CHARLESTON, W.Va. (Legal Newsline) - Days before the election, Republican Attorney General candidate Dan Greear is curious why a fundraiser was held for opponent Darrell McGraw in Boston last October.
He also called $66,000 in campaign contributions from attorneys awarded no-bid contracts by McGraw "clearly quid pro quo."
"Darrell McGraw awards secret, no-bid contingency fee contracts to lawyers and they give him campaign contributions in return," said Greear, a Charleston attorney. "McGraw has raked in over $66,000 from these lawyers and they in turn have received millions in contingency fees."
McGraw took in $14,000 from a fundraiser held by Wheeling attorney Teresa Toriseva on Sept. 30 in Wheeling, Greear said. Toriseva spent $1,000 on food, invitations and postage and is currently waiting to find out if her firm and three others will earn $3.9 million in fees for their work in the State's lawsuit against VISA and MasterCard.
Toriseva's firm also hosted a fundraiser in June 2007, and McGraw took in $8,500 in donations.
Other firms given state contracts that have contributed to McGraw this year include Bucci, Bailey & Javins and DiTrapano, Barrett & DiPiero, which benefited from McGraw's controversial 2004 settlement with Purdue Pharma.
McGraw and Chief Deputy Attorney General Fran Hughes have long defended their practice of hiring outside counsel to pursue cases against businesses.
"Think of the terms," Hughes has said. "We don't know how long we want you to work, or how much it will cost you, or how much you'll be paid. The attorneys selected are highly skilled, and have the capital and the infrastructure to try large cases.
"Any judicial officer receives contributions from the bar, but Attorney General McGraw does not appoint special assistant attorneys general based on campaign contributions. Not many attorneys have the expertise to engage in antitrust litigation."
At the fundraiser in Boston, attorneys from Dickstein Shapiro of Washington, D.C., donated $6,000 to McGraw. The event was held shortly after plaintiffs in a class action case against industrial giant DuPont, one of Dickstein Shapiro's clients, was found liable for contaminating the ground and water around its Harrison County plant in Spelter.
The company was eventually ordered to pay $381 million and has appealed the decision. DuPont's Good Government Fund also gave $1,000 to McGraw.
"The DuPont contributions jump off the page at you when review McGraw's report," Greear said.
"They are the only business entity in the country who has contributed to McGraw and they attended and contributed to Darrell at a fundraiser in Boston. Why would a corporate firm like Dickstein Shapiro hold a large fundraiser for the Attorney General of West Virginia?
"What's more puzzling is McGraw has been completely silent about the (Spelter) case when under normal circumstances he would be using the opportunity to bash business. Did the fundraiser quiet the person who was supposed to be for the 'little people' of our state?"
Hughes did return a message seeking comment.
McGraw's office is also under fire from the West Virginia Chamber of Commerce, which recently announced it was putting $694,000 into anti-McGraw advertising. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, owner of Legal Newsline, supplied nearly half that amount.
From Legal Newsline: Reach John O'Brien by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.