CHARLESTON -- West Virginia Attorney General Darrell McGraw has maintained that the money his office earned in a settlement with a prescription drug manufacturer is supposed to be used to fight substance abuse.
Tuesday, he gave the Charleston Black Ministerial Alliance $10,000 from the controversial settlement for its Jabez Project. Wednesday, the organization had enough money to run an anti-gambling advertisement in the Charleston Gazette newspaper.
The Jabez Project is designed to educate young people about the dangers of substance abuse. The advertisement in the Gazette was signed by Rev. Lloyd Allan Hill and asks Kanawha County residents to vote against table games in a referendum to be held Saturday.
The 4-by-16 ad, it is estimated, cost more than $3,300, considering Charleston Newspapers' current rate of $52.50 per column inch. That figure could not be verified at presstime, as calls to the alliance went unanswered.
McGraw has shown in the past that he is against gambling, though he has remained quiet since legislation passed earlier this year that provided for the Kanawha County vote. Similar votes have taken place in three other counties.
In 1995, McGraw paid more than $1,000 to rent a conference center for an anti-gambling seminar, saying his office is allowed to sponsor seminars on public issues.
The 2005 settlement with Purdue Pharma, manufacturer of the prescription painkiller OxyContin, was structured in a way that allowed his office to appropriate the funds as it seemed fit, McGraw says.
Part of the $10 million settlement went to trial lawyers hired to represent the state, part of it has been handed out by McGraw and none of it has been given to the federal government. The federal Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services provides 73 cents of every dollar spent in the state on Medicaid.
McGraw's argument said OxyContin's addiction capabilities put an unfair financial strain on the Medicaid program. Currently, the CMS is mulling a withholding of the money it says it is owed when it gives the state its next Medicaid funds.
"The purpose of that settlement was to provide money to drug treatment programs," McGraw said. "The judge wanted the money to go to community programs."
A day after receiving some of that money, the Charleston Black Ministerial Alliance apparently purchased the ad. Twelve other organizations signed the letter.
"We believe that the overall negative effect loosed upon our community at the passing of such a referendum is the determining factor in this decision for us to oppose it," the letter states. "We therefore cannot support and do whole-heartedly stand against this or any such like referendum."