Virginia’s former first lady, Maureen McDonnell, is heading to prison for a year and a day after she was found guilty of trading favors in return for loans, vacations and gifts. Her husband, former Gov. Bob McDonnell, has also been sentenced and is appealing the ruling. A onetime GOP star, his career is likely over.
Much went wrong for the McDonnells. But there is one aspect members of Congress should note: A spouse’s lack of understanding of, or disregard for ethics rules can have disastrous consequences. Bob McDonnell spent years in the public eye, which came with a reasonable expectation he would be familiar with ethics rules and hire a staff suitable to the job; his wife had no such expectation. She lacked in the areas that could have protected her: She did not have the background or understanding to prepare her for the very public role of being Virginia’s first lady, and she was said to be difficult to work with and distrustful of staff, leaving them unable to advise her when she showed poor judgment.