Va. Gov: I folllowed the law

Posted at 7:00 PM, May 24, 2016
and last updated 2016-05-24 19:00:41-04

ALEXANDRIA, Va. (AP) — Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe said Tuesday that he is confident he followed the law in accepting donations that now appear to be part of a federal criminal investigation.

McAuliffe defended his actions to reporters, a day after a law-enforcement official told The Associated Press that McAuliffe is the subject of a federal investigation looking at donations to his 2013 gubernatorial campaign.

McAuliffe said he believes the investigation centers around a donation connected to a Chinese businessman, Wang Wenliang. Federal law forbids foreigners from contributing to U.S. political campaigns, but McAuliffe said Wang has held a green card for nearly a decade and is a legitimate donor.

"He was vetted by the campaign and this gentleman is certainly entitled to give money to the campaign," McAuliffe told reporters, after speaking at a preplanned event at a parole and probation office in Alexandria.

He described Wang as "a very substantial individual" who's made major donations to Harvard University and is on the board at New York University.

McAuliffe said he doesn't think he's even met Wang, though he believes he's met people from Wang's company.

He said he's "100 percent" confident that he did not take any illegal donations. "I rely on the people who did the vetting. They have unequivocally said he was entitled to write a check."

The FBI and Justice Department have declined to comment on the long-running investigation.

One of Wang's companies, New Jersey-based West Legend, gave $70,000 to McAuliffe's gubernatorial campaign and $50,000 to his inaugural committee in 2013, according to Virginia campaign finance records.

A spokeswoman for Wang did not immediately return a request for comment.

Wang's campaign giving appears limited to McAuliffe. Neither West Legend nor Wang has given to any other state-level campaign, according to the National Institute on Money in State Politics, a nonprofit money-in-politics tracker. Nor has Wang personally given to federal candidates, according to the Federal Elections Commission's database.

McAuliffe said he is not particularly worried about an investigation, and that he was totally unaware of it before Monday.

"No one's alleged any wrongdoing on my part," he said. "If you haven't done anything wrong, what should you be worried about?"

McAuliffe, a Democrat and longtime friend of Bill and Hillary Clinton, said he's also confident the investigation won't harm Hillary Clinton's presidential bid.

"I don't think this has anything to do with Hillary Clinton," McAuliffe said.

McAuliffe is a former board member of the Clinton Global Initiative, a program of the Clinton Foundation. The foundation reports that it received $1 million to $5 million from one of Wang's companies, Rilin Enterprises, but does not say when the money was given.

One of Wang's companies, Dandong Port Group, has a trade deal to ship Virginia soybeans to China. Virginia Secretary of Agriculture and Forestry Todd Haymore said Dandong has purchased "hundreds of millions" worth of Virginia soybeans in recent years.

Wang is also an active environmentalist. Democratic Leader Harry Reid last year thanked Wang for his "commitment and dedication" to restoring the Dandong Yalu River Estuary Wetland in China, a major wetlands, according to a statement published in the congressional record.