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McDonnell Ruling: Reverberations in Washington, D.C.

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 The reverberations of the Supreme Court throwing out the conviction of former Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell is being felt across the nation. 

The Supreme Court ruled the federal government’s prosecution of Governor Bob McDonnell was too broad, so they threw out his conviction. The Court’s eight to zero ruling is what really turned heads on Capitol Hill.

"I have not, you know obviously the fact that the Court was anonymous is significant, my feeling is I’ll be anxious to see what happens next.”

That’s Virginia Democratic Senator Mark Warner. 

“You know my hope is that this will also be an opportunity, and Governor McDonnell’s family has gone through challenging times and clearly there are things that were inappropriate, but hopefully this will be a chance for his family to heal."

The case centered on whether the federal anti-corruption statutes prohibited public officials like Governor McDonnell and his wife from taking one hundred and seventy thousand dollars in gifts, like a Rolex, free travel and expensive dresses. While riding on the subway underneath the Capitol, Virginia Democratic Senator Tim Kaine says he’s just hoping this closes a sad chapter for the commonwealth.

“Very kind of sad and even tawdry thing, that's the way that most Virginians feel but it was just, it was embarrassing and sad for the state.” 

But now reports of the one hundred and sixty thousand dollars in gifts Kaine accepted when he was governor are resurfacing, which could imperil his chances of getting picked as the Vice Presidential nominee. But Kaine says the case also highlights the need for the Virginia legislature to tighten ethics rules at the state level.

“It really pointed out how horribly lax Virginia’s ethical rules are, and you know, Governor McAuliffe has tried to up them and they've had some success but the Virginia legislature still has got a long way to go to putting better ethical rules in place."

Watchdog groups say Missouri and Virginia have arguably the loosest ethics rules in the nation. That’s why Missouri Democratic Senator Claire MacAskill was closely watching McDonnell’s case. She says now lawmakers need to tighten election laws.

“It just worries me that if we can clean up campaign finance and make everything transparent then the decision I don't think would be as troubling but the fact that we haven't cleaned up campaign finance makes it even more troubling, that's why I think this should give us all a sense of urgency about getting some campaign finance reform."

Noah Bookbinder is the Executive Director of the watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, or CREW. He says the High Court has now put a huge burden on prosecutors across the nation to physically prove that bribery occurred.

“But what they did is made it really hard to be able to approve bribery so I don't think they legalized it but they have certainly, they have certainly thrown a wrench in the government’s ability to hold anyone accountable for it."

Bookbinder says the ball is now in Congress’ court.

"We would very much like to see Congress take this up, because this is a decision that was based on the Supreme Court’s interpretation of the law it wasn't a constitutional decision.”

For Senator Kaine, there’s now a dark cloud hanging over the commonwealth. 

“To have had two you know, high profile prosecutions of first a delegate, a member of the general assemble and now a governor over these kinds of issues about you know, where you inappropriately taking compensation or things of value to change for official action, this is an embarrassment for the state and it just points out that we’ve got to do better."

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