AG race: Campaigns spar over Clinton, strive to debunk each other

By Chris Dickerson | Sep 15, 2016

CHARLESTON – This week on the campaign trail in the race for West Virginia Attorney General:

On Sept. 12, incumbent Attorney General Patrick Morrisey’s campaign claimed challenger Doug Reynolds, a Democrat, is trying to hide his support of Hillary Clinton.

“Now that Hillary Clinton has insulted ‘half of Trump supporters’ and her husband has mocked West Virginia’s ‘coal people,’ Doug Reynolds’ campaign has realized it might be politically expedient to put some distance between him and Hillary Clinton,” Morrisey campaign spokeswoman Kayla Berube said. “But the Reynolds campaign stopped short of retracting his full support of Clinton, who said she was ‘going to put a whole lot of coal miners out of work.’

“He owes it to the voters of West Virginia to come clean about his history of supporting Hillary Clinton, which includes a maximum contribution to her campaign in the amount of $2,300.”

Berube said Morrisey has stood against the Obama-Clinton-Reynolds liberal agenda and has blocked some of their initiatives that cost West Virginia jobs.

“Doug Reynolds can claim to no longer support Hillary Clinton, but the truth is he remains an ardent supporter of her agenda and one of Clinton’s largest donors in the state,” Berube said.

Lynette Maselli, a spokeswoman for Reynolds’ campaign, called Morrisey’s attempts to tie him to Clinton are “desperate.”

“Doug has repeatedly gone on record saying that he is not endorsing either candidate for president, and believes neither candidate has West Virginia’s best interests at heart,” Maselli said. “The presidential race has been an absolute circus, but Morrisey wants to focus on D.C. politics to hide the fact that he has no plans to address the growing problems facing West Virginia.

“West Virginia has the highest overdose rate in the country, but pharmaceutical lobbyist Patrick Morrisey is still covering for his big drug companies and D.C. friends who have spent $1 million on his campaign.

“The truth is, Doug donated to the Clinton campaign in 2007, the year she overwhelmingly won West Virginia’s Democratic nomination, and hasn’t given one penny since. Morrisey and his out-of-state Super PAC are lying about Doug because they know Morrisey’s days are numbered, and he’s running scared.”

Maselli was referring to an ad released by the Mountaineers Are Always Free Political Action Committee. She said the ad “not only misleading, it’s filled with outright lies.”

She went on to call Morrisey unethical, and she said his fingerprints are all over the “blatantly false add, no matter how much he denies it.”

“Morrisey’s former campaign manager, Scott Will, is the Executive Director of the Republican Attorneys General Association (RAGA),” Maselli said. “He is also the chairman of the Mountaineers Are Always Free Super PAC, funded by large donations from the pharmaceutical industry. You connect the dots.”

On Sept. 13, Reynolds’ campaign released a new television commercial, which it says “reveals the cover-ups and lies Morrisey is trying to sell to West Virginians.”

The ad, which can be seen online, notes that Morrisey’s wife’s D.C. law firm made nearly $2 million lobbying for a drug company Morrisey’s office was suing. It also says he misled the public regarding his involvement in the suit.

“Morrisey contends he’s fighting the drug epidemic that’s plaguing our state and killing our children, then turns around and continues to shield the very companies that are devastating West Virginia,” Maselli said. “He allows them to settle for insignificant sums and lets them off the hook without an admission of guilt.

“And, he repeatedly lied to the public about his involvement in the Cardinal Health lawsuit, only admitting his involvement to the Lawyer Disciplinary Board after being exposed by the Charleston Gazette-Mail.”

Reynolds’ ad also claims Morrisey’s biggest campaign contributors are drug companies.

“West Virginia has the highest overdose rate in the country but pharmaceutical lobbyist Patrick Morrisey is still covering for the big drug companies and D.C. friends who have spent $1 million on his campaign,” Maselli said. “Undoubtedly, our drug epidemic is one of West Virginia’s biggest challenges, and unlike Morrisey, Doug Reynolds actually has a plan to attack it.

“Morrisey is only talking about the crisis now because he’s up for re-election. West Virginia needs, and deserves an Attorney General who will hold big drug companies accountable, not someone who is only trying to advance his own political career.”

Meanwhile, the Republican Attorneys General Association issued a statement highlighting a column by Wheeling Intelligencer writer Mike Meyer “debunking” Reynolds’ false attacks on Morrisey.

“One puzzling aspect of the advertising being used in an attempt to force West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey out of office is that much of it is easily disproved,” Meyer wrote. “Perhaps it’s a test of whether the big-lie theory of politics remains valid.”

Meyer addresses claims made by Reynolds about Morrisey regarding coal jobs, the Environmental Protection Agency and opiods.

Reynolds’ campaign issued another press release saying the latest ad from the Mountaineers Are Always Free PAC was another “blatantly false ad” about Reynolds and was “once again calling out Morrisey on his lies.”

“Clearly, pharmaceutical lobbyist Patrick Morrisey has no intention of discussing the issues facing West Virginia,” Maselli said. “Morrisey has already lied about removing himself from a lawsuit involving his wife’s client, and now he’s lying about the Attorney General Ethics Act legislation because he doesn’t want to be held accountable.”

Maselli said HB4490, also known as the Attorney General Ethics Act, originally was introduced during former Attorney General Darrell McGraw’s tenure. After the Cardinal Health scandal in the Attorney General’s office, legislators in the House of Delegates re-introduced the legislation, and it passed on a 52-44 vote. The aim of the legislation was to create a higher ethical standard for future Attorneys General to avoid and eliminate the appearance of impropriety.

“Doug Reynolds believes that the state’s Attorney General should be held to the highest ethical standard, and when elected, he will encourage the West Virginia Legislature to pass the Attorney General Ethics Act,” Maselli said. “It’s crystal clear to anyone paying attention that Patrick Morrisey doesn’t feel the same and is having his Super PAC do his dirty work.

“Morrisey is unethical and won’t disclose that his former campaign manager, Scott Will, is the Executive Director of the Republican Attorneys General Association (RAGA), and chairman of the “Mountaineers Are Always Free” Super PAC. The Super PAC is funded by RAGA, which in turn funded by large donations from the pharmaceutical industry. You connect the dots.”

Maselli also questioned Morrisey’s specific concerns with the bill, considering he refused to attend committee meetings in order to answer questions and have his concerns addressed during the 2014 legislative session.

“This is just one more example of Morrisey’s contemptible behavior, and unfortunately, I’m not surprised,” she said. “He is willing to do anything, at whatever cost, even if means lying and falsely attacking Doug’s character, in order to advance his own political career.

“It’s astounding to me that Patrick Morrisey would oppose legislation that attempts to bring more accountability to his office, then attack Doug Reynolds for his support of the bill. Patrick Morrisey serves himself, not the people of West Virginia. We need and deserve an ethical Attorney General who looks out for the best interests of all West Virginians.”

On Sept. 15, the RAGA updated its website to include information about “Reynolds’ record on executive bonuses and fired employees.”

“Doug Reynolds claims to be the candidate for working West Virginians, but his record tells a different story,” Will said. “As a board member of Portec, a business controlled by his wealthy father, Doug Reynolds handed out well over half a million dollars in bonuses to company executives.

“However, his generosity did not extend to hardworking West Virginians. Portec laid off 20 workers in 2009 and offered no severance packages.”

Will said Reynolds’ claims to be the candidate that looks out for working West Virginians do not match up with reality.

“All West Virginians concerned about having an attorney general who looks out for them and aligns with their values should go to and examine the facts about Doug Reynolds,” Will said.

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