How's this for a deal: You win the lottery and we spend the money?

Doesn't seem quite fair, does it? That's essentially the deal state Attorney General Darrell McGraw is trying to foist off on the people of West Virginia.

Acting on behalf of the state, McGraw has settled lawsuits against major drug companies, but he has retained control and spent much of the proceeds, letting the state hold the bag for reimbursements due to the federal government. That means state services and benefits may have to be cut or taxes may have to be raised to cover the federal payback.

That's a bad deal in the best of times, but it's worse when our state is in the midst of a major economic crisis.

The federal government is withholding nearly half a million dollars in future Medicaid funding to recoup its share of McGraw's settlement with pharmaceuticals manufacturer Dey, Inc.

Instead of being returned to the state legislature and the federal government, the $850,000 settlement went to McGraw's "Consumer Protection Fund," to be spent on McGraw's priorities.

That's just the beginning. McGraw's $10 million settlement with Purdue Pharma in 2004 has also come under scrutiny with the federal government contending that roughly half of that significant sum is theirs. Other settlements are likely to be reviewed and generate further federal claims. It's going to get worse.

So, if McGraw was quick to spend money that didn't belong to him and spend it as he pleased, why isn't he the one obliged to repay it? Why isn't his budget cut? Why can't his preferred private lawyers--to whom he dished so much settlement cash--cough up the money? Why are the state and the people of West Virginia left footing the bill?

The cartoon character Quick Draw McGraw would shoot first and ask questions later, leaving it to others to clean up the mess he'd made. The cartoon McGraw was make-believe. Our Quick Draw is only too real, and we'll pay a heavy price for his recklessness. That's for years to come.

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