Ken Cuccinelli says he has no plans to return contributions from a major backer whose veterans’ charity is being probed in several states after a lengthy investigative report made it out to be a scam. The Virginia attorney general’s office also doesn’t sound eager to launch its own investigation of the charity.
Gov. Bob McDonnell’s office said yesterday that it would donate to a legitimate veterans’ charity the $5000 that McDonnell received last year from U.S. Navy Veterans Association founder Bobby Thompson. That move came in response to a series of stories in the St. Petersburg Times, which raised numerous red flags about USNVA, which claims to offer aid to navy veterans and raises money through phone solicitations. The stories revealed among other things that 84 of the group’s 85 listed officers — everyone but Thompson — could not be located, and that USNVA refused to offer any documentation of its finances. The group is now being investigated by authorities in New Mexico, Missouri, and Florida, where it’s based. Giving up the money is “the right thing to do,” according to a McDonnell spokeswoman.
But Cuccinelli sees things differently from his fellow conservative Republican. He received far more from Thompson — $55,000, making Thompson the second largest individual contributor to Cuccinelli’s campaign. And his camp has said they’ll only give up the money if Thompson is found guilty of a crime. “We don’t assume someone is guilty based on circumstances that are out of the ordinary,” Cuccinelli told the Roanoke Times.
But the AG also doesn’t seem too eager to find that out. His spokesman told the Richmond Times-Dispatch that investigations of non-profits generally are handled by the state’s Office of Consumer Affairs (OCA), not the attorney general’s office. “It would be atypical for the attorney general’s office to initiate an investigation into a nonprofit,” the spokesman said in a statement, adding that it could become involved if requested by the OCA.
Earlier this year, after lobbying from USNVA, Virginia passed a law allowing veterans’ charities to solicit funds in the state without registering. Virginia’s southeast corner has a large population of navy veterans. As things stand, despite being under investigation in other states, USNVA will be able to raise money from Virginia donors come July.
Cuccinelli recently provoked outrage by announcing an investigation of a former University of Virginia climate scientist who was caught up in the “Climate-Gate” controversy. Even climate skeptics have denounced the probe as a “witch hunt.”