In all likelihood, you haven't signed a check and sent it to West Virginia Attorney General Darrell McGraw's re-election campaign. But rest assured you have helped his campaign financially if you're a taxpayer in our state. No one is better than McGraw at using the public's money to promote himself.
Two realities rule politics: First, name recognition is critical. People who know little or nothing about a race on Election Day tend, all other things being equal, to vote for the name that rings a bell.
For many years, McGraw has used millions of dollars that should have gone into state coffers to ensure Mountain State voters know him and think of him as the attorney general. As attorney general, he is involved with lawsuits - sometimes pursued on his office's behalf by out-of-state lawyers who happen to be donors to his campaign - against companies that sometimes cough up big money to settle. Occasionally, McGraw doesn't have to lift a finger to rake in the dough. That happened earlier this year when five big banks paid $25 billion to settle a federal government action alleging they behaved improperly.
West Virginia's share is $5.7 million, paid over to McGraw's office. He is using the money for a highly publicized "Save Our Homes" campaign. Every press release on it features his name prominently. Every workshop makes it clear the help is coming from McGraw's office.
It's typical of his approach. Money from another settlement, against drug companies, was held by his office instead of going to state health care agencies. He used it for his consumer protection program, again reaping tons of free publicity and goodwill.
Rule No. 2 is that all politics is local. McGraw scored quite a coup in that regard earlier this year.
For years he has wanted to open a satellite office in Berkeley County (where his opponent in the 2008 election, Daniel Greear, beat him by 1,559 votes). But legislators, clearly suspecting the idea was politically motivated, wouldn't provide the money.
Earlier this spring, McGraw triumphantly announced he would open a satellite office in the Eastern Panhandle, presumably funding it with some of the money his office has collected and which should, of course, have been paid over to the state treasurer. And by the way, McGraw's opponent for attorney general this year, Patrick Morrisey, lives in the Eastern Panhandle.
What a coincidence that McGraw would open the new office during an election year ...
Morrisey is receiving a ton of support from West Virginians. His last campaign finance report shows that during the filing period, he received $68,990 in donations. McGraw was able to pick up just $10,250 during the same period.
But that doesn't bother him because McGraw already has used far more to publicize himself than Morrisey can raise. The difference, of course, is that Morrisey had to raise his own money. McGraw used yours and mine.
There's an interesting aspect to the most recent campaign finance donations, by the way. Of the $10,250 McGraw listed in donations, $7,250 came from people listing their occupation as "beer distributor." I am not making this up.
Syndicated columnist Scott Rasmussen, whose work appears weekly in The Intelligencer, had much of interest to say during his Thursday appearance in Wheeling, courtesy of the West Liberty University Economics Club.
At one point, in discussing the women's suffrage movement, he suggested some members of the Wyoming territorial legislature had an ulterior motive in granting the vote to females in 1869. Some historians believe the factor cited by Rasmussen indeed may have been part of legislators' thinking.
Why did they do it? "Because there were no women in Wyoming" at that time, Rasmussen said (actually, there were a few, but they were outnumbered six-to-one by men). "Men will do anything to get women to come and hang out with them," he explained.
Myer can be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.