"Inartful" itself isn't actually a word. But it's the one Chief Deputy State Attorney General Fran Hughes has chosen to explain away her raw dishonesty before a State Senate Committee back on Feb. 12.
She used it in a two-page letter mailed to legislators last week, outlining her defense and charging a grand conspiracy (including this newspaper, the pharmaceutical industry and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, among others) is to blame for the consequences of her own duplicity.
Hughes had been talking tough that day about OxyContin, boasting to the Senate how she and her boss, Darrell McGraw, had devised a scheme to hide from Washington the $10 million in federal Medicaid money the attorney general "recouped" in a 2004 state lawsuit over the drug.
She also was apologizing. Hughes said she was sorry that Mr. McGraw usurped the Legislature's authority and spent all $10 million by himself, giving millions to his lawyer-donor pals, then sprinkling the rest on feel-good causes, playing taxpayer-backed Santa Claus with an eye on his 2008 re-election campaign. Facing a panel of state senators, she was was remorseful. This would never, ever happen again.
"This is not going to repeat itself in the future," Hughes promised.
But it has. Again, again, and twice more last week. Now the federal government has taken notice. It seems poised to withhold millions from West Virginia's Medicaid allotment next year.
That's not just "inartful." It's outrageous, and potentially disastrous to West Virginia's state budget.
Not that this looming calamity could temper our self-absorbed attorney general. McGraw still has Hughes chattering, daring the federal government to defy his office and just try to get its money back. He'll take the feds to court, he threatened.
Of course he will.
And as he does, pledging more good state resources after bad in service not of justice or the public but himself, McGraw will dig West Virginia taxpayers into a hole only deeper.
There are plenty of words to describe that. If you own a dictionary.