Attorney General Darrell McGraw
CHARLESTON – Some contributions to Attorney General Darrell McGraw's 2004 re-election campaign made by attorneys and family members at a Charleston law firm have raised questions about their legality on both a state and federal level.
Attorneys in the Charleston law firm of DiTrapano, Barrett & DiPiero and their family members contributed at least $30,000 to the campaign. That figure represents nearly 15 percent of all the contributions McGraw received in that run, according to campaign financial statements filed with the state Secretary of State's office.
Many of the attorneys at the firm and their family members made the maximum $2,000 in contributions -- $1,000 for the primary election and $1,000 for the general election.
But one contribution, in particular, stands out on the list. It's one made by Carlo DiTrapano. He was a first cousin of Rudolph DiTrapano, Carla McGoldrick, Evelyn DiTrapano, and Virgil DiTrapano.
Carlo DiTrapano is listed on McGraw campaign financial statements as having made a $1,000 contribution to McGraw's campaign on March 8, 2004. His address is listed as Provincincia Latina, Sezze, Italy. His occupation is listed as teacher.
According to the Federal Election Commission, foreign nationals are prohibited from making contributions or expenditures in connection with any United States election -- federal, state or local – either directly or through another person. Also prohibited is asking someone to make a donation on your behalf.
It is unclear if Carlo DiTrapano was either a United States citizen or if he had a green card, either of which would make his contribution legal.
Attempts to contact DiTrapano, Barrett & DiPiero and McGraw's office about Carlo DiTrapano's contribution were unsuccessful.
Carlo DiTrapano died April 14, 2004, about a month after his contribution.
DiTrapano, Barrett & DiPiero managing member Rudolph DiTrapano is one of three law attorneys chosen by McGraw to file a lawsuit against drug company Purdue Pharma. That suit resulted in a $10 million settlement and $3.3 million in legal fees, which the three firms shared with a Washington, D.C., firm.
Another of those attorneys – G. David Brumfield – made $1,500 in contributions to McGraw's 2004 campaign. The third attorney – William S. Druckman – apparently didn't contribute to McGraw's run.
"Before you print anything with respect to our contributions to political people, we do a lot of it," Rudy DiTrapano said Thursday in a voicemail left at The West Virginia Record offices.
"If it's insinuating that we buy business, I'm getting ready to sue the (West Virginia Citizens Against Lawsuit Abuse) publication. So I would be very circumspect about what you print about me or my firm with respect to political contributions."
In the spirit of Valentine's Day, the executive director of WV CALA called McGraw's relationship with these attorneys a "love affair" that needs to be exposed.
"The citizens of West Virginia have the right to know about Darrell McGraw's relationships with these campaign-contributing personal injury lawyers," said Steve Cohen, executive director of WV CALA, a nonprofit citizen watchdog group interested in a broad range of civil justice issues. "Being in the dark may be good for romance, but that's not where the public should be in terms of the dealings of our public officials.
"For all the money floating around, there is zero public accountability in this process. How were these attorneys selected, and based on what qualifications? Where's the contract for the public to view?"
State law says people with contracts with the state can't make contributions to political parties, committees or candidates.
"No person entering into any contract with the State or its subdivisions, or any department or agency of the State, either for rendition of personal services or furnishing any material, supplies or equipment or selling any land or building to the State, or its subdivisions, or any department or agency of the State, if payment for the performance of the contract or payment for the material, supplies, equipment, land or building is to be made, in whole or in part, from public funds may, during the period of negotiation for or performance under the contract or furnishing of materials, supplies, equipment, land or buildings, directly or indirectly, make any contribution to any political party, committee or candidate for public office or to any person for political purposes or use; nor may any person or firm solicit any contributions for any purpose during any period," West Virginia Code states.
"No person may, directly or indirectly, promise any employment, position, work, compensation or other benefit provided for, or made possible, in whole or in part, by Act of the Legislature, to any person as consideration, favor or reward for any political activity for the support of or opposition to any candidate, or any political party in any election."
Cohen said CALA wants a sunshine law "so the public will know just what arrangement Darrell McGraw has with his campaign-contributing personal injury-lawyer-buddies in filing lawsuits that line their pockets with public funds that McGraw controls."
"Darrell McGraw already has dozens of lawyers on state payroll, so why does he need to farm out legal work to his pals who bankroll the McGraw campaigns?" Cohen said. "It's time for West Virginians to get better information about the Attorney General's contracting process.
"If our state's highest legal officer is making 'sweetheart' deals and playing fast and loose with the rules, then this is an affair the public needs to know about."
In the 2004 election, McGraw narrowly defeated Republican challenger Hiram Lewis IV in the general election. That was the same election that saw McGraw's brother Warren lose his seat on the state Supreme Court of Appeals to Brent Benjamin.
In recent weeks, McGraw's office has announced that part of the money from the Purdue Pharma settlement has been handed out to various groups across the state.
Last week, West Virginia University Research Corp received $200,000 for the implementation of its drug diversion and awareness program in McDowell County.
Earlier this month, $500,000 went to the University of Charleston for the funding of its new school of pharmacy program.
Also this month, $100,000 was given to the Lee Day Report Center that serves a five-county area in the northern part of the state, $25,000 was given to the Tri County Visitation and Exchange Center in Weston for the operation of its supervised child visitation center. And $25,000 was given to the Greenbrier County Home Incarceration Program and $25,000 to the Pocahontas County Home Confinement Program.
Last month, $50,000 each was given to day report centers in McDowell and Randolph counties.