McGraw mailer a common target for AG hopefuls

John O'Brien Mar. 5, 2008, 3:40pm




CHARLESTON, W. Va. - Republican candidates for West Virginia's Attorney General's office are taking shots at Democratic incumbent Darrell McGraw instead of each other.

Both Dan Greear and Hiram Lewis have recently criticized a McGraw mailer that informs those with concealed weapon permits of the states that share handgun reciprocity agreements with West Virginia. They claim it is a publicity stunt.

"The practice is unnecessary and a continuation of the 15-year perpetual re-election campaign of Darrell McGraw," said Greear, a partner at Kesner, Kesner and Bramble and a former member of the House of Delegates.

"This is a campaign run directly out of the Attorney General's office at taxpayer expense."

The 13-page pamphlets feature a picture of McGraw, seeking his fifth term, on the cover. In a report in the Charleston Daily Mail, Lewis said McGraw runs his campaign through money in his office's general fund.

Before formally announcing his run, Lewis, a Morgantown attorney who lost to McGraw in the closest Attorney General's race in state history in 2004, made a similar statement.

"It's a no-brainer that to keep political power in this state, name recognition is the key," Lewis said. "The more trinkets you can buy, the more checks you can distribute and the more pictures you have in the paper, the better you stand to gain politically."

Lewis was speaking about McGraw's 2004 settlement with Purdue Pharma. He structured the agreement in a way that allows his office to distribute $10 million on substance abuse programs instead of fashioning one that allowed the state's Legislature to appropriate the money.

Because McGraw's office kept the money, the federal Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services says it did not receive its portion of the settlement. McGraw had argued the state's Medicaid program was harmed by Pharma painkiller OxyContin because of its addiction capabilities, and the CMS provides nearly 75 cents of every dollar spent on Medicaid in the state.

The CMS is withholding $4.1 million from its next Medicaid funding payment, a decision the State is appealing.

"These settlements are specifically designed to create a slush fund he can distribute at will. That's not America. That's not constitutional," Lewis said.

Chief Deputy Attorney General Fran Hughes did not return a message seeking comment. She told the Daily Mail that the debate over the handgun pamphlets is "becoming reduced to the nonsensical level."

McGraw also put his name on gunlocks that were given out. Hughes said the gunlocks were provided by a national settlement.

"Shouldn't you benefit from incumbency if you've held the office and you have delivered and been responsible?" she said, according to the report.

Greear claims the information in the pamphlet could have been found elsewhere, notably McGraw's website. He also thinks McGraw is attempting to pick up the votes of firearm-enthusiasts.

"Once again, McGraw puts himself above the people in the state," Greear said.

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