Del. Carrie Webster says she wants to pull back the curtain on "shadow" campaign organizations here in West Virginia.
However, that curtain can stay closed for the ones that profess undying loyalty to her husband's boss and his siblings. Or the ones created to further the political goals of her law partner.
Such overt hypocrisy and rank self-interest color the ongoing legislative clash in Charleston over proposed election finance regulation. It would require non-party affiliated groups to disclose sources of funding if they run ads against political candidates in the Mountain State.
That includes candidates up for re-election such as West Virginia Attorney General Darrell McGraw, who can't wreak revenge on his political opponents if he doesn't have the names and addresses.
McGraw desperately wants Webster's plan to become reality. For what it's worth, his office writes the Webster household's second taxpayer-funded paycheck. It's made out to Greg Skinner, an assistant attorney general for McGraw.
Surely, Skinner had nothing to do with spawning this proposed legislation. Nor was he involved in the selection of his wife's Charleston law firm, Bucci, Bailey & Javins, as "deputy" counsel to McGraw in his antitrust lawsuit against VISA and Mastercard. The firm--including Webster--stand to share part of $4 million in fees for its "work" on the case.
Ironically, Webster's law partner, Tim Bailey, once led an infamous shadow campaign organization of his own. Called West Virginia Consumer Attorneys, it funded another shadow organization--West Virginia Consumers for Justice--expressly dedicated to re-electing McGraw's brother, Warren, to the State Supreme Court in 2004.
Bailey's group spent some $2 million, working to successfully thwart a Democrat primary challenge, then failed to beat back the candidacy of Justice Brent Benjamin.
Business executive Don Blankenship, a McGraw critic, countered Bailey's murky group with his own undisguised efforts. He made himself a lightning rod by publicly disclosing what he personally spent--$1.7 million-- for his candidate. The voters didn't all agree with him, but when they went to the polls they knew he did so. No shadows or curtains there.
Four years later, the voters still don't know who financed West Virginia Consumers for Justice. In all her fervor for campaign finance disclosure, maybe Del. Webster can use her connections to finally let us in on the secret.
We aren't holding our breath.