CHARLESTON – A mailing from Attorney General Darrell McGraw’s campaign has drawn criticism for looking too official.
A letter and envelope mailed by the campaign last week featured a logo that could be confused for a state seal or seal of the Office of Attorney General. However, both say it is a piece paid for by the campaign.
“To me, it’s very clear on the front of the envelope. It says paid for by friends of Attorney General Darrell McGraw,” said Denise Tucker, McGraw’s campaign spokeswoman. “It doesn’t say anything about the Office of Attorney General. The only ones complaining are the ones who already oppose the attorney general.”
Those complaining include Republican challenger Patrick Morrisey’s campaign and West Virginia Citizens Against Lawsuit Abuse.
"Sadly, Darrell McGraw is guilty of the exact type of behavior he has sworn an oath to prosecute: deceptive advertising,” said Scott Will, Morrisey’s campaign manager. “The deliberate deception Darrell McGraw uses to get people to open this official looking letter, that appears to come from the Office of Attorney General on first glance, is almost as offensive as the lies told within.
“West Virginia deserves better than a desperate, dishonest politician who uses public monies to campaign, abuses the power of his office, and then misleads voters with false attacks and innuendo."
Will said if McGraw had used the official state seal, he would have been required to pay a tax for his letter.
“So he manipulates things slightly to avoid penalty yet still violates the spirit of the law,” Will said. “Shameful, but not surprising."
The executive director of WV CALA agreed.
“It's no secret that Darrell McGraw is willing to shamelessly blur the line between the activities of his personal campaign and the actual Attorney General's office, as he has been doing this for years,” Richie Heath said. “I really find it funny that his office makes its official state advertising and promotional materials look as much like campaign materials as possible, and his campaign makes its materials look as much like official state materials as possible.
“Unfortunately, the end result of McGraw's actions is that many West Virginians are left scratching their heads -- wondering if they have been misled in some way by the Attorney General.”
The chairman of the West Virginia Republican Party also weighed in.
"It's a sad comment on the depth of corruption by Darrell McGraw when he sends out a campaign mail piece designed specifically to make voters believe it is coming from the Office of Attorney General," Conrad Lucas said in a statement. "Darrell McGraw has a long track record of spending millions of taxpayer dollars during a campaign year for his personal benefit.
"While the people of West Virginia are struggling to make ends meet and praying every day for a job or to keep their job, Darrell McGraw is living high on the hog off money that should be spent to help our citizens. Such actions are beneath the office of Attorney General and they're beneath the dignity of the people of our great state; however, such actions are all that can be expected from McGraw.
"For our state to get on the right path, Darrell McGraw has to go."
The campaign letter is titled "From the Desk of Attorney General Darrell McGraw,” but it discusses election.
"The 2008 election was the most expensive Attorney General's race in the country," the letter states. “My opponent was supported by bogus non-profit groups, financed by out of state big business with the goal of destroying consumer protection laws in West Virginia. My current opponent has the same strong ties with all the big money outsiders that my office is required by law to regulate."
“Anyone from West Virginia knows that it’s not the official state seal,” Tucker said of the logo used on the letter. “Now, someone from New Jersey might think it is, but it’s not.”
Morrisey is a native of New Jersey.
“Obviously, we’re doing our jobs,” Tucker said. “At least that’s the way I look at it. We all know CALA and these other groups are against us.
“It’s all just getting ridiculous. We’re doing a good job of getting our message out, and they’re taking every opportunity when we get our message out to attack us and get their name in the press."
On Wednesday, McGraw conducted three press conferences around the state to announce a settlement with an out-of-state payday lender and to give checks to some of the consumers affected.
Critics also took him to task for that.
"Deception and lack of transparency have been a way of life for Attorney General Darrell McGraw,” Will said. “Whether McGraw misleads voters by sending them a letter that appears to be from the Office of Attorney General, runs television and radio ads paid for by the taxpayers right before an election, fails to hire even one campaign staffer because he uses government staff to campaign, or diverts Medicaid settlement monies to personal pet projects that were intended to help the most vulnerable of our society, McGraw has abused his office for too long.
“It's amazing that McGraw has time for pre-scripted press conferences, but no time for debate or responses to reporters’ questions.”
“Nothing like some good press right before the election,” he said.