CHARLESTON -- The chairman of the state Republican Party had some facts incorrect when he attacked Attorney General Darrell McGraw, but he says he still contends McGraw's record is harmful to West Virginians.
In a recent e-mail press release, Mike Stuart said McGraw was failing West Virginians by not getting involved in a U.S. Supreme Court case involving states and land trusts wanting to be able to file public nuisance lawsuits against coal-fueled power plants because of their global warming ramifications. Power companies, including American Electric Power, and about half of the states are on the other side of the case, saying it could lead to chaos.
But, McGraw's office did include itself in the fight, signing a brief supporting AEP. Also, Stuart apparently mixed the Connecticut case up with a similar but unrelated case titled Massachusetts vs. EPA from 2007.
The West Virginia Record had a story about Stuart's criticism of McGraw on its website until the error was discovered. (Editor's note: The Record apologizes for the mistake.)
When asked for comment about that original story, Chief Deputy Attorney General Fran Hughes said the office won't respond to Stuart's attacks.
"We're not going to respond to every issue that he wants to raise because he's nothing but a political operative with a political agenda," Fran Hughes said. "He's a political wannabe. We're too busy governing, and he's playing politics.
"He's a politician wannabe, and that's what politicians do. They attack. He's going to issue a press release every day attacking our office. He may even have his sights on our office. He has run a racist foundation (the West Virginia Conservative Foundation) attacking representative (Nick) Rahall. I think it speaks for itself. What he says is politically motivated."
Hughes later told the Charleston Daily Mail that she found it odd that Stuart wasn't more focused on this fall's special gubernatorial election.
"I really find it interesting that as head of the Republican Party - I mean, I haven't heard him out talking about any of the candidates for governor. I mean, don't you find that unusual?" Hughes told the Daily Mail. "Instead he's on a diatribe against Judge McGraw that isn't even accurate, as it turns out.
"Is it going to be like this for two years?"
Hughes also told the Daily Mail the cost of a radio campaign that the office has been using – and that Stuart has been criticizing as a way to "use tens of thousands of taxpayer dollars to build his name ID."
She told the Daily Mail that the ads have cost a little more than $24,000 this year. She also defended the ads.
"This is a person who it's his fifth term as attorney general and he was on the Supreme Court - I think West Virginians know who Darrell McGraw is," she told the Daily Mail. "There's going to be some advantages that accrue to an office holder by putting their name on something with the 1-800 number, but it's only beneficial if the person is doing a good job."
Stuart said he took Hughes' comments "as a compliment."
"The record of Darrell McGraw and Fran Hughes is absolutely clear, and it's not a record that is defined by Mike Stuart," Stuart said. "They have been the worst duo to serve in the office of Attorney General in the history of West Virginia. Ms. Hughes personal attacks and her slander of conservatives in West Virginia is both regrettable and unfortunate.
"Darrell McGraw and Fran Hughes have chosen not to defend the people of West Virginia from the train wreck of Obamacare and have refused to join with 28 of their peers to challenge the Constitutionality of the Act.
"Moreover, as recent as July 2010, Darrell McGraw was rated by the Competitive Enterprise Institute as the fifth worst Attorney General in the nation. ... That very same report graded Darrell McGraw and Fran Hughes as one of the nation's worst offenders of fabricating law, usurping legislative power, and predatory practices as those terms are defined in the report.
Stuart also cited a report by AG Agenda Watch in December 2010.
"West Virginia has long been fertile ground for the plaintiff's bar, in part because of Attorney General Darrell McGraw," the report said. "McGraw's campaign contributors -- and at least one relative -- have been rewarded with work filing lawsuits against the state. Moreover, McGraw's record over the years and some of his actions as a public official and as an attorney might best be described as "ethically challenged."
Stuart said McGraw and Hughes have a reputation across the country.
"Under Darrell McGraw and Fran Hughes, West Virginia's Attorney General has earned a national reputation - one which harms our state and our economy," he said. "And the people of West Virginia are entirely all too familiar with Darrell McGraw through the tens of thousands of taxpayer dollars spent to sing his name to our citizens on campaign ads poorly masked to appear to serve a community purpose."