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A Project of The Annenberg Public Policy Center

Trump on Tim Kaine’s Gifts

On Twitter and TV, Donald Trump falsely claimed that former Virginia Gov. Tim Kaine “took far more money” in gifts than another former Virginia governor, Bob McDonnell, who was convicted on bribery charges — a conviction later overturned by the Supreme Court.

Trump compared Kaine — Hillary Clinton’s choice for vice president — to McDonnell, who was convicted in 2014 of taking more than $175,000 in loans and gifts from a businessman without disclosing them. As lieutenant governor and governor, Kaine reported accepting gifts worth about $161,000. But much of the money came from political committees for travel expenses and Kaine disclosed them as required by law.

On July 23, Trump tweeted — and later deleted — this: “Why did Tim Kaine have no problem when he took far more money as Governor of Virginia than Bob McDonald. Crooked Hillary & rigged system!” Trump meant McDonnell, not “McDonald,” as he made clear the next day on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” Trump told host Chuck Todd, “Bob McDonnell took a fraction of what Kaine took.”

Todd pointed out that Kaine’s gifts were legal and properly reported. The two men had the following exchange, which began with Todd asking Trump why he loves that Clinton selected Kaine to be on the Democratic ticket:

Trump, July 24: Well, first of all, he took over $160,000 of gifts. And they said, “Well, they weren’t really gifts, they were suits and trips and lots of different things,” all for 160–

Todd: Legal, legal in the state of Virginia.

Trump: Bob McDonnell– I believe it was Bob McDonnell, in the meantime, he had to go to the United States Supreme Court to get out of going to jail–

Todd: Well, they proved to quid pro quo–

Trump: –for taking a fraction of what–

Todd: They proved quid pro quo on that one.

Trump: Excuse me, Bob McDonnell took a fraction of what Kaine took. And I think, to me, it’s a big problem. Now, how do you take all these gifts? Hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Trump gets the dollar amounts wrong. It was actually McDonnell who took more in gifts and loans.

In overturning McDonnell’s conviction, the U.S. Supreme Court noted that the value of the loans and gifts at issue in the case was “over $175,000.” Jonnie R. Williams Sr., who at the time was chief executive of Star Scientific, gave McDonnell a Rolex watch and agreed to provide a $50,000 loan and a $15,000 gift to help pay for the wedding for McDonnell’s daughter, among other gifts, according to the court ruling.

Nevertheless, the court ruled that prosecutors overreached in contending that five “official acts” taken by McDonnell on behalf of William and Star Scientific amounted to bribery.

“There is no doubt that this case is distasteful; it may be worse than that, “Chief Justice John Roberts wrote for the majority. “But our concern is not with tawdry tales of Ferraris, Rolexes, and ball gowns. It is instead with the broader legal implications of the Government’s boundless interpretation of the federal bribery statute.”

In a July 24 article, the New York Times wrote than Kaine received more than $160,000 in gifts, citing the nonpartisan Virginia Public Access Project. The group on its website places the exact amount as $161,033, based on public records.

“Tim Kaine reported these items on Schedule D-1 (paid conferences) and Schedule E (gifts) in his personal finance disclosures,” the Virginia Public Access Project site says.

The Times story notes that some of Kaine’s gifts were given by those with business before the state, including four cases of wine from a lobbying firm that “worked closely with Mr. Kaine’s office to create a new system for distributing wine produced” by the state’s small vineyards. Kaine reported the value of the wine at $720.

Kaine also stayed for a week on the Caribbean island of Mustique, courtesy of businessman James B. Murray Jr., the paper wrote. Kaine reported the vacation’s value at $18,000.

However, the Virginia Public Access Project’s website shows that many of the gifts were from political organizations.

For example, the top two “gift givers” were Obama for America ($45,075), which was the official campaign committee of Barack Obama, and Moving Virginia Forward PAC ($20,025), Kaine’s leadership PAC. The Democratic Party of Virginia ($10,830), the Arizona Democratic Party ($3,957), Mark Warner’s U.S. Senate campaign ($2,588) and the West Virginia Democratic Party ($1,233)  were also among the gift givers.

The gifts alone from these six political organizations, which covered Kaine’s travel and hotel accommodations for political events, accounted for half of the $161,000 reported by Kaine.

So Trump is not only wrong when he said Kaine “took far more money” than McDonnell, but much of what Kaine reported reflected routine political travel.