She must have had her fingers crossed.

A name partner in the taxpayer-funded plaintiff's law firm formerly known as the West Virginia Attorney General's Office, Fran Hughes faced down a horde of lawmakers under oath last month and made a promise.

She would never, ever swipe and spend state tax dollars again without actual permission. And neither would her boss and partner, Attorney General Darrell McGraw. They had learned their lessons. Sure, it was fun before. But no more. No chance.

"We're not going to that again," Hughes assured a State Senate Finance Committee Panel.

That was on Feb. 12.

Then, on Feb 22, Hughes & McGraw did it again. Like addicts, they just couldn't help themselves. So brash. So bold. They even sent out press releases.

"Attorney General McGraw Awards Funding Statewide," it bragged.

"And state lawmakers cannot stop him," it might as well have added. It might as well have taunted, "nah-na, na-na-na."

On Feb. 22, it was $220,000.

Then, on Feb. 26, they handed out $280,000 more to five groups.

What a guy, that Darrell McGraw -- that was the message. He awards us things. How generous of him!

But our legislators -- at least the ones who brushed up on their civics and the state constitution before taking root in Charleston -- know better.

They know an attorney general isn't authorized to unilaterally shower state tax dollars on his favorite things -- not pharmacy programs nor nursing schools or Sesame Street exhibits.

They know it's supposed to be them taking credit for giving money to projects like county day report centers, holding the ribbon-cutting and posing for hometown face time with local elected officials.

This year, for example, McGraw's office will distribute $1.7 million among the state's day reporting centers that legislators should be giving out instead.

For those of you sure this is small beer, that it will pass, it's worth pondering parallels. If McGraw can spend the money get reaps over-and-above what the Legislature gives him -- how about West Virginia's other statewide officials?

Can State Auditor Glen Gainer fund an accounting school with monies collected from auctioning off tax delinquent real estate? Can State Treasurer John Purdue support an art exhibit with the "extra" return he reaps managing the state's investments?

The State Senate never would stand for such a thing. They would never tolerate an aide to the auditor or treasurer humoring them -- lying to them.

But then again, Gainer and Purdue don't run with an entourage of vengeance-minded plaintiff's attorneys.

Is there any courage in the house? It sure doesn't look like it.

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