This week, the Charleston Gazette endorsed state Attorney General Darrell McGraw for re-election.

But the powers-that-be publishing West Virginia's largest daily didn't have to tell their readers they endorsed his candidacy. They've been supporting McGraw's aberrant behavior in the office since before we started publishing here in 2005. We don't mean just on the editorial page.

Much of the Gazette's overt genuflection to McGraw has appeared on its news pages, where news is supposed to be as fair and balanced. When it comes to fair coverage of our state attorney general, the Gazette has been more than fair.

Potentially "bad" news involving McGraw seems to be ignored, while editors often give front page treatment to news that makes him look good.

How do we know? Our reporters walk the same beats as theirs, and it never ceases to amaze us what we report and they don't.

Like the fact that the federal government is withholding $4 million from the state in response to McGraw's disbursement of money procured in a lawsuit between the state and drugmaker Purdue Pharma. It's a huge story -- one that the Gazette has downplayed.

The facts of this saga are stunning. Rather than putting $10 million in the state treasury where it belongs, our attorney general schemed to parcel it out for his own purposes. He dropped a large dollop to reward his trial lawyer donors, then took the rest and started his own personal political rewards fund.

But the Gazette didn't bother to investigate the story. It didn't examine the millions paid to those trial lawyers, or question the legality of McGraw's usurping legislative authority to unilaterally spend tax dollars.

Rather, when McGraw thumbed his nose at Gov. Joe Manchin and the state Legislature, daring them to try and stop his self-serving spending, the Gazette took the attorney general's side. Then, with the objectivity of a political party bulletin, it lauded him at any number of check-writing photo-ops, thus becoming a regular source of information for those interested in our attorney general's pre-election, taxpayer-funded gift-giving tour.

Meanwhile, an unprecedented federal investigation into McGraw's actions, which has cost West Virginia taxpayers millions, has been all but ignored by the Gazette, the extent of whose coverage used up but a few drops of ink.

For a newspaper that considers itself the most important in our state, such overtly favorable coverage is a disgrace.

The Gazette's late activist publisher Ned Chilton claimed a "sustained outrage" drove him to muckrake and fight for the public good. It's more clear now than ever -- his drive and spirit are long gone. West Virginia is worse off for the loss.

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