West Virginia Attorney General Darrell McGraw wraps most of his self-serving crusades within the guise of his benevolent guardianship.

No, he doesn't go to the trouble of hiring his donor/lawyer-friends to sue this or that corporation because he wants to. McGraw does so because he must -- for us.

By his measure, we're all hapless nitwits who need shelter from the evils of the free market. Caveat Emptor, caveat shemptor. Denied the watchful eye of West Virginia's self-anointed Consumer Protector, we'd never get a fair shake.

If you believe this line' o 'blarney, then we have a job for you. AG McGraw announced last week that he is creating a 33-member "Citizen Advisory Committee," charged with advising his office of "opportunities" wherein the magnanimous services of he and his cronies might be needed.

"Ultimately this network will link communities together," explained his deputy, Fran Hughes. "(We'll be) stifling the efforts of scams and unlawful business practices through community outreach."

You working business folks may recognize this concept-- it's called "sales."

Unsatisfied with outsourcing the prosecution of these cases, our attorney general is now effectively mobilizing a giant outside sales force poised to help him hunt for causes of action; for more lawsuits to file. That's more Purdue Pharmas, if you will, and more potential opportunities to enlist private plaintiff's lawyers as special agents, hunting big game for big fees, armed with the suffocating muscle of the state.

It all begs an obvious question: is this really what West Virginia needs at this juncture? Should the state be expending its scarce resources on schemes to gin up more lawsuits?

If the approach actually proved an effective remedy toward curbing "unlawful business practices" in West Virginia, we'd be far more sympathetic. But far from "protecting" West Virginians, this racket -- alternately harassing employers and besmirching our business climate, while enriching McGraw and the lawyers he "hires" with inconceivable legal fees -- has become the biggest consumer scam of them all.

The Committee starts its work April 13. Be warned.

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