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UPDATED: U.S. Navy Vets director's political donations result in boon for Virginia charities

Rosalind Helderman

The public exposure that has come to the U.S. Navy Veterans Association in Virginia after their founder Bobby Thompson made contributions to various elected officials has not worked out so well for the group. However, the group's loss has turned into various other charities' gain in the Commonwealth.

The group is now under investigation by the Virginia's Office of Consumer Affairs, which regulates charities. Two state delegates yesterday asked the governor to direct the Virginia State Police to investigate as well, though a spokeswoman for the department said no such inquiry has so far been opened.

After questions were raised about the group's activities--authorities have been unable to locate many of the officers and staffers listed on various official documents--several Virginia politicians who had received donations from Thompson pledged to contribute money in equal amounts to his donation to other charities.

We've now got a listing of who gave where.

Gov. Bob McDonnell (R), who had received $5,000 from Thompson during his fall campaign, gave $5,000 in campaign funds to the Naval Special Warfare Foundation, which supports families of fallen SEALs and other special forces members. House Speaker William Howell (R-Stafford) contributed his $2,000 donation to the Fredericksburg branch of the group Families of the Wounded Fund.

Del. Chris Jones (R-Suffolk) has donated his $2,000 donation to the Virginia Wounded Warrior Fund. Sen. Patsy Ticer (D-Alexandria), who had carried a bill at the group's request to exempt veterans organizations from annual state charity registration requirements, said she has pledged the $1,000 she received from Thompson to the Alexandria chapter of Healthy Families, a group that sponsors home visits for at-risk families to help prevent child abuse and neglect.

The only sitting official whom we have not yet received word about is Del. Tom Gear (R-Hampton), who got $2,000 for his reelection effort from Thompson. An aide to Gear said he would get back to us with information about whether Gear had donated the money.

Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli (R) was the recipient of Thompson's most generous gifts--two checks totaling $55,500. After resisting, Cuccinelli has said he would put an equivalent amount in a restricted bank account and donate it to charity if Thompson is convicted of misappropriating the group's funds.

Meanwhile. Corinne Geller, a spokeswoman for the agency, said the State Police has not opened an investigation into the group. She said the department hasn't yet received a copy of a letter from two delegates asking that the governor direct such action. According to the state police's statutory authority, the governor has the power to order an investigation into any matter. The attorney general can also request a felony investigation, as can commonwealth's attorneys, chiefs of police, sheriffs and grand juries.

UPDATE 4:23 p.m.: We've heard back from Gear, who said he does not plan to give away the $2,000 donation he received from Thompson. "No one has shown me that they've done anything wrong. Have they been convicted of anything?" Gear said. "Until they're convicted of something, I don't know if it was an illegal operation. If I find out it's an illegal operaiton, I will most certainly return to the funds."

Gear said he didn't know Thompson or the group. Gear said he received a call from the Florida man during the campaign asking for his address, so he could send a donation. When the check arrived, Gear said he was surpised to see it was for $2,000, a large donation for him. "He didn't say anything about any legialstion at all. I just figured he thought I was doing scuh a good job he wanted to give to my campaign," Gear said.


By Rosalind Helderman  |  June 29, 2010; 11:51 AM ET
Categories:  Ken Cuccinelli , Robert F. McDonnell , Rosalind Helderman  
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Comments

"doing scuh a good job"

Posted by: Simon23p | June 29, 2010 11:39 PM | Report abuse

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