Sunday, September 21, 2014

Don't Mess With the Chef: How the McDonnells Cooked Their Own Goose

by Sunnyjane

That old My Wife's a Crazy Bitch defense doesn't work -- even in Virginia
On the same news program where conservative columnist David Brooks called Sarah Palin a joke back in March 2010, he went on to say, We've just had a guy elected Virginia governor who's probably the model for the future of the Republican Party, Bob McDonnell...   Well hey, at least he nailed it on Palin, right? 

And for Your Appetizer Today, We Have...

January 2010:  Who in the hell talked me into this stupid photo op?
When newly inaugurated Gov. Bob McDonnell hoisted his wife over the threshold of  Virginia's two-hundred-year-old Governors Mansion, he did so with the confidence fed by a far-right Christian higher education at Pat Robertson's Regent University, and too many gulps of the milk-and-honey largesse of the Koch Brothers.  During his years in the Virginia House of Delegates, he had honed to a fine point his theocratic, moralistic views that working women were detrimental to the family; that government policy should favor married couples over cohabitators, homosexuals or fornicators; and that the Supreme Court should never have legalized contraceptives for unmarried couples.  And those are just some of his dominionist views.  Not only did he omit to mention slavery during his Confederate History Month proclamation because he didn't feel it was significant enough (huh?), but at one time he proposed reinstating a 1940s book that promoted eugenics back into the state's public schools. 

Such was the jubilation in the GOP that he had turned the Commonwealth back to red after the 2008 election, that just seventeen days after being inaugurated, the-golden-haired-boy McDonnell was chosen to give the Republican rebuttal to President Obama's State of the Union Address.  While he did not embarrass Virginians the way some rebutters have in recent years, it would come to pass that eventually he would suffer the same curse of the rebuttal as others of his ilk had.

With his equally narrow-minded Christian attorney general, Ken Cuccinelli, at his side, the two wasted no time in attempting to put into action their 1950s views on how Virginians should conduct themselves. Unfortunately, they had some success.

And then like a wormy apple, heaven's manna began to rot from the inside out.

Cooking the Books and Robbing the Cookie Jar

Too many cooks spoil the broth.
Todd Schneider didn't particularly want to be the Governors Mansion chef.  He had both a successful catering business and a popular restaurant in Richmond.  The catering business had often done events for many politicians, including the Obama campaign and the Bushes Thanksgiving dinner in 2007.  But his most frequent clients became the McDonnells, who knew they could always depend on him for an outstanding performance.  So when the pleas to cook full-time for the McDonnell family kept coming, he decided to do itI thought it would look good on my résumé. 

Schneider and Maureen McDonnell became quite close, so close in fact that he had a bar stool moved into the kitchen so that she could hang out with him while drinking a glass of wine and complaining, I didn't ask for this job.  The role of cooking for the family quickly morphed into catering events and parties at the mansion, frequently on little notice and often without the proper food to meet last-minute demands.   On such occasions, Todd would call his catering service or restaurant and have them rush over the required provisions.  He then started billing the mansion, but was told it was a conflict of interest for him to invoice mansion funds and was told, Well, why don’t we do this? We’ll do a barter system. You can take back what we owe you in food and we’ll call it that.

Much of Schneider's problems with too few supplies was the brassiness of the five McDonnell children, who pilfered mansion resources like uninhibited grifters.  (Is this what all Republicans mean by free-market principles?  I dunno.)  The chef would come back to the mansion on Mondays and find that the kids had stripped the kitchen and pantry of food, glassware, garbage bags, etc.  When the twins moved out of their dorm at the University of Virginia, Maureen used mansion supplies to help furnish their apartment.

And then one day in February 2012, the FBI and the state police arrived on Todd Schneider's doorstep at 7:30 in the morning.

Revenge is a Dish Best Served Cold

Would you care for a serving of karma before you go to the Gray Bar Motel?
Seems someone had anonymously used the state's waste, fraud, and abuse hotline to report that Schneider was embezzling from the Governors Mansion.  The chef explained the bartering system -- which was proven through court documents to be true -- that he had with the mansion's director and the FBI and staties left satisfied, or so Schneider thought.  However, two days later, they arrived at the mansion and escorted him off the premises.  The fact that the McDonnells could easily have come to his defense at that time, by explaining an honest misunderstanding, proved to be their downfall.  

Todd Schneider would not be that easily manhandled.  He had a file that not only included a copy of the $15,000 check from Star Scientifics' CEO Jonnie Williams for the McDonnell daughter's wedding, but photos of Costco-size hauls of snacks the McDonnell kids had lifted from the mansion.  And he took that file to Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, who was not remotely moved by this evidence, and charged the chef with four counts of felony embezzlement; this was later reduced to two counts of misdemeanor charges, for which Todd Schneider was forced to pay $2,300 in restitution.  Federal prosecutors, however, were extremely interested in Todd Schneider's little file, and used it to start their investigation into Bob and Maureen McDonnell's corruption activities.

And the rest is history.  Karma is a bitch:  Cuccinelli lost the gubernatorial  election in 2013; Jonnie Williams was forced to resign from his own company; and Bob McDonnell will never have a personal chef at the White House.

End Note

Bob: guilty of 11 out of 13 counts of corruption.  Maureen:  Guilty on 9 out of 11 counts of corruption.

Note to America’s Republican Governors:  Karma works in mysterious ways, its  wonders to behold.  When you take away people’s rights, you risk losing your own under particularly ignominious circumstances.


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