The Washington Post has an extensive article on the relationship between Star Scientific and current governor Bob McDonnell. Almost as a sidebar, the Post has an article on the same company and its relationship to AG/gubernatorial candidate Ken Cuccinelli.
Both articles were reprinted in today’s Virginian-Pilot.
The Cuccinelli article points out that he failed – for nearly a year – to disclose his holdings in the company.
Star Scientific has reported that it is under federal investigation, an inquiry it believes is focused on securities transactions, and the company is also being sued by an investor who alleges that it misstated the promise of its dietary supplement Anatabloc.
One of Cuccinelli’s purchases of company stock — about $10,000 worth — was made just two months after the company filed suit against the state.
There is no evidence that Cuccinelli sought to intervene personally in Star Scientific’s suit, which the company filed in July 2011 to challenge a sales and use tax assessment on tobacco-curing barns it owns in Mecklenberg, Va.
While the DPVA put out an APril Fools’ joke email today, saying that Cuccinelli had resigned, he has not. The AG’s office is, however, charged with defending the tax assessment.
Brian Gottstein, a spokesman for Cuccinelli, said his office did not retain outside counsel to handle the issue because neither the assistant attorney general handling the case nor her supervisor knew of Cuccinelli’s relationship with the company.
Lots of firms, but especially law firms and CPA firms, keep information that allows them to avoid any conflicts of interest. One of the non-profit boards on which I serve has all of items members submit a conflict of interest statement each year. That the AG’s office was not aware makes me wonder if such a list does not exist. And, if not, that is just sloppy.
All professions are bound by a code of ethics and tend to err on the side of caution when it comes to circumstances like this. The code is designed “to avoid even the appearance of impropriety,” House Minority Leader David J. Toscano said in the article.
While the DPVA put out an April Fools’ email today about Cuccinelli’s resignation, there is some truth to it: Cuccinelli should resign. He cannot serve his constituents – that would be the people of Virginia – and his donors at the same time.