CHARLESTON – Attorney General Darrell McGraw handed out a $40,000 check last week to the Clay Center, and that has drawn criticism again from some state lawmakers.

McGraw had a press conference Dec. 8 to award the check to the arts and science center for the Avampato Discovery Museum's exhibit of "Sesame Street Presents: The Body." The AG now is a sponsor of the exhibit, which ends Dec. 31.

Critics, such as state Sen. Andy McKenzie, say McGraw once again has overstepped his bounds.

"The problem that I have is, here again, he's acting like a fourth branch of government," McKenzie told the Charleston Daily Mail. "He has no (constitutional) ability to arbitrarily pass out money at his discretion.

"(It seems McGraw) is putting this money in his own little piggy bank to disburse at his will and pleasure."

The money was part of a $1.3 million antitrust settlement reached in 2004 with the maker of Hytrin, a blood pressure medication.

"This money is the result of the work-product of the Attorney General's office," McGraw said at the press conference. "Our product always exceeds the cost of the operation of our office."

Chief Deputy AG Fran Hughes told the Daily Mail that about $762,000 of the Hytrin money went into operating the antitrust enforcement branch of McGraw's office. That branch is funded solely on settlement money. About half of the rest of the money went to day report centers that didn't get any of the $10 million OxyContin settlement, Hughes told the Daily Mail.

The rest went to the Sesame Street exhibit at the Clay Center.

Hughes, who didn't return calls to The Record seeking comment, told the Daily Mail that she disputes McKenzie's argument.

"The notion that we have this large pot of money that we control, that's not true," she said.

McGraw's office has been criticized for distributing settlement money, most notably the OxyContin settlement to day report centers.

McKenzie says more and more lawmakers are growing tired of McGraw's distributions, but he told the Daily Mail that no one is willing to challenge McGraw.

"I'm a voice in the wilderness," he said.

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