The A.G. who would be king

By The West Virginia Record | Dec 24, 2005

Darrell McGraw is West Virginia's elected attorney general, sworn to represent the state in legal matters.

That he's developing his own shadow government, in effect, should be of major concern to not just our state Legislature and Gov. Joe Manchin, but all the people of this state.

Apparently, McGraw will spend however much of our state tax dollars as he well pleases. And when he's collecting money for the state, he'll spend that, too. It's his way or the highway —- all out of the way of the folks we really elect to mind our state's business.

For a case-in-point, read The Record reporter Steve Korris' report on the $208,333.31 in tax-funded Christmas bonuses McGraw gifted to Charleston attorneys David Brumfield and William Druckman this holiday season.

The two, along with DiTrapano, Barrett, and DiPero in Charleston and another firm in Washington, D.C., got rich for forcing a $10 million settlement -– as agents for Attorney General McGraw -- with drug maker Purdue Pharma over the marketing of OxyContin.

OxyContin, a godsend pain reliever for sufferers of cancer and arthritis, reportedly produces a euphoric high when it is crushed and snorted. Not that Purdue Pharma ever suggested such a use.

But as a baseball is one man's fun and another's broken window, however anyone "took" OxyContin, it was Purdue Pharma's fault. Or so said McGraw, who hired the aforementioned gift recipients to go after the company on behalf of all West Virginians.

The charge was damages. Oxycontin -- and thus Purdue Pharma -- actually hurt the people of this state, and wrongs needed to be made right. West Virginians deserved to be compensated, McGraw's office said.

When the company made its first of four $2.5 million settlement payments, private lawyers and their related fees and expenses ate up 80 percent of the total. And all told, they'll add up to $3.7 million —- 37 percent of a $10 million bounty intended to help drug addicts in our state.

What we're wondering is why —- how —- McGraw ever got the idea that he personally could decide how West Virginia would spend that $10 million?

In case we missed it, our budget didn't include $3.7 million extra for McGraw's office, so he might outsource the job we elected him —- not a handful of his cash-hungry cronies —- to fulfill.

Attorney generals don't choose how the state spends its money -- legislatures and governors do. That $10 million —- every single penny of it —- should go to the state's general fund to be appropriated as the people of this state see fit.

And it surely shouldn't go to private lawyers unaccountable to the people, for whom protecting the people of West Virginia is not their charge.

It's about time the Legislature stopped Darrell McGraw from selling out our public interest -- allowing settlement-hungry plaintiff's lawyers to use his office as leverage to extort money from out-of-state businesses.

It's about time the Legislature told him to focus on his own job —- not theirs.

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