MORGANTOWN – Bob Bastress has been using his West Virginia University College of Law e-mail account for state Supreme Court campaign business, according to records obtained by The West Virginia Record.
The e-mails -- obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request -- also show that Bastress has talked to other WVU faculty members and students about helping on his campaign, had official campaign literature sent to his law school e-mail account, sought donations and communicated with the media about the election and discussed the campaign with current state Supreme Court Justice Larry Starcher.
In March, Bastress denied accusations that he was campaigning with law school resources and would benefit from legislation sponsored by his lawmaker wife during a candidate meeting with the Charleston Daily Mail editorial board.
Current Chief Justice Spike Maynard criticized Bastress at that meeting for going negative in the campaign. Bastress has questioned Maynard and his friendship with Massey Energy CEO Don Blankenship and has brought up photos showing Maynard and Blankenship together in Monaco in 2006.
Maynard accused Bastress of "treating his $132,476-a-year job at the law school as part-time while running a full-time law practice for pay and running his campaign," according to the Daily Mail article about the meeting.
Last year, former Kanawha County Prosecutor Bill Charnock resigned to halt an investigation into allegations that he ran political campaigns for himself, his sister and his brother out of the state's Prosecuting Attorney Institute while he was executive director. After an audit with the allegations was released, Democratic Party Chairman Nick Casey and Ethics Commission Executive Director Lew Brewer filed separate ethics complaints against Charnock, a Republican.
Maynard also said Bastress was using the law school as his campaign headquarters.
"That's not true," Bastress said in the March 31 Daily Mail meeting, adding that his campaign is run from the Morgantown law office of his wife, Delegate Barbara Evans Fleischauer. "We have been very careful not to use the law school's resources for anything. I take phone calls there that relate to the campaign because that's where I work. I have not in any way shape or form sacrificed my duties with the law school to campaign for the court."
The e-mails received in The Record's FOIA request indicate otherwise.
On March 28, Starcher e-mailed Bastress on his WVU account about a story that appeared in the Charleston Daily Mail on March 27 concerning the workload of the state Supreme Court justices, opinions and appeals. The e-mail focused heavily on Maynard, the lone incumbent in the four-person Democratic race for two Court seats. Starcher opted not to seek re-election this year.
"That was a very good article in the Daily Mail on Thursday," Starcher wrote from his Supreme Court e-mail account. "There is nothing wrong with telling the truth – despite what Maynard may say.
"Needless to say, there are lots of folks who are doing their best to see that Maynard is 'retired,' recognizing that any two of the other three candidates would turn this Court around."
Starcher then talked about the three non-incumbent Democratic candidates: Bastress, former Justice Margaret Workman and Huntington attorney Menis Ketchum.
"All three of you are my friends," Starcher wrote. "When asked about the race, I consistantly respond that there is no doubt, but that you are best qualified to be a SC justice, that I sat on the Court with Peggy and she would be okay, that Menis was my Law School classmate … and that my primary interest is that any two of you 'take Maynard out.'"
Bastress replied later that day by saying, "Thank you."
A March 6 e-mail exchange between Bastress and a Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reporter focused on a letter Bastress sent to Steve Canterbury, administrative director of the state court system, about photos showing Maynard and Massey Energy CEO Don Blankenship together in Monaco in 2006 and Bastress' call for an investigation.
"Thanks for taking some time with me on the phone this morning," Len Boselovic wrote. "I remain interested in the West Virginia Supreme Court story and would like to call you from time to time on it, either to get your views on developments or to discuss information, theories, etc. with you on a confidential basis."
Bastress replied 30 minutes later.
"Feel free to call anytime," he wrote.
Other e-mails showed other different ways Bastress was using his WVU account:
* R. Ivan Pinnell, chairman of the Public Relations Sequence in the WVU Isaac Reed School of Journalism, e-mailed Bastress on April 4 saying J-school Dean Maryanne Reed had indicated that Bastress was in need of some public relations help with the campaign.
"I have canvassed a couple of students and have one young lady from Martinsburg who is interested," Pinnell wrote. "I've asked her to contact you for more information about the assistance you need. She should be doing so today. … She should be most helpful."
* On Valentine's Day, the outgoing dean of the Nova Southeastern University Shepard Broad Law Center in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., e-mailed Bastress for an update on the campaign.
"What's happening with your campaign for the court?" Joseph Harbaugh wrote. "Ran into someone at the ABA Midyear who was moaning that you and another candidate may divide the progressive/liberal vote and that could allow a bozo to sneak in. Tell me that isn't so!"
Bastress replied later that day and discussed Maynard.
"The campaign is heating up and the dynamics are shifting," he wrote. "The real kicker has been the stories swirling around the incumbent. (This has all made national media, including NY Times, Forbes, Today Show, etc.) The first story to hit was the revelation of a series of photo's showing the sitting justice (Spike Maynard) vacationing together with the CEO (Don Blankenship) of a company (Massey Coal) who, at the time (2006), had a $60 million case pending before the Court.
"The justice never disclosed the trip and last December voted with a 3-2 majority to overturn the verdict. The pictures were then filed along with a motion to rehear, which the justice at first said he saw no reason to recuse himself from hearing. He was forced to reverse that decision and the case will be reargued."
In the same e-mail, Bastress also mentioned the John Grisham book "The Appeal." On NBC's "Today," Grisham compared a plotline of the book to the 2004 state Supreme Court election.
"That was a reference to the 2004 election for Supreme Court when the very same Don Blankenship successfully spent $3 to 4 million dollars of his own money to get a Republican (Brent Benjamin) elected to the Court," Bastress wrote. "Benjamin was one of the three in the majority who voted to reverse the judgment against Massey. (A questionable legal ruling, by the way.) …
"What's more, and this is hard to use, but the 3rd member of the Massey majority is the [wife] of a trial lawyer for whom Spike wrote an opinion last year affirming a $30 million award. Of course, when the husband appears before his wife must recuse herself. The trial lawyer has raised oodles of money for Spike during this election, despite the fact he is normally hostile to the plaintiffs' bar."
* On March 12 and March 26, Bastress received e-mail seeking his response to the 2008 Judicial Qualification Evaluation Poll on his WVU e-mail account. Two days later, he received a letter from the West Virginia State Bar about a new agreement from the recently formed judicial election campaign advertising commission.
On March 24, Bastress e-mailed fellow WVU law professor Charles DiSalvo and Morgantown attorney Al Karlin asking them if they had received the Bar's questionnaire.
"Barbara & Rob have, Frank & I have not," he wrote.
Karlin responded about an hour later.
"Mine was lost in spam," Karlin wrote. "You can get another by e-mailing …
"However, maybe the WVU spam filter kept it out."
* On March 12, Bastress received an e-mail from an apparent student who was asking how he or she could help with the campaign.
"You may already know this, but there is a Facebook group promoting you with almost 80 members that may want to utilize," the student wrote.
Bastress replied later that day.
"Sometime in the very near future – I'm thinking next Tuesday – I want to gather the students who have volunteered to help out so we can dispense assignments," he wrote. "I will be in touch very soon."
* Bastress, Fleischauer, Karlin, DiSalvo, Danny Wright, Mary Ann Libertore and others in January e-mailed a draft and revisions of a press release and announcement that he filed candidacy papers back and forth.
"I don't want the press release to sound too much like an attack add," Karlin wrote. "Also, language needs to be more direct. Referring to Blankenship as a corporate CEO also is good. I am familiar with data that says the public is respectful of corporations, but distrustful of CEOs. …
"And isn't there some way to say he [Bastress] is happily married to Delegate BEF even though they vehemently disagree on abortion? (Just kidding, but Bob needs to get ready for that one too.)."
DiSalvo also weighed in on the release.
"I agree that Maynard should not be mentioned," he wrote. "Let the press draw that (obvious) conclusion."
And in February, Fleischauer, a Democratic member of the House of Delegates from Monongalia County, e-mailed her husband a copy of a letter to send to editorial boards of newspapers about his candidacy.
* In November, Bastress received an e-mail from an Army veteran from Upshur County offering to help the campaign.
"There will be opportunities to distribute signs and literature when the campaign season matures," Bastress replied. "I will also be in Upshur County at some point and that might afford some opportunity for you to put me in touch with some critical groups.
"While I am not asking – since I'm not allowed to do so – contributions are always welcome to Bastress for Justice …"