When it was first proposed, we strenuously objected to the pilot program for public financing of the elections for supreme court justices. We pointed out, among other drawbacks, that public financing forces taxpayers to pay for the campaigns of candidates they oppose. It also favors current office holders by preventing their challengers from outspending them to overcome the advantages of incumbency.
Though misguided and likely to be short-lived, the pilot program was properly enacted by the legislature and thus wears the mantle of legitimacy.
The same cannot be said for public financing of the state attorney general’s race.
The legislature approved no such pilot program and no such funding. And yet, five-term incumbent Darrell McGraw has subsidized his re-election bids with public funds for quite some time. The funds are available only to him, however, and not to his opponents.
McGraw, of course, denies that he is using public funds to finance his campaigns. He insists that all the evidence indicating that he is doing just that -– his lack of paid campaign staff and his chronic use of government funds, facilities, services, vehicles, and employees to promote himself and facilitate his re-election -– is merely circumstantial. Everyone working for his re-election is a volunteer, he claims with a straight face.
McGraw would have us believe that mean-spirited people are deliberately misinterpreting and misrepresenting his activities. That would include his opponent in this year’s election, Harpers Ferry Republican Patrick Morrisey, who launched a new radio ad last week:
“Almost every time you hear Darrell McGraw’s name in a radio ad, TV commercial, or see his mail and trinkets, you, as a taxpayer, pay for it,” the announcer says to the accompaniment of cash register sound effects. “Instead of sending all of the settlement money to the legislature and the taxpayers, McGraw doles it out as he see fit, like a king, to promote himself.”
Unlike McGraw’s thinly disguised self-promotions, this ad concludes with an affirmation that it was paid for by the candidate himself, Patrick Morrisey.