Are the only capable attorneys in West Virginia those who contribute to state Attorney General Darrell McGraw?
McGraw challenger Dan Greear felt compelled to ask this week, after his incumbent opponent enlisted four more lawyer-supporters to troll for lawsuits worth filing on behalf of the state.
"Friends of Darrell" Anthony Majestro, James Peterson and Jonathan Turak -- along with non-contributor Jim Lees -- joined West Virginia's ever-lengthening roster of deputized plaintiff's attorneys, as McGraw granted them authority to "investigate" whether the state should sue a life insurance company.
Over the years, those three men, law firm members and families have given McGraw some $30,000 in campaign contributions.
This is serious money in West Virginia. But it's nothing much compared to what the attorneys stand to make in contingency fees for pursuing what could be a slam-dunk case.
The company in question, Variable Annuities Life Insurance Co., has not been found guilty of anything. It's only an investigation at this point. But as is often the case, when a company is formally charged by a state government with unlimited resources, it acts quickly to cut its losses. And private lawyers supposedly acting in our behalf hustle to accept, quickly lock-in their fees and claim victory.
The latest case in point: four friendly law firms stand poised to cash in on a proposed McGraw lawsuit settlement between the state and credit card processors Visa and Mastercard.
If a judge approves, Bucci Bailey & Javins in Charleston, Wexler Toriseva Wallace LLP in Wheeling, Hagens Berman Sobol Shapiro LLP in Seattle, and Cuneo Gilbert & LaDuca LLP in Washington, D.C., will share $4 million in fees for their efforts. Creating a storm for these two companies isn't hard with Charleston's wind at their backs.
Teresa Toriseva and Guy Bucci are, to no one's surprise, McGraw donors.
They and McGraw are predictably lauding the deal as a victory for West Virginia consumers.
Perhaps you haven't noticed the benefits of their efforts? Neither have we. But the lawyers have, as measured in their cut of the millions they have "won" from businesses vital to the state's residents.
Greear says he's outraged by this pay-to-play outrage. As taxpayers, so should we.
So are we?