Unlike the many political scandals that begin in the bedroom, the controversy engulfing outgoing Virginia governor Bob McDonnell started in his kitchen. Last year, when the chef at the executive mansion was accused of stealing food, he gave law-enforcement officials a juicier tale: the McDonnell family had received lavish personal gifts from a donor without disclosing them.
State and federal investigations ensued, and McDonnell's political fortunes soured as details of the alleged relationship came to light. Since the governor entered office in 2010, Jonnie Williams Sr., CEO of dietary-supplement company Star Scientific, reportedly feted the McDonnells with a $6,500 Rolex, $15,000 for their daughter's wedding, a New York shopping spree for the First Lady, a lakefront vacation, thousands of dollars in loans and more.
McDonnell denies breaking the law and says Williams' company, which scored meetings with top state officials, never got preferential treatment. But on July 23 the former Republican vice-presidential short-lister apologized "for the embarrassment certain members of my family and I brought upon my beloved Virginia" and repaid the loans. Cooking up a comeback seems unlikely--at least anytime soon.