Campaigning on the public's dime

By The West Virginia Record | May 9, 2008

University professors have little day-to-day supervision. They answer mostly to their students.

So it figures that Bob Bastress, who has spent 30 years teaching constitutional law at WVU and draws a $132,000 annual salary, might think he was his own boss.

But he isn't.

Prof. Bastress, as a state employee working from a state-funded office with a state-funded salary, officially reports to a dean and university president. But he also answers to West Virginia taxpayers.

It was disappointing to read Chris Dickerson's reports this week detailing the e-mail communications of Bastress, who has claimed to be running a campaign for a State Supreme Court slot in his spare time.

Taxpayers' time, it turns out.

The e-mails confirmed Bastress has been conducting campaign business from his law school office at times when he's supposed to be on the clock working for the people of this state.

Even more disappointing was the substance of some of the e-mails, which in addition to the standard campaign organizing and planning, feature piddling campaign musing, gossip and idle speculation between Bastress and various lawyer-supporters from across West Virginia.

One e-mail features a cameo appearance from sitting state Supreme Court Justice Larry Starcher, who flatters Bastress before revealing his true motives.

"When asked about the race, I consistantly (sic) respond that there is no doubt, but that you are best qualified to be a SC justice," Starcher told Bastress, in an email dated March 28. "(But) my primary interest is that any two of you 'take (fellow Justice Spike) Maynard out.'"

"Thank you," replied Bastress in his e-mail.

Bastress says some overlap between his official job and his chosen hobby of running for the state's most influential court is inevitable. He says he shouldn't be expected to take a leave from his full-time professor's post to concurrently run full-time for statewide office.

Bastress says that without his law professor's salary, he couldn't afford to run.

We find his admission revealing.

Though he seems to believe we're somehow obligated, state taxpayers shouldn't be asked to financially support ivory tower academics like Bastress in their quests to become powerful and influential politicians.

It's a position worth pondering before you head to the polls on Tuesday.

If Bob Bastress wants to be a Supreme Court candidate, that's his choice. It's also his sacrifice, not that of West Virginia taxpayers'.

More News

The Record Network