell case, and the key difference between an act of friendship and an act of corruption. And Kaine’s long career in Virginia politics, capped by a stint as chairman of the Democratic National Committee, contained no allegations of corruption.
“During his eight years as lieutenant governor and governor, Sen. Kaine went beyond the requirements of Virginia law, even publicly disclosing gifts of value beneath the reporting threshold,” a spokesperson said. “He’s confident that he met both the letter and the spirit of Virginia’s ethical standards.”