CHARLESTON – Campaign finance records show Attorney General Darrell McGraw recently was given at least $3,000 in contributions from lawyers in a law firm that helped him sue Visa and MasterCard.
Guy Bucci, Tim Bailey and Lee Javins -- all from Bucci, Bailey and Javins -- contributed $1,000 each to McGraw's campaign on June 12, state campaign finance reports show.
In addition, Bucci, who was identified as lead counsel on the case, contributed $1,000 to McGraw's primary, while both Bailey and Javins gave $500 each.
Bailey is listed as a special assistant attorney general in the Visa and MasterCard case.
Javins is not listed in the case, but he is a name partner in the firm.
Visa settled the lawsuit by agreeing to pay $9.3 million to the state treasury, $425,000 to McGraw's office and $3 million to private law firms. MasterCard settled at $2.3 million for the treasury, $175,000 for McGraw and $900,000 for private firms.
All three of the West Virginia special assistant attorneys general who submitted an application for fees in the Visa and MasterCard case –- Bucci, Bailey and Teresa Toriseva -– have given to McGraw's campaign this election.
Toriseva gave an in-kind contribution of $844 for food, drink, parking attendant, etc. for a fundraiser held at her Wheeling office on June 5, 2007, and hosted another fundraiser at her office Tuesday.
Steve Cohen, executive director of West Virginia Citizens Against Lawsuit Abuse, said it is time for a change in the attorney general's office.
"The appearance of pay-to-play deals in Darrell McGraw's office is shameful and suggests a blatant disregard for his responsibility to the public to conduct business in an open and straightforward manner," he said. "Dan Greear will end this questionable practice.
"The citizens of West Virginia should not stand idly by watching McGraw seemingly reward campaign contributors with no-bid contracts. It's time to clean up the attorney general's office."
But Fran Hughes, chief deputy attorney general, said not all attorneys who have helped with cases have donated to McGraw's campaign.
"There were members of the Oxycontin case that didn't even donate to the attorney general's team," she said.
She said Greear often criticizes the attorney general's office for the Visa and MasterCard litigation, but she said West Virginia was the only state of about 20 to be successful in the case.
Greear, the Republican attorney general candidate, called for McGraw to return the funds he received from lawyers.
More than $17,000 of the $55,520 McGraw raised during the current reporting period came from lawyers McGraw awarded taxpayer money to through no-bid, secret contracts, Greear said in a news release.
"It's a disgusting practice," he said. "Darrell should return this tainted money. He is naming trial lawyer friends as special assistant attorneys general, awarding them secret, no-bid multi-million dollar contracts and clearly expecting them to contribute to his campaign."
Greear sited the Atlanta Law Firm of Cook, Hall, and Lampros as the clearest case of quid pro quo. One of McGraw's relatives works at the firm, plus the firm has given $10,000 in contributions.
"Why would an Atlanta law firm pony up $10,000 in contributions if it isn't a giveback of the taxpayer money McGraw secretly awarded them?" Greear said.
Of the $55,520 raised during the current reporting period, more than $7,000 was from lawyers awarded no-bid contracts and another $16,000 came from trial lawyers who could potentially benefit from the contracts.
But Hughes said Greear's argument is not valid.
"When people realize that we've been one of the few entities able to regulate and enforce the law and to put money back into the taxpayers' pockets, they'll see why Mr. Greear's argument does not hold sway," she said. "The trial lawyers and people we appointed didn't put up the capital."
Hughes argued the real issue is that Greear is endorsed by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which owns The West Virginia Record.
"Is it really appropriate that someone who is charged with regulating that industry is endorsed by that Chamber?" she asked.
Greear, who has raised more money than McGraw at $77,507, said more than 95 percent of his contributions came from in-state contributors.
"We have raised money from ordinary West Virginians," he said. "Darrell has raised money from law firms looking to cash-in on a payday of taxpayer loot.
"Our fundraising total, which is more than any other Republican AG candidate has ever raised, has shown our strong appeal across the state."