Opponent questions McGraw fundraiser

Chris Dickerson Sep. 23, 2008, 10:55am



CHARLESTON, W.Va. (Legal Newsline) - West Virginia Attorney General Darrell McGraw's opponent in the general election has asked the attorney general to explain a fundraiser at the firm of an attorney who is in line to receive money after working as a special assistant.

Republican candidate Dan Greear on Monday issued a statement asking McGraw to explain the "on again, off-again" fundraiser at the law offices of Wheeling attorney Teresa Toriseva.

Toriseva is one of the private attorneys who has worked on a case in which McGraw's office sued Visa and MasterCard, alleging that the two credit card giants used illegal business practices that increased the cost of doing business for merchants accepting Visa's and MasterCard's credit and debit cards, which costs were passed on to consumers.

Earlier this year, the state settled with the companies, which set aside $12.1 million for a sales tax holiday that occurred earlier this month. Last month, Ohio Circuit Court Judge Ronald Wilson decided to withhold $3.9 million from lawyers on the case while he considers an objection to the attorney fees.

"Is another one of McGraw's campaign contributors hosting a fundraiser for Darrell?" Greear asked. "Just two weeks ago, Deputy Attorney General Fran Hughes lost her cool during a hearing in Ohio County when McGraw contributor Teresa Toriseva was denied more than a million dollars in sweetheart contingency fees.

"Now, we know why. Toriseva had scheduled a fundraiser for McGraw on September 30th. Now, it seems the fundraiser is off. Is it because Toriseva's million dollar payday was delayed?"

Greear said an announcement and subsequent cancellation of the Sept. 30 fundraiser recently was issued.

"Teresa Toriseva holding a fundraiser for Darrell McGraw while in line for a huge contingency fee payday is inappropriate and outrageous, even by McGraw standards," Greear said. "Now, it seems this fundraiser has been canceled.

"Was it canceled because Toriseva and Hughes finally figured out it was inappropriate or was it because she hadn't yet received her huge payday? This is typical Darrell McGraw. Campaign contributors and those who raise money for Darrell are quickly rewarded with million dollar paydays. The time for this type of outrageous activity is at an end."

West Virginia Citizens Against Lawsuit Abuse also questioned the motives.

"So, a McGraw hire about to cash in on $4 million in public money from a lawsuit McGraw settled is rescheduling the fundraiser for him?" said WV CALA Executive Director Steve Cohen, whose objection in court helped persuade Wilson to withhold payment. "Perhaps the timing of what appears to be another pay-to-play deal in the attorney general's office is a little awkward."

Toriseva declined comment, and Hughes did not return calls seeking comment.

Noting the release of his campaign's first Web ad last week entitled "McGraw's Game of Monopoly," Greear said the timing couldn't be better.

"Here Darrell goes again, giving millions in contingency fees to his campaign contributors," Greear said. "They then hold huge fundraisers for the attorney general. The people of this state can see this for what it is, a quid pro quo.

"Raising Darrell McGraw money is the quickest and surest way to get in line for millions in no-bid, non-transparent contingency fee contracts."

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