SHEPHERDSTOWN - While Attorney General Darrell McGraw's staff says his Citizens Advisory Committee provides a link between his office and West Virginia several communities, his Republican challenger says he wants to make sure it is not publicity stunt.
On Aug. 22, McGraw and staff were in Shepherdstown, located in the far east of the Eastern Panhandle, to meet with the CAC. Deputy Attorney General Fran Hughes said it is hard to juggle the needs of each region of West Virginia, and the CAC helps the office deal with that problem.
Meanwhile, Charleston attorney Dan Greear, McGraw's opponent in the November election, admitted he hasn't dedicated much thought to the future of the CAC if he is elected.
"At face value -- and I admit I haven't gone in depth -- it seems to be more about publicity and image than it is substance," Greear said. "It's something I'll look at very carefully if I'm elected to see if it has any actual benefit or it just creates publicity."
The CAC is comprised of more than 30 active community members from the state. McGraw denied an interview request.
"We've been doing this over a year now in different parts of the state," Hughes said. "We have citizens from all over the state that do this, and we apprise them of what we are doing and what some of the burgeoning cons and scams are.
"They're coming back and telling us what they're hearing in their community, and telling us how we can better use our resources to help them. It's an exchange of information to protect West Virginia consumers."
Specifically, a stronger housing market causes property in the Eastern Panhandle to appreciate quicker than the rest of the state. It is West Virginia's fastest-growing region.
So predatory lenders have set their sights on it, Hughes said.
If elected, Greear will have to determine if that information is worth the trouble and travel that comes with putting on the meetings.
"I'll look at it for any benefits, and if there is we can continue it," Greear said. I do think a lot of what the attorney general's office does is about publicity, trying to get himself re-elected instead of conducting the business of the office."
Greear said McGraw had a consumer protection booth at Fire on the Mountain, a chili cook-off held in July at Snowshoe Mountain.
"I don't think a lot of consumers are getting ripped off at the chili cook-off," Greear joked. "Maybe that's a problem, but I don't see that happening."
Greear also recently criticized McGraw for handing out gun locks with McGraw's name on them at gun shows. They were paid for by the settlement of a case.
Other settlement-provided items with McGraw's name on them were passed out at the Putnam County Fair and the West Virginia State Fair. They were displayed next to other political items from other candidates, Greear said.
"The attorney general's office paid for these trinkets," Greear said. "They supposedly aren't campaign items, but they are passed out in the Democrat political booth.
"That's a heck of a benefit, if you don't have to pay for your materials, but the state picks up the tab."