By Rosalind S. Helderman and Carol D. Leonnig

AnatablocA wealthy political donor has told federal prosecutors that he believed that Virginia Gov. Robert F. McDonnell was helping his company get state research funding at the same time the executive was providing McDonnell’s family with gifts and money, according to two people familiar with the donor’s account.

E-mails obtained through the Freedom of Information Act also show that researchers and scientists working with the company thought that McDonnell (R) and his wife, Maureen, wanted the company to receive the funding from the state’s tobacco commission. The researchers were in communication with Star Scientific Inc. officials during the same months that Chief Executive Jonnie R. Williams Sr. said he believed McDonnell was helping, the e-mails show.

The effort to win commission funding is of keen interest to prosecutors as one piece of a possible pattern in which McDonnell and his wife offered to assist the company in 2011 and 2012, according to people with knowledge of what Williams has told investigators. That is the same time frame in which the McDonnell family received the gifts and money.

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