Stop the secrets

By The West Virginia Record | Mar 3, 2006

How many plaintiff's lawyers have been "made" by Attorney General Darrell McGraw to hunt big business game on the people's behalf?

Just how vast is West Virginia's army of consumer secret police?

Nobody really knows, and McGraw himself isn't exactly talking. Considering how much campaign and taxpayer cash flows back in his direction as a result of the practice, why would he? Holding a goose this golden, the smartest hands stay mum.

True to form, West Virginia's purveyors of darkness were working overtime at the state capitol last week, blocking legislative efforts to force McGraw to open up. The so-called "Sunshine Bill" would require the attorney general to let Governor Joe Manchin and the legislature in on the groovy details of his far-flung anti-business crusades, including "who," "how much," and "why."

If this sounds like very little to ask of a public servant, that's because it is. In a democracy, we don't always get to agree with our elected officials. But we do get the benefit of seeing what they're doing.

In the meantime, color us incorrigible, but we've taken to turning over McGraw-placed rocks wherever we can find them. It's an unworn path. The more we look, the more we find.

Our latest discovery of two more McGraw campaign donors turned "deputies" lurking in Weirton exhibits precisely why we should all be very afraid.

Our Steve Korris reports that back in 2003, plaintiff's lawyers Eric Frankovitch and Michael Simon filed a lawsuit against Leviton, a New York-based maker of electric wall sockets. On behalf of five Marshall County residents, they didn't allege any injuries but simply claimed their $7.00 switches didn't work.

The lawsuit, predictably, went nowhere. That's until Frankovitch and Simon were anointed as deputies this January by McGraw's Chief Deputy Fran Hughes. Two weeks later, Korris reports, they served the company with a new, state-backed subpoena demanding new documents.

So is this a state investigation of Leviton? Or is it the continuation of these lawyers' three-year old private lawsuit?

Is Darrell McGraw just an overly aggressive protector of West Virginia consumers? Or is he parceling out state authority to pals like papal indulgences?

Whatever your flavor in this debate, this isn't Venezuela. We cannot imagine why any legislator would side with deliberately concealing a public official's actions from West Virginia taxpayers.

Inquiring minds need to know. Let there be light.

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