'It's laughable'

by The West Virginia Record |
Oct. 5, 2007, 7:26am

There's disrespectful, then there's Fran Hughes, the government lawyer-turned-West Virginia's self-appointed Scarecrow-in-Chief.

We're again reminded this week how much Hughes' rudeness routine damages the Mountain State's long-term economic prospects, taking in her latest disparaging insults aimed at the state business community.

At issue: West Virginia's Business & Industry Council (BIC) had the audacity to challenge Hughes' benevolence, demanding $2.2 million of hijacked Purdue Pharma lawsuit proceeds go to their rightful owner -- the state's fund to compensate injured workers -- rather than the re-election campaign of her boss, state Attorney General Darrell McGraw.

Hughes, whose official title is "chief deputy attorney general," feigned active ambivalence.

"I doubt if we'll even respond to their letter," she told George Hohmann of the Charleston Daily Mail. "Its laughable."

Not so much to aspiring entrepreneurs or potential investors in West Virginia, who won't think its very funny that a top state official is spewing such raw, anti-business belligerence. And judging from Hughes' spiteful tone, it is nothing short of just that.

Truth be told, Hughes is coldly dismissive of business concerns because she flat disdains West Virginia's capitalist class. It's personal to her, and she views these companies as her "enemies," casually explained to Hohmann, in an assertion only Karl Marx would love.

Of course, Hughes and the warrior-lawyers she enlists don't see it entirely this way ("I really don't know what more we could do for business"), and it isn't hard to understand why. Perpetually unchallenged by Gov. Joe Manchin and most every member of the state Legislature, they're unaccountable to voters and thus generally detached from reality.

In theirs, most West Virginians should work for the government or a plaintiff's law firm, with actual businesses proceeding, but only at the pleasure of the state attorney general.

BIC is the largest state business association, representing the interests of companies across some 26 different industries. It's led by the executives and investors running our state's largest employers, whose jobs put food on the table for hundreds of thousands of West Virginians.

Raising serious issues, they deserve a serious response, not churlish flippancy from a spiteful bureaucrat.

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