Pay to play in PA not OK

By The West Virginia Record | Apr 17, 2009

In Pennsylvania, they're calling it "pay to play."

But here in West Virginia, when trial lawyers donate to politicians before getting no-bid contingency contracts worth millions, it's just business as usual.

The Keystone State controversy is over $90,000 in campaign donations taken by Democrat Governor Ed Rendell. The giver -- Houston plaintiff's lawyer Ken Bailey -- soon became a getter. The governor made sure Bailey was awarded a multi-million dollar deal to sue Janssen Pharmaceutical on behalf of the people of Pennsylvania.

No matter the medical allegations, or whether Pennsylvanians actually wanted to sue Janssen. This scheme was all about money. Rendell got much needed cash to fuel a re-election campaign; Bailey got a rich contract through which he could easily make it back--and then substantially more.

If this sounds familiar, it's because it is standard operating procedure here in West Virginia. Our Democratic Attorney General Darrell McGraw regularly dishes out such contingency agreements to his most dedicated supporters who later pocket millions for themselves -- lawyers like Rudy DiTrapano and Teresa Toriseva.

But that's where the similarities end.

Pennsylvania opinion leaders are up in arms over the scandal. Both the Philadelphia Inquirer and the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review have editorialized against Rendell; the latter is calling for a federal investigation.

We're still waiting for such editorializing candor from West Virginia's own major media -- criticizing their favorite, veteran politician for his own many Rendell-like ethical lapses. Instead, they cheer him on, rationalizing that all is well so long as his antics bring the state money, that such an end justifies the scandalous means.

It doesn't have to be this way.

Consider that before Gov. Rendell made an end-run to be sure Bailey got the case, Pennsylvania's Attorney General Tom Corbett had declined Bailey's pitch to sue Janssen on behalf of the state.

A Corbett spokesman says his boss was unimpressed with the lawyer's presentation, and he didn't think the evidence Bailey's firm said they planned to present was sufficient.

If a Pennsylvania attorney general would do that, why wouldn't ours? Because Darrell McGraw doesn't hear the outrage. It's time West Virginians started turning up the volume.

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