Our lawsuit = Our money

By The West Virginia Record | Feb 24, 2006

Taxpayer-funded arrogance sometimes knows no boundaries. So it's about time that West Virginia checks-and-balances started erecting some around our state's runaway Attorney General's office.

Last week's case-in-point: Deputy AG Fran Hughes, consigliere to the mighty Darrell McGraw, has taken to assailing the state legislature for its having the audacity to question her authority and personal state spending priorities.

At issue are millions of dollars in settlement proceeds resulting from our AG office's strong-arm lawsuits against out-of-state businesses. In them, we the West Virginia people served as the ready (if unwitting) plaintiffs, allegedly wronged and due compensation for our McGraw-diagnosed troubles.

To be clear, McGraw works for us and he filed these lawsuits on our behalf. He settled them on our behalf as well, "recouping" millions of dollars for us -- the West Virginia taxpayers.

So why, exactly, won't he show us the money?

Hughes, turning a phrase only a lawyer could love, claimed last week that the cash doesn't fall "under the definition of state revenue" and, thus, is theirs to keep.

"This is a control thing," Hughes explained in an interview with the State Journal. "(Lawmakers) want to have the benefit of giving out the money."

Sure, and it also depends what the meaning of "is" is.

Hughes was obviously drifting off during "Division of Powers" day at law school or she'd grasp that this isn't about "benefit" but obligation. Legislators are obligated to spend taxpayer money; that's what we elect them to do.

We don't suppose one would find many copies lying around the AG's office, but the West Virginia Constitution lays it all out, plain and simple. But a document ratified way back in 1872 presents no challenge to a sworn officer of the court determined to play make-believe lawmaker. Left unchallenged, the delusion continues.

"With the impact of this and the spiraling costs of the regional jails, we thought would be a good bang for the buck," a glib Hughes said earlier this month, as if fulfilling a campaign promise.

She was announcing a $500,000 grant from our OxyContin lawsuit settlement money to the University of Charleston's pharmacy school. Our state needs more pharmacists, Hughes said.

That's some bang, all right, for an uninhibited McGraw political career that knows only prey. Now he's all three branches of government wrapped into one.

Where's that predator when you need them?

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