Bastress says records prove his point

By Chris Dickerson | May 6, 2008

CHARLESTON –- State Supreme Court candidate Bob Bastress says phone and e-mail records from his West Virginia University College of Law office "refute any assertion that I have been using my law school office to campaign for a position on the Supreme Court."

CHARLESTON –- State Supreme Court candidate Bob Bastress says phone and e-mail records from his West Virginia University College of Law office "refute any assertion that I have been using my law school office to campaign for a position on the Supreme Court."

Bastress also said one of his Democratic primary opponents -– Chief Justice Spike Maynard –- should "follow his example" and release public records of his communications with Massey Energy CEO Don Blankenship and other Massey representatives.

Bastress issued a press release after a West Virginia Record story was posted online May 5 detailing the results of a Freedom of Information Act request it submitted to WVU for Bastress' phone and e-mail records.

The Record had requested phone and fax records for Bastress since Nov. 1, and e-mail records since Nov. 1 of campaign-related correspondence.

The e-mails 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. State law prohibits the use of public resources to run a political campaign.

Phone and fax records, according to WVU's FOIA reply, only are kept for long-distance calls and faxes. Bastress had no long-distance calls or faxes, according to WVU. Bastress also does not have a state-issued cell phone, WVU said.

The press release from the Bastress campaign noted that he didn't initiate any of the e-mails relating to his campaign.

"Instead, during the six month time period requested, he replied to twelve emails that other persons wrote to him about the campaign, three of which were from Deans at out of state law schools that wrote about law school issues and asked how the campaign was going," the release said.

Bastress said Tuesday that he thought the initial Record story was misleading.

"It created the impression that I was using law school resources to run my campaign in an inappropriate manner," he said. "I can't help that people e-mail me."

Bastress told Charleston Daily Mail reporter Justin Anderson his e-mails didn't amount to much.

"I hit 'reply'," Bastress told Anderson on Monday. "It was an unthinking response."

In the press release, Bastress' campaign mentioned a recently filed lawsuit by The Associated Press against state Supreme Court Administrator Steve Canterbury regarding the release of Maynard's e-mails. The AP sought the e-mails after the release of photos of Maynard and Blankenship together in Monaco in 2006 while a Massey appeal was pending before the Court.

Maynard has said he likely would turn over the e-mails to the AP. But Maynard's campaign did not respond to Bastress' press release.

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 Daily Mail editorial board. Maynard criticized Bastress at that meeting for going negative in the campaign after Bastress has questioned Maynard about his friendship with 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."

On Tuesday, Bastress said taking a sabbatical or a leave of absence from the law school was out of the question.

"It would be inappropriate for me to take a sabbatical to run a campaign, and I don't even think the law school would allow it," Bastress said. "I've worked very hard to be sure that I met all of my obligations to the law school. That means I've worked a lot of hours.

"And I couldn't afford to take a leave of absence."

Bastress said he has had to reschedule one class because of the campaign, compared to eight he's had to reschedule to fulfill his duties as president of the state Humanities Council.

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