CHARLESTON, W.Va. (Legal Newsline) - Patrick Morrisey, the Republican candidate for West Virginia Attorney General, has released an 11-point ethics reform plan.
He called the release "a comprehensive plan to advance ethics reform and prevent election fraud in West Virginia." It includes initiatives he says the Attorney General can implement administratively and others which will require changes in state law.
"The chief law enforcement officer of West Virginia must be a leader in efforts to enhance ethical practices in state government," Morrisey said. "As Attorney General, I will fight for common-sense proposals that restore citizens' trust in our government."
Taking aim at incumbent Democrat Darrell McGraw, Morrisey says his ethics package would end "the Attorney General's wasteful and corrupt expenditure of taxpayer dollars to engage in political campaigning and self-promotion."
Morrisey's plan would ensure settlement monies will be returned to the state Legislature and taxpayers rather than being given to the Attorney General's Office.
"Under the United States and West Virginia Constitutions, only the legislative branch possesses the 'power of the purse' to spend money," Morrisey said. "It's long past time that the West Virginia Attorney General's office returns to this basic principle and relinquishes control of how monies are disbursed once a settlement is reached.
"These are taxpayer dollars and should no longer be used as a private piggy bank or free campaign account for elected politicians."
Morrisey's plan will also establish competitive bidding for the state's use of private lawyers.
"In order to advance transparency and ensure that the taxpayers don't overpay for legal services, law firms hired by the state must be subject to competition," he said. "The concept of competitive bidding has bipartisan support and should be implemented without delay."
Other parts of Morrisey's plan include limiting the Attorney General to two full terms in office, and clarifying the law to ensure that the Attorney General is the principal enforcement officer for election laws in West Virginia.
Morrisey, a Washington attorney who lives Harpers Ferry, said improving ethical practices will be one of his top priorities as Attorney General and a major focus of his campaign.
"We must aggressively fight corruption in our state and ensure that taxpayer monies and the integrity of the ballot box are protected," he said. "I will not compromise on these fundamental points."
In his proposal, Morrisey takes aim at McGraw a few times.
* He says the Legislature, not the Attorney General, should decide how taxpayer money is spent.
* He references "political self-promotion," such as "pens, magnets and all other trinkets" as well as allowing the Legislature to decide how the $6 million in "educational assistance" from the mortgage foreclosure settlement should be spent.
* He also mentions how McGraw's office is using that settlement money to open an office in Berkeley County.
Morrisey, a health care lawyer with the Washington, D.C. firm of King & Spalding, says he would bring "a new perspective to efforts to repeal Obamacare, curb federal and state government over-regulation, provide competent counsel on Medicaid matters, and advance meaningful ethics reform."
Originally from New Jersey, Morrisey earned a bachelor of arts, in history and political science, with honors, from Rutgers College in 1989 and a juris doctor from Rutgers Law School-Newark, in 1992. He is married and has a 14-year-old stepdaughter.
McGraw is seeking his sixth term as attorney general. A native of Wyoming County, McGraw served in the U.S. Army and later graduated from West Virginia University and WVU's College of Law. He later served on the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals before becoming AG in 1992. McGraw is married to Jorea Marple, the first woman to be named state Superintendent of Schools. He has four children and one grandson.
The primary election is May 8, and the general election is Nov. 6.