McAuliffe: Investigation a ‘shock’

Gov. Terry McAuliffe answers questions from reporters on Tuesday. Rachel Mahoney/Daily

BOYCE – In his first remarks since news broke that he was under federal investigation, Gov. Terry McAuliffe said Tuesday he is “fully confident” that donations to his campaign from a Chinese businessman were legal.

“Our legal team, every check that came into the campaign was vetted, and they feel, and they do this day, very confident the guy’s a legitimate donor,” McAuliffe said after a bill signing ceremony at the state arboretum.

The donation in question came from Wang Wenliang, a Chinese citizen who holds a green card authorizing him to live and conduct business in the United States as a permanent resident. His China-based company controls a New Jersey business from which McAuliffe’s 2013 campaign and inauguration received $120,000. Most residents of other nations are banned from making political contributions to U.S. politicians, but foreign nationals with green cards are an exception.

McAuliffe described his reaction as “shock” when he learned that he was the subject of an FBI investigation that includes other campaign donations and his personal finances. McAuliffe said he has heard nothing from law enforcement officials about the investigation.

“No one has outreached to us,” he said.

McAuliffe, a Democrat, is the second consecutive Virginia governor to come under FBI investigation. Gov. Bob McDonnell, a Republican, was convicted and sentenced to prison on corruption charges. He remains free while awaiting a U.S. Supreme Court ruling on his challenge to the legality of the statute under which he was convicted.

McAuliffe said Wang is a member of the board at New York University and has donated to Harvard University.

Wang has also donated to the Clinton Foundation, a worldwide charity organized by former President Clinton, Democratic presidential front-runner Hillary Clinton and their daughter Chelsea.

McAuliffe, himself a wealthy businessman, said his long friendship and political alliance with the Clintons increased the chances that some people who have donated to the foundation would also contribute to his campaign. He denied the connection was anything more than the product of people who “travel in the same circles.”

“This has nothing to do with the Clinton Foundation,” McAuliffe said. “This was an allegation about a gentleman who gave a check to my campaign. I didn’t bring the donor in. I didn’t bring him into the Clinton Foundation. I’m not even sure if I met the person.”

The Washington Post, citing an anonymous official, reported Tuesday that neither the presidential campaign nor foundation is under investigation.

Contact staff writer Joe Beck at 540-465-5137 ext. 142, or jbeck@nvdaily.com