CHARLESTON – Attorney General Patrick Morrisey has gone on the offensive, criticizing Democratic challenger Doug Reynolds’ business relationship with the state’s largest newspaper.
Reynolds, a Democrat who is seeking to oust the Republican Morrisey from office, owns The Herald-Dispatch, Huntington’s daily newspaper. Earlier this year, The Herald-Dispatch began contracting out the printing of its paper to Charleston Newspapers, which publishes the Charleston Gazette-Mail.
Even before it merged with the Charleston Daily Mail last year, The Charleston Gazette was critical of Morrisey on its editorial pages.
“Did you know that the Gazette prints my opponent's newspaper – the Herald Dispatch – yet they refuse to disclose the size of their large contract with my opponent or put a disclaimer in any articles about the Attorney General?” Morrisey recently posted on his Facebook page, where he also called Reynolds a “rich limousine liberal.” “When the Gazette prints their lies, know that they are making a bundle to do it. #corrupt”
“How much is @dougreynolds16 paying the Gazette in their contract?” Morrisey recently posted on Twitter. “A large sum, yet @wvgazettemail refuses to disclose in stories about AG.”
Morrisey’s campaign spokeswoman elaborated.
“Mr. Reynolds decided to close his newspaper printing operation earlier this year, resulting in the layoff of nine full-time employees and one part-time employee, and instead pay the Charleston Gazette to take over his printing operations,” Kayla Berube told The West Virginia Record. “It's no secret that the Charleston Gazette has been complicit in joining Mr. Reynolds' deceitful smear campaign against Attorney General Morrisey.
“While we're not surprised that the liberal Gazette would try to help Doug Reynolds, one of Hillary Clinton’s biggest supporters in West Virginia, their willingness to use their paper as a blunt campaign tool is stunning.”
Reynolds said move to close The Herald-Dispatch printing press was a tough economic decision. He said the press at The Herald-Dispatch was old, and finding parts to keep it running was becoming more and more difficult and costly.
“Our business contract with Charleston Newspapers didn’t begin until March,” Reynolds said. “We announced the decision to outsource the printing in a front-page story then. It’s not like I had a white supremacist working for me.”
Reynolds’ last comment was in reference to a story last week about an online video that featured a former employee of the AG’s office who no longer works there.
“I didn’t want to outsource the printing,” Reynolds said. “But it really could’ve come down to a position soon where we would be in a bad negotiating position if we had to find a printer immediately. We had to find the best deal, move on and make the best of a bad situation.”
He said Charleston Newspapers was equipped to print both the Gazette-Mail and The Herald-Dispatch because it previously printed both the Gazette and Daily Mail at the same time.
“It was a natural fit,” Reynolds said. “If they still were printing the Daily Mail, we couldn’t do it.”
Reynolds said he is confident the newsroom employees at the Gazette-Mail don’t care about Charleston Newspapers’ printing contract with The Herald-Dispatch.
“I’m sure if you talked to them, they have no idea about what our printing rate is,” he said.
Morrisey’s campaign spokeswoman says they’ll continue to press the issue.
“We will continue to challenge Doug Reynolds to be more transparent with voters and we reiterate our requests for his partners at the Gazette to disclose their relationship with our opponent in every article about the Attorney General, his office and this campaign,” Berube said.
Meanwhile, the president of Charleston Newspapers said he finds Morrisey’s focus on the matter strange.
“We use electricity from AEP as well,” President and CFO Trip Shumate said. “We don’t disclose that we are a customer of theirs when we write about them. I just don’t understand it.
“There was a front-page story in both papers back in March disclosing this information. It’s not a secret. There’s just not a whole lot else I can say about it. We’re an independent third-party printer. We have nothing to do with content in The Herald-Dispatch and vice versa.”